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$250,000 awarded to Grace and New Bethany for group home project

$250,000 grant awarded to Grace Episcopal Church Allentown and New Bethany Ministries Bethlehem to work together on a group home project in Allentown

Grace Episcopal Church, Allentown, and New Bethany Ministries of Bethlehem received a Federal Home Loan Bank grant of $250,000 for a project they have undertaken together –– the renovation of a vacant building in Allentown that will be used as a group home for chronically homeless individuals. The grant was awarded on October 16.

For more than a year in a joint venture with New Bethany Ministries, Grace Church has been actively pursuing funding to create and operate a small group home for six chronically homeless residents, so that these individuals will have permanent housing and access to mental health services and case management services to be provided by Lehigh County Conference of Churches. They will also have access to legal aid, food pantry services, GED training, and employment counseling offered by outreach ministries operating in Grace Church.

In this partnership between the church, New Bethany Ministries of Bethlehem, and Lehigh County Conference of Churches, Grace Church received a special exception from the Allentown Zoning Authority to operate a small group home in the building they intend to use. The building is adjacent to the church and was previously the headquarters building of the church’s AIDS Outreach ministry, which was forced to close its doors a few years ago when federal funding for AIDS support services was severely cut back.

This building must be entirely renovated for use as a group home, and New Bethany Ministries has worked hard to help secure funding for the renovation. New Bethany Ministries will purchase the building from Grace Church, which will donate to the project half the value of the property, appraised at $126,500.

New Bethany Ministries will be responsible for overseeing the renovation and then operating the group home with the help of a grant from Lehigh County Conference of Churches. Although New Bethany will have legal responsibility for the ongoing operation of the group home, it will be, in fact, a joint venture of Grace Church and New Bethany Ministries. The people of Grace and staff and volunteers from the Grace Community Foundation Food Pantry, Weed and Seed Employment Counselor’s office, legal aid services, and the GED program, all working out of the church, will have close contact with and establish ongoing relationships with the residents of the group home.

New Bethany president Robert Wilkins, Grace Church rector Father Patrick Malloy, the church’s senior warden Elizabeth House, who has been active in seeking funding for the project, and the Rev. Robert House, a retired Presbyterian minister who serves as parish administrator at Grace Church and oversees the ministries that will relate with the group home residents expressed the hope that through these efforts, individuals who have lived without hope of a permanent home or secure future may be able to attain a significant level of self-respect and independence.

The partners have already secured building plans and cost estimates and look forward to being able to begin construction on the project by the end of this year or early in 2010.

The total cost for the renovation is $450,000. In addition to the $250,000 awarded by the Federal Home Loan Bank, the project has received grant commitments from other sources in the amount of approximately $110,000 and has made application for an additional $90,000 in funding.




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