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New Hope Center of Paris is settling into its new home.
“It was like a dream come true,” Executive Director Gay Ballew said. “When we walked in, we knew there a lot of work ahead of us, but we knew it would be phenomenal.”
The organization moved into its new office at 450 SW 4th St. about three weeks ago. An open house is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 29, including a ribbon cutting and Chamber of Commerce Live @ 5 event.
The former Department of Human Services building sat empty for more than a decade until the Ram Foundation purchased it for New Hope Center about a year ago and started renovations. The building had to be brought up to code, including handicap accessibility, sprinkler system, restrooms and alarms that will also alert the hearing and visually impaired.
“Nobody would realize where we’ve come from unless they’ve seen the old building,” Ballew said, referring to the former shelter at 777 Bonham St. “We actually have air and heat that work.”
At 35,800 square feet, the space is much larger than the shelter needs, but the plan is to make it a revenue generator by leasing the extra space. Current tenants include the Paris-Lamar County Health Department, East Texas Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Flick Computers and a nutrition program through the University of Texas at Tyler.
One of the largest tenants will be the Paris Good Samaritan Clinic. Dr. Bert Strom will be the free clinic’s medical doctor, Ballew said, and the organization is still looking for volunteers. The plan is to be open one evening a week and gradually expand as volunteers and staff allow. Work is still under way in the clinic’s space. Furniture and cubicle dividers remain scattered, and masking tape and scraps of paper identify offices.
“We’ve got a few offices left,” Ballew said. “Maybe five are still available.”
New Hope’s side includes long-term and emergency shelters. The emergency shelter has room for eight, and offices can be converted if needed. The long-term shelter can hold up to 52 and will be open to families, single parents and individuals, including emancipated 17-year-olds and homeless veterans who are working or in school. As New Hope is a faith-based organization, couples who want to stay need proof of marriage, Ballew said. Clients could stay up to 24 months.
The center has become an internship site for Texas A&M University-Commerce’s social services program, and Ballew hopes to eventually include the counseling department.
The community stepped up to make the transition possible. Bobby Smallwood acted as contractor on the renovations, and Paul Denny did the architectural designs.
The Saint Joseph Foundation gave a grant for medical services. Another grant came from Hope Charitable Foundation. The United Way provided a computer lab and beds. A partnership with Federal Home Loan Bank in Dallas, Liberty National Bank and First Federal Community Bank purchased dining room furniture and appliances for the kitchen and laundry room.
The sheriff’s office and adult probation helped provide manual labor for the move, as did county commissioners Lonnie Layton and Lawrence Malone. Rocking E Storage provided a crew and truck, as well, Ballew said.
At the center, Josh Flick and Wes and Geri Chappell helped with setting up computers, phones and internet service.
Residents also like the new digs, Ballew said.
“Some miss the other place because it seemed like home, but once they adjust to it, they love it,” she said.