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Leaders rally for help center
Aug 03, 2006 12:00 am
A battle cry to resurrect the now defunct Mt. Juliet Help Center has sounded as community stake holders met Wednesday to discuss a plan of action to keep its closure from being permanent.
High stakes business and political leaders met at 9 a.m. for a special-called meeting to address the plight of the Mt. Juliet/West Wilson Community Help Center. Shocked and saddened board members said their quest to find a home after being evicted from their rent-free space did not produce an alternate base of operation. They've since temporarily disbanded and their 500-plus family clients have been urged to seek help elsewhere.
The Mt. Juliet/West Wilson Chamber of Commerce Director Mark Hinesley orchestrated the "call to arms."
"I've read all the editorials and stories in the paper about the help center's closing," Hinesley said. "I kept thinking it would be fixed. But the longer it went on, I realized no one will fix it for them, and something needs to be done."
The center's director Bob Hartburg planned to attend the meeting as well as the center's treasurer Robert White. State Rep. Susan Lynn agreed to attend the emergency session as well as Victory Baptist Church Pastor Chuck Groover.
Hinesley said he invited many people known to "step up" for the community and as many as 15 have confirmed they would attend. Hinesley said he and others concerned about the center fading away believe a united community effort is needed to try to revitalize the center.
"They are in dire straits," he said. "We all are aware of their plight. We may or may not be able to solve some of their problems and help them get back on the road to service, but we need to give it a good try."
After serving the community of Mt. Juliet for 23 years, the help center closed its pantry two weeks ago because it could not find a place to relocate. In May, center officials were told by Green Hill Church officials they could no longer use the rent-free space donated by the church because of other plans for the property. Several eviction extensions were granted in hopes the center would discover a new home, but hopes were dashed when not even a temporary place could be found.
Center board member Mary Bacon said Monday the special-called meeting to address the issue is appreciated.
"While we don't want to think this is too late, we know the help center is meant to reopen," Bacon said. "If it meant closing our doors to wake people up to our plight, maybe it was good in the long run."
Lynn said Mt. Juliet needs a help center.
"While our area is growing in affluence, some people still need help, and it's important to have such a center," the legislator said. "I think a lot of leaders getting together to try to figure out a way to provide this service will be extremely helpful."
As of last week, all the center's food went to three organizations with clients being referred to Tulip Grove Baptist Church, Joseph Storehouse in Lebanon and the Lebanon community help center.
Cooper said while there has been no headway in the search for property or building for an operation base since closing, a very "positive" meeting with Groover about possible solutions arose.
Hinesley hoped the meeting would produce a list of "action" items to progress a plan to reopen the center.
"The time for fluffy meetings is past and near-immediate action is required," he said.
Longtime help center volunteer Mary Wildow said she still holds out hope for a new center with a new plan.
"I'm grateful for this effort and possibilities may be opening up for us," she said.
The meeting was at Victory Baptist Church on Tate Lane.
Mt. Juliet Managing Editor Laurie Everett can be reached at 754-6397 or by e-mail at email@example.com.