New hope brims for HopeWorks’ new Summer Avenue location

Nonprofit HopeWorks is moving forward on a relocation to position themselves between two high-needs neighborhoods this September.

The main reason for the move can be summed up with one word – location.

The new headquarters at 3337 Summer Ave. will strategically place its workforce development programs between the neighborhoods of Binghampton and the Heights. The current headquarters on Union Ave. has been their home since founding in 1988.

“I believe HopeWorks will be a place of hope for many in our community,” said Jared Myers, Executive Director for the Heights Community Development Corporation.

The move has been in the works for a while.

Two years ago, Myers and Noah Gray, Executive Director for the Binghampton Community Development Corporation, were approached by their HopeWorks counterpart, Ron Wade, with the idea.

“Ron was very strategic in where he saw HopeWorks moving and believed that partnering with neighborhoods and community organizations would greatly improve the impact of their ministry,” said Myers.

While scouting locations, considering neighborhood revitalization plans, and speaking with community stakeholders, Wade began to envision Summer Ave. as the nonprofit’s new home.

HopeWorks will be moving into the neighborhood in September. They are in the process of renovating the former Southern Security Federal Credit Union on Summer Avenue to equip it for classroom instruction.

A property was secured at the Old Southern Federal Credit Union Building, offering 10,000 square feet of space. The old building is 6,000 square feet.

More square footage is needed due to recent growth HopeWorks has experienced. An estimated 600 students will earn high school equivalency diplomas through their various programs this year.

“The past two years has brought unprecedented growth at HopeWorks, particularly in the areas of Adult Education (High School equivalency attainment) and teaching within the Shelby County Division of Correction,” said Wade. “Because of this growth in services and the need for more classroom space, HopeWorks decided to move into a location that would provide long-term sustainability.”

It will also provide accessibility. The main bus line is nearby. There is also a new bike lane adjacent to the property. And it’s easily reachable by foot.

“The fact that HopeWorks is sandwiched in between two low-income areas makes it easy for people to walk to the new location,” said Myers.

Another benefit of the Summer Ave. site is its status as a commercial corridor. It is home to hundreds of “blue-collar” businesses – and potential employers.

The strip is also host to many “predatory” style business – payday lenders, pawn shops, used car dealerships, and tax services litter the roadside.

“Instead of moving to Summer Avenue to take advantage of people who live on fixed incomes, Hope Works is moving to Summer Avenue to serve and help people,” said Myers.

The new addition will close the loop on service available to residents. The area has health and dental clinics that provide care. Tutoring and afterschool programs are available. Blighted properties are also being addressed.

“The one missing piece was workforce development and employment. With a new location on Summer, Hope Works will help fill that void,” said Myers.

One employment option that will be coming to the area is the planned commercial development at Tillman and Cooper, a project that’s been in the works for over ten years.

“We are planning on working with Noah Gray and the Binghampton Development Corporation to provide training for the employees that will be employed by the businesses within the commercial development,” said Wade.

In addition to jobs, the Binghampton Gateway Center will bring increased access to fresh food in the community.

As far as HopeWorks’ space, a lot of work still needs to be done.

When work is completed, HopeWorks will be outfitted with additional classroom and testing space. There are even plans for a commercial kitchen. The new facility will employ 15 and serve the needs of 60 people a week on average.

To help pay for the costs of the remediation and remodel, the nonprofit was awarded a $20,000 loan by the Economic Development Growth Engine Finance committee on June 7. The forgivable ICED loan will cover about half of the expenses for the remodel.

The EDGE board has granted around 40 ICED loans totaling a little more than $3 million. They sustained 175 jobs and created $8.6 million in capital investments in high-needs neighborhoods.

Although the old Midtown HopeWorks locale will be closed, plans are under consideration to continue services to the area.

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