For the last five years, we have given everything we have to create our community center, Reese’s House. After overcoming numerous obstacles and hurdles on this journey, we are still fighting to open our doors to serve our community. This fight has intensified over the last few months and it has wholly consumed our energy and resources, which is why we haven’t posted in a while. With some major things happening, we wanted to provide some critical updates from our side.
- Upcoming Court Date: We will be in Superior Court this Thursday, July 6, to defend the zoning board resolution that granted us the ability to turn our building into a multi-faceted community center. If you are unaware, one of our neighbors (who owns a vacant building) challenged our zoning board approval in court because he believes that the variance granted to operate a community center is too vague. While we are cautiously optimistic about our chances, we also recognize that everything we have worked for is at stake. If we win, the approval stands and we open our doors. If we lose, the zoning approval is revoked and we will not be able to utilize our building as a community center. If we lose, we will absolutely appeal the decision, but a denial would be detrimental to our work and most importantly, our community.
- Certificate of Occupancy Granted: After we received our zoning approval, we had to work with the city of Millville to receive our Certificate of Occupancy (CO). This was a very detailed process that required us to hire an architect to re-evaluate occupancy load and other key details of our space since it was approved to be a community center. After about 4 months, we were issued our CO last week and can now begin operations in Reese’s House. Due to all of the work involved with prepping for the court case, we have not held any programs or events yet, but will be starting our work in our home after we win our court case (thinking positive and crossing our fingers!).
- Expenses are Mounting: Over the last 8 months, we have spent over $20,000 in our quest to open Reese’s House. This includes legal and application fees for our Zoning Board resolution in December, architect and survey fees to obtain our CO, and legal fees to cover us for this current court case. We will not know the exact amount to cover us for this case, but we anticipate having to spend another $5,000 for this case alone. When the dust settles, this court case will have cost us between $12,000 – $15,000.
- We Need Air Conditioning: Our building was vacant for about a decade prior to our purchase. While it was open, the space had 4 (two for downstairs and two for upstairs) HVAC units stolen from the property. We have a quote from a local business to replace all of the units for under $40,000. We applied for funding from the city through the Community Development Block Grant that is perfectly suited for projects like this, but were denied. We have looked into other grants as well, but have not had success finding funding to cover these expenses. With all of the focus on our court case and the surrounding legal fees, we had to prioritize the allocation of our resources. Unfortunately, having air conditioning had to take a back seat to ensure the preservation of our efforts to open Reese’s House. We are looking into different options to at least get the downstairs situated, but it’s going to take some creative financial planning.
As you can see, we have been busy working through many issues over the last few months. While we continue to face seemingly unnecessary problems, we are not deterred and will continue to fight for our right to serve. We know how needed Reese’s House is for our area and we will not stop.
Thankfully, we are in a position to do all of this because of the support of our community. Without that support, we never would have been able to absorb all of these expenses. That being said, our accounts are not infinite and we can always use more support. If you would like to make a one-time donation or sign up to be a monthly recurring donor ($10 – $20 is a huge help!), please just click here. If you know of any grants or anything else that might help, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We are here today because of the help from our community and we will be successful because of the continued love and support!