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You can help give children 'hope'

By Staff
NEEDS REPAIRS n The playground equipment from the old Masonic Home must be replaced before Hope For Children opens its doors, hopefully in October. Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Steve Swogetinsky/The Meridian Star
July 22, 2001
So much to do.
Walk around the grounds of the old Masonic Home. Tour the dormitory buildings, the gym, the cafeteria and other areas of the place that many children once called home.
You quickly realize that in their day, these buildings were state-of-the-art. They were well built with the best materials and maintained with tender loving care.
Today, they have a used, tired look about them.
It has been several years since the children lived at the Masonic Home, and the buildings have been vacant.
Inside, the place needs a good spring cleaning. The bedroom walls need to be painted. Outside, the walls need to be pressure cleaned. The huge lawn is mowed regularly, but there are fallen limbs and other debris that need to be hauled off. The flower beds are full of weeds.
Not for long
The grounds and buildings of the old Masonic Home won't be empty very much longer.
Hope For Children, founded by Academy-award winning actress Sela Ward of Meridian, has purchased the property and is in the process of re-opening it as a permanent home for abused and neglected children.
Hope For Children has opened its office in the old cafeteria. Plans are to start taking children Oct. 1, according to executive director Carrie Ponder.
There are currently five cottages for the children. One will be occupied by children from the Peavey House, a temporary children's shelter. Peavey House is scheduled to move in within a week.
Between $70,000 and $80,000 was budgeted for the Peavey House renovation. It cost more than $150,000. Ponder estimates that it will cost $500,000, at minimum, to renovate the other buildings.
Part of that extra work included the removal of asbestos from the ceiling. The board of Hope For Children voted to go ahead and have all of the buildings cleared of asbestos to get that out of the way.
They also discovered that the building codes for opening a home for children were different from when the Masonic Home was built, and numerous modifications had to be made. For instance, a back door had to be put in each of the cottages. Closets had to be built around the hotwater heaters and other utilities. Security systems had to be put in. Walls had to be built in the kitchen to separate the stove area from the wash room.
The list goes on and on.
Community interest
The phone has been ringing off the hook in the Hope For Children office since it was announced last week that the organization would have to come up with a new name.
Which makes one wonder. If people are that interested in helping Hope For Children find a new name, would some be interested in doing volunteer labor to help defray cleanup expenses?
Would a garden club or some other group be interested in working the flower beds? Would someone be interested in cleaning up the lawn and edging the sidewalk?
A long list
Here's some of the things where volunteer help is needed:
Yard work: Grounds need "manicuring" and edging. Fallen tree limbs and debris needs to be cleaned up. Old, discarded items need to be hauled off. The flower garden around the grounds need to be weeded, and new plants planted;
Playground equipment: The current equipment needs to be taken down and replaced. New, safe swings, slides, etc. are needed.
Gymnasium: General cleaning and work on the floor.
Swimming pool: Removal of sliding board and diving board.
Cottages: Spray-wash the outside. Painting the rooms on the inside.
Wish list: Hope For Children is registered at Dillard's, Sears and Troy Brand Furniture. Anyone wanting to donate furniture is asked to buy what has already been picked out to maintain the consistent decor and home-like environment.
Also on list is sheets and blankets, towels, beds, refrigerators, ovens, sofas, televisions, a microwave oven, VCRs, etc.
For more information, call Hope For Children at 553-8660. The staff asks that volunteers call before coming to the office so work can be scheduled.
Steve Swogetinsky is regional editor of The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3217, or e-mail him at sswogetinsky@themeridianstar.com.