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‘The Neighbor Project’ breaks ground, shares renovation plans on new properties

‘The Neighbor Project’ breaks ground, shares renovation plans on new properties


SHEPHERDSTOWN — Jefferson County Community Ministries (JCCM) held its
groundbreaking ceremony for “The Neighbor Project” at 214 Racetrack Street in Ranson, on
September 28.

Along with the two barns donated to JCCM by the City of Ranson last year, the
groundbreaking was also held for JCCM’s recent acquisition of the three remaining
buildings along Racetrack Street.

“These two buildings are what I consider to be phase one of the project. We’re looking for one-
to-six months, to have them completed,” said JCCM Executive Director Keith Lowry, as he
pointed out two worn-down buildings — a two-story house and a one-story, utilitarian
structure beside it. “The top floor of the house is occupiable, but there are some things that
we have to fix, before we can use it. For example, the roof is improper — we have to take
off the roof and put a new one on — and we have to redo the stairs. The Women Investing
in Shepherd giving circle just gave us $35,000 to make it possible for us to install a lift up to
the second floor of the house, to make it ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant.

“This house will be NCS — noncongregant shelter. It’s like a motel, so everybody has their own
little room with a toilet, a sink and a shower,” Lowry said, noting multiple people cannot
inhabit any of the JCCM apartment spaces together, unless they are family. “They can stay
there in an emergency for one-to-two weeks, while the emergency is solved.”
While the first building in phase one was open to short-term housing, the second building
will be reserved for housing those experiencing emergency situations or those needing
shelter for as long as six months.

“Phase two is going to be the big, 13,000-square-foot barn. That will be affordable transition
housing, meaning that people can pay what they can afford to pay, and they can stay there for
six months or longer, while they get back on their feet,” Lowry said, adding that families or
individuals will be able to be housed in this space, as well.
According to Lowry, housing for families in need is nonexistent in Jefferson County, which
proved to be the impetus behind this portion of the $12 million project.

“Right now, if you’re a male and have children under the age of 18, there’s no place to stay. If
you’re a female with children over 12, there’s no place to stay. So this is going to be opening a
lot of doors,” Lowry said.

The completion of the renovation on all three family shelters should be able to be
completed within a year’s time, provided that funding through grants and donations
continues to come in.

Phase three of “The Neighbor Project” will prove to be the greatest challenge, with it
involving the demolition of the two donated barns and construction of a single, 26,000-
square-foot Jefferson County Community Services Center in their place. But the final phase
of the project will be more than worth it, in the long run, with it providing space for a life
skills activities center, a day programs center, case management, administrative offices, a
WVU Medicine medical clinic, a dental clinic, JCCM’s food pantry, JCCM’s clothing bank and
a kitchen/dining area. Based on the progress already completed so far in the project, Lowry
said that the Jefferson County Community Services Center could be completed within the
next five years, if funding were no issue.

The local impact of the completion of “The Neighbor Project” will likely be felt in many
ways, considering how JCCM has already made an impact on the lives of local residents.
“This is so very exciting, to see this finally coming to life!” said New Street United Methodist
Church Pastor Dee-Ann Dixon, as she surveyed the expansive horse barn’s structure. “There
was an older gentleman (that I knew) who was homeless, but living in Shepherdstown. He
started coming to this organization and was able to get help — he had some mental health
issues, but they really helped him!”

JCCM has actively participated with treatment programs for local residents addicted to
substances, according to Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge David Hammer. Hammer said
he looks forward to seeing how much more good JCCM can accomplish, with the use of
these new facilities.

“This is a huge deal!” Hammer said. “To be able to put families together is big, because
typically there is only gender-oriented housing available for those experiencing homelessness.
That’s another burden on top of families who are already struggling to survive.”

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