Welcome to the neighborhood
At the corner of North Garden Street and East Champion Street, there sits a striking purple building known as Bell Tower. Owned by Lydia Place, a nonprofit organization that helps fight homelessness, Bell Tower will soon be a home to families in need.
“The heart of the organization has been around homeless families,” Shultzie Willows, community outreach director for Lydia Place, said. “Our goal is to break the cycle of homelessness and stop it with the current generation that has experienced it as adults.”
Acquiring the property in September 2016, Bell Tower serves a few different functions.
“Our residents are about to move in and we want to create a beautiful, safe, healthy exterior as well as interior.”
Shultzie Willows, community outreach director, Lydia Place
The organization was in need of more office space and the property allowed them to have the needed space while providing additional capacity to serve their clients.
The building also has an 1100 square-foot dance studio giving the opportunity to provide additional programmatic pieces which also help offset costs for property.
“The downstairs was a residential living space,” Willows said. “We were looking for something that ticked both the program office box and the additional housing for our clients, and this property offered us that.”
In a month, Bell Tower will start to welcome in its first residences. The individual bedrooms will be rented out to mothers and their children and the families will share a common space such as a living room and kitchen.
Earth Day presented a unique opportunity clean the property and give back to the community.
“Our residents are about to move in and we want to create a beautiful, safe, healthy exterior as well as interior.” Willows said. “We’re in a neighborhood setting so it’s a good thing to be a good neighbor.”
Willows said Lydia Place is run mostly on volunteer power. Around 10,000 hours of support goes into helping run their operations and programs. Wise Buys thrift store on State Street is one example of a place where volunteers make a difference.
Wise Buys is owned and operated by Lydia Place. The store brings in around $100,000 per year and all of the proceeds go to the programs and services that the organization provides.
Wise Buy’s employee Nicole Quance has worked at the location since September 2016. Quance believes the store does a lot of important work for Lydia Place clients.
“We raise a lot of money here and that helps get supplies and housing,” Quance said. “It’s helpful for those going through our program and get them back on their feet.”
Lydia Place offers vouchers to its clients, allowing them to come in to Wise Buys and shop for necessary items.
“Whenever we receive donations, I like to tell people ‘To you it might be an old coat, but for someone it may be their first coat,’” Kyle Fuller, community engagement coordinator for Lydia Place, said.
The store is packed full of clothes, dishes and household items that clients can pick from. Wise Buys tries to keep their products at a low price to also help out those that may not be clients of Lydia Place, but are pinching pennies.
Like Willows, Fuller kept with the good-neighbor theme in light of Earth Day.
“We are very proud of our location being downtown,” Fuller said. “On Earth Day we are trying to do our part making downtown cleaner and greener. We are here planting, but then we have a crew picking up garbage on State Street just to be good neighbors.”