HUDSON — Free buildings don't come along very often, so when the Rev. Jim Campbell heard about this one, he jumped.
Last year, the Hudson Community Club deeded its 3,000-square-foot clubhouse over to Hudson Water Works, with the hope of finding another nonprofit to take over the building at 14121 Water Tower Drive. Maintaining the building had become increasingly costly and difficult for the aging board of directors, some of whom were in their 90s.
Campbell, the Prayer House pastor who runs ministries to help the homeless, asked whether he could have it.
He proposed a one-stop center where people could apply for food stamps and Social Security disability, obtain necessities from a food pantry and clothes bank, and access computers to look for work.
The Hudson Water Works board gave its approval. An attorney drew up the paperwork to transfer the property and even paid the recording fees out of his own pocket.
On Jan. 21, the Prayer House officially took ownership of the old Hudson Community Center — without spending a cent.
"I am a man of faith, and nothing surprises me," Campbell said, "but this made my jaw drop."
Volunteers have spent the past few weeks cleaning and painting the building that has seen countless card games, club meetings and private receptions over the years. Campbell hopes to have the COR (Community Outreach Resource) Center up and running within the next 30 days.
"Everybody thought it was a good use of the building for community resources, and it will keep the building open and operating," said Craig McCart, the former director of the Hudson Water Works board.
Plus, it didn't hurt that Campbell is pretty handy as a general contractor, McCart said.
"He had the ability to fix the place up and get it to where it could be useful again," McCart said.
This is the Prayer House's second venture in the area. Last year, Campbell's group opened the ROPE (Resource, Outreach, Prayer, Empowerment) Center on Rhodes Road off U.S. 19 in Hudson. The dormitory-style, transitional housing facility now shelters about two dozen people who are getting back on their feet. Campbell said 75 percent of those residents are gainfully employed.
"The typical homeless (person) is someone like you or me who had a bad year, or a bad week, or a bad month, who was one or two paychecks above board the way it was, and all of the sudden their life goes sideways and they've lost their home, they can't make their car payment and they're living under a park bench somewhere," Campbell said. "There's a lot of them."
He said that's the population he aims to help. They are a different group than the "chronic homeless" who panhandle on street corners, get drunk in the woods and "don't want to be back in society," Campbell said.
"They create the stigma about the homeless population," Campbell said of the latter group. "You think they are just the typical homeless, but they're not."
Campbell said he is excited about creating a place where people can access some much-needed services. It already has Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and is adding Narcotics Anonymous. It will serve as a fixed place where homeless people can get their mail. In time, the center plans to add anger management counseling, a cold weather shelter and a soup kitchen.
How is the center getting the word out?
"When you're somebody in the community offering a service, that's not a problem," said Campbell, noting that some people have already trickled in. "The word gets around fast."
Bridget Hall Grumet can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.