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Nonprofit's goal of helping those in need set in concrete

SPRING HILL — A casual glimpse reveals a ho-hum empty warehouse: concrete floor, a couple of partitions in need of facing, various studs and wires.

But Doug Brainard hits the lights, revealing blue lines inscribed on the gray floor demarcating walls-to-be, slips of paper taped to wallboard and upright supports announcing "lobby," "dining room," "showers" and of all the other service areas envisioned for People Helping People's Community Resource Center — a dream nearing reality.

The nonprofit interfaith organization of volunteers will share its vision with builders and the public at an open house at the Kass Circle property on Sept. 29. Contractors and tradesmen are invited to inspect the 4,200-square-foot site, a former hardware store, and review architectural plans from 9 to 11 a.m.

Past donors to the agency, county officials and the general public are invited to tour from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

"We want people to come and hear what it's about," People Helping People executive director Ron VanMatre said. "And make a donation."

During a recent walk-through at the site, Brainard described how the resource center will further carry out the People Helping People name, well established for its food programs over the past seven years.

It will feature offices where representatives of social service agencies representing jobs, physical and mental health care, financial resources and others will counsel those needing help; a multipurpose room/classroom where GED classes, substance abuse programs, life skills coaching and job training will be conducted; a personal hygiene suite where homeless and needy people can shower, wash and dry laundry; a dining room capable of seating at least 100, and an adjacent commercial kitchen where meals will be prepared for the organization's ongoing Sunday dinners and other food programs for seniors, children in need and the homeless.

Cost of the build-out is estimated at $200,000 to $300,000, according to VanMatre.

"We'd like to finish by mid-next year," he said. "It will be a true resource center where people can get a true hand up."

Literature promoting the center notes that poverty in Hernando County is most visible on the west side, which includes the Kass Circle neighborhood.

"This is where the homeless are most often seen panhandling … where the elementary school, Deltona, has the highest percentage of students receiving free and reduced (price) meals, and where churches, non-profits, law enforcement and social service agencies have all been impacted by an increasing number of homeless and impoverished individuals and families," it states. "In fact, ZIP code 34606 is a government-designated pocket of poverty."

VanMatre declared of the project: "We like to think of this as homeless prevention."

While the center will be geared to the less fortunate, he sees it as a boon for all of Hernando County.

"If we can get these people into housing, into a job so they're not having to go to the (emergency room), which you and I pay for, or resort to crime to feed their children," he pointed out, "this is going to help everybody in Hernando County."

The physical facility already has received a significant donation by Dr. Pariksith Singh of Spring Hill, who recently purchased the former Knights of Columbus Hall on Spring Hill Drive and gave its commercial kitchen equipment to the PHP project.

It includes ovens, refrigerators, a walk-in cooler, a stove top, an automated dishwasher, a fire suppression system for ventilation hoods, "right down to tables and linens for the tables," said Brainard. Valuing the donation at $100,000, Brainard said purchasing all of the equipment new would likely cost about $200,000.

People Helping People is depending on tax-deductible donations to fund the kitchen installation and the costs for new restrooms, flooring, ceilings, air-conditioning system, laundry, drywall and painting, as well as upgrades to the sewer and water systems.

While all levels of donations will be recognized, a number of creative incentives for larger gifts are being offered.

Naming rights can be had for the overall center with a gift of $200,000; for the dining or multipurpose rooms, $50,000, and for other rooms, $25,000 and $20,000. Gifts of equipment and labor also are welcome.

Contact Beth Gray at