GREENFIELD — At times, it felt like Friday would never come for Linda Hart and the staff and board members of Hancock County Senior Services Inc.
Hart and Senior Services supporters worked tirelessly for nearly two years, raising money to build a new home for the organization that had greatly outgrown its cramped office in the back of the Hancock County Community Foundation’s headquarters on Main Street.
Sometimes trickling in $2 at a time, raising the $735,000 goal to begin construction seemed, at times, out of reach. But standing in the empty lot on Fields Boulevard that will soon be occupied by Senior Services’ brand-new 4,000 square foot office and 16-stall garage, those struggles were all but forgotten.
“It almost doesn’t feel real,” Hart said. “We’re so excited to finally have a place for our staff to be able to do what they do even better.”
Senior Services runs nearly a dozen different programs to assist the county’s aging population – a group that will continue to grow over the next two decades.
In Hancock County, adults age 45 and older number nearly 30,000, according to the Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University, which analyzes census data. That’s just under 40 percent of the total population in the county, and that group will soon be putting a strain on services from transportation to health care.
Dozens of Senior Services board members, employees, volunteers and donors joined Hart at the nonprofit’s future home Friday afternoon for a groundbreaking ceremony. Donning hard hats and taking turns stabbing shovels into the dirt, the event was one of celebration for an achievement possible only because of the long, hard, unending work over the past two years on the part of many Senior Services supporters.
“I don’t know that we ever dreamed we’d be standing here today with shovels in our hands,” said Paula Jarrett, Hancock County area director for United Way of Central Indiana. As a UWCI partner agency, Jarrett works closely with Senior Services.
“I just want to recognize the leadership Linda (Hart) has provided,” Jarrett said. “She never stopped.”
When United Way awarded a matching grant, funded by the Lilly Endowment, to Senior Services, it wasn’t intended to be easy.
Gary Woodworth, UWCI’s capital projects director, said the matching grant is designed to challenge recipients. It ensures the community is behind the project, he said.
“We’re interested in making investments in key areas and involve communities,” he said. “This is an example of a community coming behind a project and backing it wholeheartedly.”
That was apparent as the campaign wrapped up Friday. A number of major donors were on hand to join in the festivities – just a few of the hundreds who donated, Hart said.
She thanked those who gave thousands, down to “clients who sent in $2.”
Work on the $1.5 million office and garage bay will begin immediately at the site on Fields Boulevard between New Road and Muskegon Drive on the north side of Greenfield. Hart said Senior Services hopes to have the building under roof before winter. Construction could wrap up next spring. The building will house the agency’s staff as well as its growing fleet of vehicles used to provide transportation. In 2011, Senior Services’ transportation program made 22,673 one-way trips.