MITCHELL — When two dilapidated houses and a brick garage begin to come down today in Mitchell, it’ll mark the end of a long year in which community development has been among the forefront of what Hoosier Uplands does in the communities it serves.
Hoosier Uplands implemented its Community Development and Improvement Program in 2012 when Chief Executive Officer David Miller encouraged the board to spend the money the nonprofit was sitting on in the bank by using it to improve communities in Lawrence, Orange, Martin, Washington and Crawford counties.
“Hoosier Uplands has been operating for more than 50 years,” Miller said. “Over those years, we’ve made money and lost money on our investments, ... when we made money, we decided to turn around and put it back into the communities in which we serve. ... We’ve been fortunate. We’ve been frugal and managed our money well. We didn’t want to sit on money in the bank ... because the time to make our communities better is now.”
This year, Hoosier Uplands has invested CDIP funds in the following:
• North Lawrence Career Center, $40,000, tool and die machinery.
• Orange County Humane Society, $20,000, facility building improvements.
• Shawswick Township Trustee, $3,000, homeowner repairs.
• Washington County YMCA, $20,000, handicap-accessible doors and new security system.
• Washington County Economic Growth Council, $25,000, small business start up or expansion program.
• Town of Shoals, $75,000, new playground equipment, asphalt at the community park and resurfacing basketball court.
• Spring Mill State Park, $30,000, the reconstruction of the Red Cross Cabin.
• Town of Orleans, $20,000, downtown facade program.
• First Baptist Church (Colored) of West Baden Springs, $20,000, rehabilitation of a historic structure.
As for the community development work in Mitchell this year, Miller said he hasn’t even started to put a price tag on it.
“It’s significant,” he said. “We’ve laid over a mile of sidewalks.”
The other major project this year was the improvements made at Eighth and Main streets in Mitchell. Through partnerships with Steve Dobson, Thelma’s Beauty Shop and the city of Mitchell, Hoosier Uplands used CDIP funds to rehabilitate the area in an effort to beautify the gateway into Mitchell’s downtown.
The compliments on that area of the downtown have been numerous, Miller said.
“It was a great project,” he said. “We split the cost with Steve, and it looks fantastic.”
But there’s still more work to be done before the year comes to a close. Hoosier Uplands plans to tear down two homes on Frank Street near the park area it developed last year that used to be a blighted trailer park. The Frank Street project also was completed with CDIP money. In addition, beginning today, two homes and a brick garage building in the 900 block of Main Street are coming down. The homes are vacant while the brick garage housed Jerry Bundy’s auto detailing business before his death.
“When it’s done, you’ll actually get to see that pretty Methodist church back there,” Miller said. “Our plan is to make it green space and plant trees.
“Next year, we have some big plans, too.”
One of those projects planned for 2018, for example, includes providing $30,000 to buy additional machinery for the career center.
“We already have applications for 2018 which will continue to improve our area in a wide range of ways, “ Miller added. “These are not government funds, or grant funds. There are no strings attached. They don’t apply; we go to them when we see a need that we think we can meet.
“The CDIP funds are limited but we try to make the most impact we can with those funds. We know these are small projects, but we believe they make a big impact on these organizations and our communities.”