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Group plans change in course for community center

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Community Center of Hope leaders are mapping a new course for the 15-year-old organization.

It is a future that will include someone other than founding executive director Julie Glick Begin at the helm.

Begin, 53, stepped down from her hands-on position running the multifaceted community center in October but joined the organization’s board of directors the following month.

She and other board members are collaborating with a consultant to develop a strategic plan for the center that will include long-range goals and objectives, board vice president Larry Simpson said.

The board of directors is working with Tom Brosey, executive director of Mission Management Services of Columbus, which assists nonprofits with organizational assessments, financial management, human resources support, marketing strategy and business planning.

When that work is complete, Simpson said the center will better know what type of leader would best serve the organization. He said it would like to have a new director in place in late spring or early summer.

Andrea Wallace, 36, who began working directly under Begin as office manager and administrative assistant in July 2010, has been serving as interim executive director.

Begin said Wallace has the youth, energy and skills necessary to be her permanent successor — no matter what direction the organization takes.

“She is very capable of doing the job and then some,” Begin said. “She has skills I don’t have and is quite capable of taking the Hope Community Center beyond what I could.”

But Wallace said part of her hesitancy in actively seeking the top position stems from a fear of trying to fill Begin’s shoes.

“Julie is great at getting money. She has a lot of contacts, and she’s a very strong and confident person,” Wallace said.

Simpson said he could see the new director easing into the position, utilizing the summer to create a timetable for implementing the center’s new goals.

Those goals could include setting up satellite locations in Hope for social service organizations, such as Turning Point Domestic Violence Services, Bartholomew County 211 and San Souci.

The board is looking at ways to renovate its nearly 100-year-old gymnasium. Besides maintaining recreational activities, the west wing facility also would house the food pantry, allowing it to double in size, Begin said

If the senior center and administrative offices also were moved to a renovated gym, it would allow the entire east wing to be used for child care, Wallace said.

While the gym project is part of the center’s strategic plan, which Wallace describes as in the beginning phases, she hopes the renovation can get underway within two years.

Begin, who directed the organization since its inception in 1999 and developed its intergenerational programing and services, gave the board several months’ notice that she intended to make a career change, Simpson said.

“It’s nice to step back but still remain on the board,” Begin said. “I still have a hand in the center without being involved in it day in and day out.”

Under her leadership, the Community Center of Hope has obtained more than $2 million in funding from a variety of sources and provided a hand in initiating several services ranging from child care to downtown redevelopment, Wallace said.

“Julie has been a very caring steward of the Hope community,” Simpson said.

Begin also faced more than a few surprises and challenges during her tenure as executive director.

In 2004, town council members were hesitant to accept a $450,000 renovation grant because, if the center’s programs failed, they would have had to pay back the state. After some coaxing, the town accepted the funds.

In 2006, the Flat-Rock Hawcreek Ministerial Association unsuccessfully attempted to stop the center from holding bingo games as a fundraiser.

In 2007, the center lost its funding for Head Start classes due to low enrollment.

In 2008, the center stayed open longer than any other disaster relief site following the historic June floods.

Despite its challenges, the community center emerged to establish itself as the “go-to” place for Hope area residents in need of help, Begin said.

Patsy Stephens, 71, a Hope resident living on Social Security, couldn’t afford to have necessary plumbing work done. So the center agreed to pay her bill upfront, and Stephens paid the center back on a schedule of $20 a month.

“To me, they are my angels,” Stephens said. “I know God sent all here for a reason. I don’t know what people in this town would do without them.”

Similar sentiments were expressed by parents who entrust others to help oversee their children.

“This day care center has been a godsend,” Kimberly Gibson said. “I couldn’t afford anyone in Columbus; and my daughter, Braylee, has learned so much here. It’s such a great place.”

Another mother agreed.

“I know these people as my friends, as well as my son’s teachers,” Danielle Drysdale said while holding her 3-year-old son, Xavier. “He will have a close-knit family bond with these kids because he will grow with them.”

But as Begin looked back, she felt the center’s most gratifying accomplishment was playing a role in bringing medical services to Hope.

In 2006, the center began working with nurse practitioner Glenda Wendling to provide Hope area residents with a health clinic every Wednesday.

Five years later, the clinic expanded with a partnership between Columbus Regional Hospital and the Trafalgar Family Health Center that resulted in the opening of the $1.2 million, 6,400-square-foot Hope Family Health Center.

“That was a great success and great benefit for the north side of the county,” Begin said. “For me, it was like raising a child and seeing her go off to college.”

Simpson said one of Begin’s largest contributions was raising funds for the 2003 renovation of the former Hope City School into the multifaceted community center it has become. He said she took a derelict property

and turned it into a useful point of community.

Since leaving the director post five months ago, Begin has been spending time assisting her husband, applications engineer Peter Begin, as he travels on behalf of Millstar, a Michigan-based tool and machinery corporation.

But she said a key reason she stepped down from the director’s position last fall was to take the initial steps toward achieving her dream of going into business with a longtime friend in Columbus.

“Some might call it a midlife crisis,” Begin said, “but I do feel a need to take a new direction in my life.”

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