Cramped in its current space and pinched by cost overruns that prevented its first plans to relocate, Bluffton Self Help now has a home that fits its growing mission and its budget.
The nonprofit group has completed the purchase of its new headquarters at 39 Sheridan Park Drive in Bluffton. The deal allows it to move from the 1,000-square-foot space in the former town jail on May River Road to the 6,500-square-foot former showroom before Thanksgiving, board president Peter Bromley said Monday.
Renovations are expected to begin next week, after the group received $10,000 in donations from Bluffton Village Festival proceeds, he said.
"God has smiled on us with this location," Bromley said during a media event at the future headquarters. "We've come a long ways, but we still have more work to do."
The group, founded by Bluffton resident Ida Martin in 1987, has been operating in its town-owned location since 1996.
Among other services, Bluffton Self Help provides short-term emergency financial assistance, free food and free clothing to needy Bluffton residents.
Plans began in November to construct a building six times the size of the nonprofit's headquarters, on a 5-acre tract on S.C. 46. However, when the estimate for construction costs of the building and surrounding roads exceeded $1 million the plans had to be scrapped.
The Sheridan Park Drive location was purchased for $575,000, Bromley said. Self Help board members expect renovations to cost about $200,000. Board members also hope to raise an additional $100,000 for a 10-year utility endowment.
The building was purchased with support from grants, foundations, corporations, individual donors and fund drives. The organization has reached the halfway mark of its "Building HOPE" campaign, with a goal to raise $1 million.
"Our guiding principle is not to take a penny from the operations fund for any of the building costs," Bromley said.
The building, once a tile and granite showroom, has a large garage with three loading docks for delivery truck drop-offs, a large front area for food and clothing distribution, and three private counseling areas for clients in need of state and federal programs, such as income assistance.
But the site still needs basics such as bathroom fixtures, insulation, waiting-room chairs and food-prep tables.
The current space is so cramped that delivery trucks bump into parked cars and no more than 10 people can fit in the work space at one time, Bromley said.
On Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, when Self Help hands out food, more than 100 people wait in a line stretching out the door in all kinds of weather, he said.
The group also will have extra room for its 70 volunteers to sort food donated by other nonprofit groups, such as Second Helpings, making it able to accept and store more. Staff members say they may be able to expand food distribution days to five times per week.
"Now, we'll have plenty of space for people to stand in line inside," he said. "The space is really the biggest benefit of the building."
Follow reporter Cassie Foss at twitter.com/LCBlotter.