Note: This feature appears today in the New Castle Courier-Times. I wanted to share it here because it is a tale of taking something old and seemingly beyond its prime and use -- an old school -- and out of it comes something new and wonderful! Affordable housing in a small Henry County town. A look inside the talents and imagination of George King.
Story and photos by Donna Cronk
KENNARD — Patsy Adkins graduated from the last class to use the old Kennard High School building in 1957. She loves the town and is excited to see Kennard Senior Living open. She appreciates the vision of co-owner George W. King of Greensboro.
King told her, "I want people to live here not because they have to but because they want to."
And he's working hard to create plenty of reasons that they would want to.
The complex, at 232 N. Vine St., is now open for tenants. The newly refurbished and re-envisioned complex is in the 40-year-old building known as Kennard Elementary School, which closed in 2015.
"You see so many schools that just fall in on themselves and I didn't want to see that happen," says King, who partnered with Eric Allen of Greenfield to purchase and re-do the property. The two men have done projects together for more than 30 years.
King, 70, radiates enthusiasm and energy for the project. "This came up," he said. "This is where my kids went to school. I thought: well, let's try it."
He says the building has good bones with construction designed to withstand an F-4 tornado, a new roof and heating and air systems in 2012. The new owners took possession in early 2016 and sought to create 18 units of living space: nine one-bedroom and nine efficiency apartments.
Each has a full kitchen, all-new appliances and ADA-approved shower. The units are all on the first floor with inside hallways and secured doors at the entrances.
There is a community room in what used to be the library, furnished with some exercise equipment, card and puzzle tables, billiards table and comfortable seating; onsite laundry room, picnic tables and grill, private family room with kitchenette (the former teachers' lounge) which can be reserved by residents to host family events, clubs or other gatherings. Each room is wired for service by Nine Star for internet and cable. There is well water and city sewer. There is an on-site manager there 24/7.
King, who is big on security of various kinds, says he spent more on a state-of-the-art fire alarm system for the building than for cost of the building.
"People could move in right now," says King.
While he's still finishing up work on the building, 11 units are ready to go right now. King says two former teachers in the building have expressed interest. He said one, who taught in the building for decades, hopes to live there and move into her former classroom, now an apartment.
More plans call for on-site storage units, at additional fees, as well as a barber shop. There's plenty of parking and if there is a demand for covered parking, he'll get it. Plans are in the works for opening The Old-School Cafe, which would be open to the public.
Housing is open to those age 55 or older but exceptions may be granted in special circumstances. The monthly rent is income-based, Section 8 housing. Or, for those who want to pay outright without the program, King quotes $650 a month as the rent.
Owners recently hosted an open house at the complex. King says he enjoys what he does.
"I think it's going to be very positive," he says of the venture.
For more about Kennard Senior Living, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-458-5757.
It’s an annual moment I wait 10 months to experience. After a long, cold winter, a finicky spring, and a Memorial Day weekend, the local pool finally opens for the season.
This year, as I made my way into the little kids’ end of the pool, the water on my feet, then ankles, then shins was cold to the point of nearly unbearable. It took all I could do not to turn around and leave, forfeiting the $2 discounted admission for evening-swim hours.
But I noticed the few other brave souls who had taken the plunge and not perished. And I thought of my literary mentor, Joyce Maynard, whose routine includes early-morning swims – naked – in deep, cold lakes in the New Hampshire woods each summer.
OK. I’ll stay.
To my surprise and amazement, once I just did it and dunked under, my body actually adjusted. A weird exchange is made: Suddenly it felt warmer in the water than out.
This year is different. There are no more morning water aerobics classes or evening YMCA-instructed work-out sessions offered. I should be happy the pool is even open, and I am. City pools seem to struggle for survival. The YMCA pool in a nearby city is no longer in operation. Our town pool went through some choppy waters to stay afloat and now carries a hospital sponsorship.
Pools take a lot of money to operate. Doesn’t help that they are only open two months a summer now because the kids return to school at the start of August. Always seems such a shame to see that shimmering pool on 100-degree August days, empty of patrons.
Water exercise is fins down my favorite. I detested running even when I was young and only a little fat. But in the water there is no sweating and I almost love it. So this summer I’m devising my own water workouts. A little running in place (no sweat); a couple minutes of rotating like a washing machine; some stretching on the wall, dog paddling forward, then back. The point is to just keep moving. And moving. I feel looser, more flexible almost instantly. And I sure sleep better too.
There are several times I can go. If I’m home, there’s the morning option, and I’m done for the day, plus a tad chilly for the rest of the day. I don’t go during the kids’ prime time in the day, but can also choose to go late in the afternoon for two bucks, or take the late option from 7:15 to 8:15 p.m., also cheap, but not my favorite hour as there are swim-team kids to work around in one area and some swim lessons going in others.
I’m just glad the pool is open and for two months, I’m in it often.
On our recent trip to Illinois with friends Rick and Gay Kirkton, our first stop was Dixon, Illinois, population 15,000. This is the hometown of the 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan.
We toured the restored and immaculately maintained home where the Reagan family of four lived from 1920-1923. It’s a classic, two-story American home built in 1891 on a tree-lined street. As American as apple pie.
The Reagan family, which consisted of parents Jack and Nelle, and sons Neil and little brother Ron, rented this and other homes in the area. There was no family wealth; Nelle was a homemaker and Jack sold shoes.
Ron lived in the home, sharing a room with his older brother, Neil, when Ron was 9-13.
The family attended the First Christian Church in town. Ron and his mother taught Sunday School there.
The home has few original furnishings, notably a quilt that belonged to Nelle is all that was pointed out, but is filled with period décor. The bathroom tub is original, as is the woodwork and other features.
The original fireplace and tile surround on the floor are present and come with a cool story. Apparently Ron knew there was a loose tile and would lift it to hide small amounts of change.
Ron, Nancy and Ron’s brother Neil visited the home in 1984 when Ron checked out the tile and placed a few pennies there.
At that time, he was President and it was decided in advance that the Reagans might enjoy a quiet meal in the dining room. The story goes that during a pre-visit security sweep, Secret Service noted a window with a clear view of the table in the small dining room. They didn’t want to draw attention to the space, yet didn’t like the security aspect of the situation. So, they arranged to plant new landscaping just outside the window.
The situation looked as though the house staff was simply fixing up the place for the visit, but in reality, the new plantings created a block. The trees were removed after the President’s visit.
Ron had a variety of jobs in town as a kid. He worked at the Dixon Golf Club and spent six summers as a lifeguard where he is credited with saving 77 swimmers.
Ron went on to Eureka College where he studied economics and sociology. He was hired by a radio station to announce University of Iowa games and worked as a sports broadcaster for a variety of stations before moving to Hollywood in 1937 From there, his public career, which included being a fairly famous actor, took off.
Ron served governor of California from 1967-75 and U.S. President from 1981-89. He left office with a 68 percent approval rating. Ron spent his final years battling Alzheimer's disease, dying in 2004 in California.
Upon his 1984 trip back to town, Ron said, “My heart is still here.”
SO … I have a new writing project this year. It wasn’t something I set out to do, but I’m happy that the project found me.
Isn’t that how life goes sometimes? I didn’t originally plan to write a book a few years ago when I started playing around with a story in the same way that a girl might play house.
What happened this time is that my church, Ovid Community, is featuring a devotion a day for 2018 about facing our fears on its Facebook page, Ovid Community Church (https://www.facebook.com/groups/45792486945/). Anyone can join the public group.
Daily through the year, you’ll see a short piece from a rotation of writers who pen devotions, including our Senior Pastor Keith Wooden.
Back in February, Keith asked me to write one. I’ve written press releases, speeches, eulogies, news and feature articles, columns, blog posts, essays, freelance magazine articles, contributed to one book, and, wrote two of my own. But I had never written a designated devotion.
Then I remembered something surprising that happened to me last year during Bible Study Fellowship. A member of our discussion group whom I admired and who shared numerous insights with the group, one day looked me in the eye and told me if I wrote a book about my life's God stories, she would read it.
Something about her comment prompted me to start compiling my own personal God stories, moments when He showed up in special ways in my ordinary life. These were longer than devotions, but similar in style. Because the Bible is the living Word of God, it has something to say about everything we humans go through. I found scriptures that related to my circumstances.
Then I shared these essays with my classmate. I didn’t even quite know why. Now I think God was preparing me for a go at writing devotions.
SO … back to this February. When Keith asked for one, I penned a short, devotional-style piece about how God worked when Sam was a baby and facing open-heart surgery.
I told Keith that the story was actually two parts, because I also wanted to share the unique way God comforted me leading up to Sam’s second open-heart surgery at age 19.
I think I may have even written a third, thinking that I was somehow doing extra credit, when Keith wrote back to say my regular day would now be Wednesdays.
Gulp! Looking ahead, that’s a lot of devotions. Would I have enough content? Maybe not me, certainly, but God never runs out of material. Immediately to mind came the Israelites who spent 40 years in the desert.
Each and every day, God sent them fresh manna to eat. They couldn’t hoard it, couldn’t scrape a bit up and tuck it away. No, they had to depend on God to provide it anew day by day. And of course, He did (along with plenty of quail. That’s a great story in itself. Look it up).
So I’m depending on the Lord to walk with me through these devotionals and open to my eyes to how He works and walks with me daily in life’s everyday circumstances, and in those unusual ones that get our attention in special and sometimes quite difficult ways.
This is a fascinating journey taking special notice and putting into words the way He works in, well, everything! And seeing how He has scripture that applies to us all as we walk and stumble, mumble and bumble, as well as renew and rejoice our way through this life.
If you’d like to read my Wednesday devotionals, either hit me up and I’ll add you to the Facebook page, or go on the page yourself. I hope you will enjoy not just my insights but those of other writers from our congregation.
To me, a devotional is simply sharing what God has shown you about your faith in a practical way. That’s it.
In the past couple of days, I’ve thought about developing a program on devotional writing. Some tips, some ideas, some sharing and everyone leaves with his or her own written devotional. What do you think? Wouldn't it be fun to have everyone share their devotion with a small group?
Meanwhile, here are a couple of mine, along with the dates they appeared on the Ovid page.
My thanks to Keith for inviting me to take this journey. And ultimately, to the Lord for His Presence in my everyday life.
A ROYAL INVITATION by Donna Cronk
Note: This ran May 16, a few days before the royal wedding.
Just imagine that some time ago, you received a personal invitation to attend the royal wedding of Prince Henry and Meghan Markle in England.
You knew that it was the invitation of a lifetime, so you bought a beautiful new outfit, thought of how wonderful it would be surrounded by the special guests, and view the royal couple up close. Oh, the wedding feast would be amazing, you knew.
So you flew to England and showed up at the appointed time to enter the wedding venue. But once you got to the gate, even with your invite in hand, when the gatekeeper checked the master list, your name was missing.
There must be a mistake! You had been invited! You were ready to enter that gate and take part in the festivities!
But there was no mistake. The gatekeeper said the problem was simple: “You never responded to the invite. You are not on the list. You cannot enter.”
This picture, inspired by a story told by Bible Study Fellowship Teaching Leader, Jodie Pyle, is one of what we will experience if we fail to respond to Jesus’ invitation to believe in and follow Him.
Jesus Christ offers each of us an invitation to the royal wedding of the Bridegroom (Jesus) and His Church (the bride). We’re on the invitation list. We’re invited. But it’s not enough to be invited and just show up at the gate. We must respond on this side of eternity.
Have you returned your RSVP to the invitation for eternal life sent to you from the Prince of Peace?
“I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.” – John 10:9 (NIV)
FEAR OF INHERITED DISEASE by Donna Cronk
Note: This one appeared on June 6.
Both my parents had Alzheimer’s disease and lived with it for many years. The disease stole their minds, their dignity, their roles as parents and grandparents. I’ve often thought that it’s probably in my future.
Many of us likely have similar concerns because we don’t look far in our ancestry to find death. The particular diagnostic dread varies from the usual roster of cancer, heart disease and stroke to rarer diseases and tragic accidents.
Since there is no cure for Alzheimer’s – or for death -- I have no desire to submit to tests that estimate my chances of getting this disease. If statistics were that I would likely get it, I’d be inclined to spend my time worrying over dying rather than enjoying living. Besides that, something else could take me long before the Alzheimer’s!
Both my parents had more than 75 healthy, good years before the disease hit them. The Bible says it’s appointed each person once to die. Why is it a news flash that we’re all going to die of something?
Before that happens, we must make sure we know where we’ll go once we do. Now is the time to make sure of our eternal security. Praise God for making a way. Have you trusted Him with not only your life, but your death?
1 Corinthians 15:55-57 (NIV): “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
This week I’m reminded of a wedding gift that I had all but forgotten.
My brother David and sister-in-law Janet bought us a brown wicker clothes hamper. I remember it distinctly because Janet asked what we specifically needed following our wedding 40 years ago this year.
Janet had been ill right before we married and didn’t know if she would even be able to attend, but she did.
So a couple weeks after the wedding, they arrived at our home with the hamper and it was perfect. I don’t know what happened to it through the years but two other lesser-quality hampers have filled the void from the demise of the first.
For a couple years now, the more recent hamper was falling apart, the strands of wicker unwinding and even breaking off onto the floor. A new hamper was on my list to buy. How hard would it be to find a sturdy one? Yet I checked one store after another and could not only not find a great new hamper, but not even a lousy inferior one.
Yet I was sure that new hamper lurked around the next aisle in the next store but it never did. There were plenty of college-appropriate collapsibles, and laundry baskets tall as a hamper with a handle on top, perfect for apartment dwellers hauling their dirties to the facilities.
But there was no adult version to be found of a simple clothing hamper.
In his retirement, Brian has become handy with his phone in completing all manner of projects and chores ranging from buying online flights to adeptly using Google Maps.
The mall in our nearest city just folded; the whole mall, not just a few select stores. He predicts that in just a few years,shopping malls will be no more.
So after hearing me lament about the lack of laundry hampers, he hopped onto amazon.com and found many. He landed on a page full of them that looked exactly like the 1978 model my brother and SIL bought us for our wedding. I didn't even have to settle for the one obscure color that a mall store might have and be glad to get it. The online store had the hamper of my dreams in a choice of colors.
I narrowed it down to the chocolate brown that we had 40 years ago, or the “linen” hue that to the less-creative minded, would be off white. It appeared to be a nice match for the “biscuit” (or off white) color of our tub and toilet.
The hamper also arrived, shipped free, in three days.
After this experience, and others I’ve had that I won’t unpack right here, I suspect that Brian may be closer to right than wrong about the future of big malls. The appeal of ordering a perfect product in two minutes that you couldn’t find in two years, combined with a good price, free shipping and no time or gas invested in a futile search certainly has its appeal.
As a young girl and teen, and even years later, I considered a trip to “the mall” a great experience. It was so much fun to go from store to store just looking with my mom, have lunch out at Kresge’s or Woolworth’s, and shop some more.
Sometimes we ordered things from the thick seasonal catalogs from the big-name stores such as Penney’s, Sears or Montgomery-Wards. But usually, those wish books only pointed to the store versions we found on our own Saturdays in the Richmond mall. Mail-order back then meant paying for shipping and handling as well as what would seem today as a long wait.
I haven’t been much of a mall shopper for a long time. While I enjoy shopping in specialty shops and smaller stores in the towns and cities where I live or work, big-city malls long ago lost their appeal to me. I get overwhelmed and then spend too much time looking for something I could have ordered in minutes at home.
What are your thoughts on the future of malls in America?