It took months of planning, fundraising and a few miracles for C.A.R.E.S. of Farmington Hills to purchase the former Servant Church of St. Alexander property in Farmington Hills.
And that may have been the easy part.
Community leaders who formed the nonprofit are now tasked with fulfilling a $17 million vision: a “one-stop shop” of services for residents in Farmington Hills, Farmington, and surrounding communities. They’ve already started, by rescuing the 30-year-old St. Al’s food pantry and adding a clothing bank.
Plans for the 10-acre property also include:
- Community gathering space for up to 150 people
- Offices for local charities and service providers including Farmington Area Goodfellows, Neighborhood House, Farmington Youth Assistance, SAFE (Suicide Awareness for Everyone), Michigan School of Professional Psychology (MiSPP), Oakland County, and Farmington Public Schools Homeless Division
- Offices for dental and medical care providers
- Daycare/early childhood center
- Permanent space for the Goodfellows’ holiday distribution to families and seniors
Todd Lipa, who worked with Farmington Hills Mayor Ken Massey and former Hills mayor and city council member Jerry Ellis to complete the property sale, said the food pantry will be “modernized to look more like a small convenience operation.
“Families will see freezers and refrigerated cases,” he said, adding that shoppers will be able to pick whatever items their family members like to eat.
Many services, one location
The bank of offices would be attached to the pantry so that people who need food can get other needs met in one location.
Lipa said plans include a training and education center, offering literacy and workforce training, perhaps partnering with skilled trades organizations. A sanctuary for victims of human trafficking and a communal living center that offers life skills and job training for adults with special needs are also part of the vision.
An integrated approach to health services has C.A.R.E.S. working with experts in telemedicine, energy healer and long-time Farmington Hills resident Elaine Grohman, and MiSPP, which would provide counseling services.
“If there are other things happening that keep you from being your best self, we want to help you with that,” he said.
How you can help
The project has already engaged volunteers. Annette Compo and her Keller Williams Realty team recently put in some hours cleaning up the entrance, cutting the grass, and establishing the clothing bank.
C.A.R.E.S. has also launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise $500,000 from the community. Lipa said the nonprofit has connected with “four strong, healthy foundations” to help “develop the vision and the dream and support us over the next five to ten years as we build it out.”
“We believe we’ll find funders and founders and folks that want to help us that we don’t even know today,” he said.
C.A.R.E.S. also hopes to work with other Farmington area nonprofits “and not take away anybody’s initiative. They’re all doing great work. They’re all important.”
“Where this will be a huge support is for the faith-based community and community-based organizations that need support, and churches that have people come to them for help,” he added. “Hopefully, on our campus, answers will be given to where you can get the best help.”
‘A place to lift up and help each other’
Neighbors are learning now about C.A.R.E.S. plans and reaction has been largely positive, Lipa said. Any building on the site will have to go through the City of Farmington Hills planning process, giving them a chance to share their ideas and concerns.
“Everybody coming up to us is really excited that this property will be used for what it has always been used for,” he said. “It’s staying the property that has served the community for many years.”
“We’re hoping and praying people will see this as a place to lift up and help each other,” Lipa added, “a place where we can help as many people as possible.”
To contribute to the GoFundMe campaign, visit gofundme.com/cares-of-farmington.