By Kristin Bien (firstname.lastname@example.org)
7:09 AM EST, December 18, 2012
ST. JOSEPH COUNTY – A local nonprofit is celebrating a very large, early Christmas present. Recently, the St. Joseph County Minority Health Coalition received the keys to a new building. It was a donation from KeyBank, the first donation of this kind from the company.
If it looks like the St. Joseph County Minority Health Coalition Building on the corner of Lincolnway and Eclipse Place used to be a bank, that's because it was.
"What we hate to see is we vacate an area and it is a vacant bank building for 3,4,5 years," said Randall Foster, the president of Northern Indiana KeyBank, as he visited the building for the first time since the donation.
KeyBank closed the branch in September, and rather than let the building stay empty, the company donated it to the Health Coalition.
"This is one of the fun parts of my job. I really enjoy it," Foster said.
For a nonprofit organization, any donation, no matter how small, is a big deal. So, you can imagine the excitement when leaders at the Minority Health Coalition learned they would get a free building. Executive Director Karl Nichols got the good news in September.
"Wow," said Nichols. "I said that I am glad I am sitting down cause I think I would have fell down. It is just amazing that this would happen. We are a small organization."
Since then, the coalition has been busy turning the bank into their building. That means getting rid of the giant night safe, adding offices and a handicap accessible bathroom.
This will be a welcome change for the organization which served about 2,500 people in St. Joseph and Marshall Counties last year through education, advocacy and resources -- people like Edgar Bates. Bates was released from prison after serving 6 years in 2009. He needed help managing his diabetes because he didn't have health insurance.
"They've been a godsend to me," said Bates. "My health is a whole lot better than if I hadn't made contact with them."
Bates was also able to get education and health insurance thanks to the Coalition. And the hope is the Minority Health Coalition will be able to help more people like Bates now that they have a building of their own that is visible and convenient for clients.
The organization plans to keep leasing their office space off of Western in the Marycrest building to serve people in that location. But the Lincolnway building will now become the organization's headquarters. They also received $10,000 to help with some of the renovating expenses.
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