Lawrenceville co-op pays off building

LAWRENCEVILLE - With little money, no home and no place to go, Lawrenceville Cooperative Ministry was in the same position as many of its clients.

However, after a series of large donations over the past two years, the ministry's building is now paid in full, and the money once used for overhead expenses can be used to help more residents in need.

"We have received donations that almost exactly matched the amount needed to pay off our building, and now we are debt free within one year of purchasing our beautiful new home," said Linda Freund, director of the Lawrenceville Cooperative Ministry.

Normally able to operate the nonprofit ministry out of a donated building, the Lawrenceville co-op, which offers food and bill-paying assistance to Lawrenceville and Dacula residents, was asked to leave its rent-free office space in June 2004 but was left with few relocation options.

"Something similar to rent was $1,500 a month, but that money could be used to help 15 clients pay their utility bills," Freund said.

Not long after the search for a new building, Freund received a $100,000 donation check that put the ministry on track for buying a new building. Sandra Webb, who received the unexpected money from an insurance benefit after her husband, Fred, died from pancreatic cancer, made the donation.

"Fred was helping us look for a new building and was concerned we didn't have a place," Freund said. "When he died July 2004, Sandra said she never knew so clearly what she was supposed to do."

With the donated money and a $160,000 bank loan, Freund was able to purchase the former Pleasant Hill Baptist Church on 176 Church St. for $260,000.

Major renovations ensued, and volunteers from the community pitched in. The renovations would normally have cost $50,000, but Freund said she paid $38,000 due to generous contributions of time and construction materials.

"They came with crowbars and started tearing stuff down," Freund said. "Now we have an office area, a pantry area and a custom-made recycle bin."

After further donations made by Gwinnett residents during a charity drive, officials were able to raise more money and on Dec. 28 paid off the bank loans in full.

"It was almost to the penny," Freund said.