HAND Celebrates 10th Anniversary

Hamilton County – Hamilton County Area Neighborhood Development, Inc., (HAND), is celebrating its 10th anniversary and invites the community to join them in recognizing many of the prime contributors to HAND’s early success. In 2003, a countywide task force formed out of concern for the lack of affordable housing for Hamilton County residents and decided it was time to take action. These caring individuals decided it was time to start a non-profit organization charged with creating housing options for low-income residents. Now, after investing $12 million across multiple developments, HAND provides high quality, affordable housing for 75 households, mostly seniors, and is viewed in many communities as an important partner for solving local issues.

The Noblesville Housing Authority’s (NHA) Executive Director, Troy Halsell, spearheaded the formation process in 2003. Troy saw the building boom and believed there was an opportunity for a non-profit to become active in the area of real estate development. Hamilton County’s population growth made it eligible to receive direct federal community development grants, and it needed an entity to drive these projects. NHA President Rick Conner and Board Members Colleen Buesching, Gail Rothrock, among others, agreed to put their resources behind the formation of HAND.

For the first four years, the organization operated with no paid staff. Yet, they were still able to complete home repair projects while going through the process of forming a legal entity and gaining federal recognition as a non-profit charitable organization (501(c) 3). Building on models from other communities, the organization followed the best practices of governance and carefully constructed an executable game plan. In 2007, HAND hired Sage Hales to develop this game plan, and with her leadership, the organization took off.

HAND went on to establish a partnership with Milestone Ventures, a prolific housing developer in rural communities in Indiana, to develop Spicewood Gardens, a senior housing community in Sheridan. While this development was underway, HAND also initiated multiple senior projects in Noblesville. By the end of 2012, HAND developed and now owns 67 senior apartments in Noblesville and Sheridan.

From the beginning, high quality construction was a key (directive?) value, as was the goal of meeting the community’s impending need for affordable senior housing. This formula worked, with all of HAND’s developments receiving certification by the US Green Building Council at the LEED for Silver level. The apartments are highly regarded by each Hamilton County Community and deeply appreciated by the residents who now call them home.

In addition to the senior communities, HAND developed a robust homeownership program in response to the housing crisis. The organization hired its second staff-member, Stephanie Burdick, to provide housing counseling and down payment assistance for first-time homebuyers. Through this program, 15 homeowners were able to achieve their dream of homeownership. Colleen Buesching, Board President, says, “We are a small organization with an ability to adapt and respond to community needs, and we consider it a key attribute of HAND’s business model.”

One of the most high profile projects HAND tackled was the renovation of two abandoned buildings on South 8th St. in Downtown Noblesville. The rehab of these two blighted properties turned neighborhood liabilities into assets that continue to spur redevelopment in the area. In 2014, HAND is proposing to renovate the last blighted building on the block, thereby putting the “Capstone” on this successful initiative. Thus, HAND named this project the “Roper Capstone” and it will result in six affordable apartments if their applications are successful.

None of these efforts could have occurred without strong leaders and committed partners. On October 11th, 4-7pm, HAND will recognize the most influential contributors to this success. At the event, participants will enjoy a casual atmosphere conducive for socializing around food and drink. A brief recognition ceremony will take place at 5:30pm. A silent auction and live music will round out the evening’s activities.

Honored guests include:
Troy Halsell
Gail Rothrock
Rick Conner
Mark Winzenread
Colleen Buesching
Ken Puller
John Terry
Rex Dillinger
Chuck Heintzelman

Guests can expect to leave with a greater appreciation of HAND’s work, but also inspired by the plans HAND has developed for the next phase of its development.

HAND is a non-profit organization with a mission to “invest in neighborhoods, provide housing solutions and build partnerships to improve lives and build communities in Hamilton County.” HAND’s offices are located in a building it renovated in Noblesville, but its board members come from several Hamilton County communities. HAND’s strategic plan for 2014-16 creates many new partnership opportunities, and HAND looks forward to working with a diverse group of individuals and organizations interested in supporting low-income families and communities.