Methodist home for children plans to move from Woodford to Jessamine

gkocher1@herald-leader.comNovember 3, 2012 

NICHOLASVILLE — After 79 years of calling Woodford County its base of operations, the Kentucky United Methodist Homes for Children & Youth plans to move to neighboring Jessamine County.

This past summer the nonprofit corporation that cares for abused, neglected or abandoned children purchased nearly 31 acres on Ashgrove Road in northern Jessamine for $915,000 from David and Alta Marshall. The property is just south of Brannon Crossing shopping center off U.S. 27.

Sometime in the next two to five years, the faith-based organization plans to build a new $6 million facility that would include a residential hall, gym, education space and a dining hall/kitchen. It also intends to add office space onto an existing two-story house.

The Methodist home currently sits on about 50 acres off U.S. 60 east of Versailles, and leases another 175 acres to a neighboring golf course. The Woodford campus has about a dozen buildings, the oldest built in the 1950s and the newest in 1971, said the Rev. Randy Coy, president and CEO of the Methodist home.

"They're all getting a little old and tired," Coy said. "We don't need all of this property."

So the home has been looking to downsize for some time, and Coy said the Jessamine property would be the place to do that.

The Jessamine land, which was annexed into the city of Nicholasville in 2005, is zoned for residential use. Before buying that property, the Methodist home received a conditional-use permit from the Nicholasville Board of Adjustment in July to operate a school and child-care center. If the conditions set forth by the board are kept, then permanent status will be automatically granted and the Methodist home won't have to go back to the board for review.

The conditions are that the home will comply with all Nicholasville ordinances, state building codes, and city and utility construction specifications for water, sewer, and stormwater.

Residents and property owners along Ashgrove Road experience low water-pressure and expressed concerns to the Board of Adjustment members that the Methodist home would worsen that problem. But a building permit would not be issued until those issues are resolved, and Coy said in an interview that the home would probably pay to hook onto larger water and sewer mains near Brannon Crossing.

The Methodist home has been in existence since 1871, when it started as an outreach to widows and orphans devastated by the Civil War. The home was originally in downtown Louisville but relocated to the working farm in Woodford County in 1933.

"The kids who would be a part of this agency helped support themselves by raising some crops and milked cows and did all the stuff that working farms did," Coy said.

But in the 1970s the home transitioned from an orphanage to a treatment facility. The 20 children who are on the Woodford campus today are in group and individual therapy.

The youths at the Methodist home are placed there by the state, and they receive help so they can deal with the trauma related to the issues that caused their removal from their homes.

The Methodist home has contracts with the state to oversee the welfare and safety of the children who are 12 to 17 years old. After spending four to nine months at the Methodist home, the youths enter foster care, go to live with other relatives or transition to independent-living apartments in Lexington. (A sister facility in Owensboro, the Mary Kendall Home, has about 20 youths and is also supervised by Coy.)

The Jessamine property will house only 16 youths. The 15,500-square-foot facility to be built there would put most functions under one roof rather than spread out among a dozen buildings.

"We're looking to get our kids into a more modern facility that better fits what their needs are educationally and emotionally," Coy said.

The Jessamine property has a swimming pool, a lake and a six-stall horse barn and paddocks. "We would like to include equine therapy in our therapeutic process, and this farm is already situated for that," Coy said.

About $300,000 for the Jessamine purchase came from privately raised funds and the balance came from an endowment that will be repaid. "So we have no indebtedness to anybody but to ourselves," Coy said.

When there is a fifth Sunday of a month, Methodist churches in Kentucky are encouraged to take an offering for the home. Those offerings generate about $1.5 million each year, Coy said.

No decision has been made to sell the Woodford County site and, as a church-related property exempt from property taxes, its value is unclear. Its future probably won't be decided until the Jessamine facility is up and running, Coy said.

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety

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