Community

Merlene Davis: Copper theft leaves home for women needing help

Kevin Tipton, owner of Tipton Electric, opened up the crawl space where a coper theft took place at The Legacy Home Ministry, 938 Delaware Ave in Lexington, Ky.,Wednesday, September 28, 2011. The Legacy Home Ministry, a renovated house that will become a home for five elderly women, was a victim of copper thieves on Sept. 11. The home is the vision of the Rev. Esther Hurlburt and should open to occupants this winter. Repairs are being made, but donations are needed because insurance covered nothing. Debra Hensley has agreed to give matching funds for donations made. Tipton has donated part of his labor fee to make the repairs. Charles Bertram | Staff
Kevin Tipton, owner of Tipton Electric, opened up the crawl space where a coper theft took place at The Legacy Home Ministry, 938 Delaware Ave in Lexington, Ky.,Wednesday, September 28, 2011. The Legacy Home Ministry, a renovated house that will become a home for five elderly women, was a victim of copper thieves on Sept. 11. The home is the vision of the Rev. Esther Hurlburt and should open to occupants this winter. Repairs are being made, but donations are needed because insurance covered nothing. Debra Hensley has agreed to give matching funds for donations made. Tipton has donated part of his labor fee to make the repairs. Charles Bertram | Staff

There has been a tinge of frustration in the voice of Rev. Esther Hurlburt the two times I've spoken with her. It's understandable. Thieves made off with copper wiring and pieces of copper plumbing from the house she and volunteers have been repurposing as a home for five older women.

The thefts occurred earlier this month at Legacy Home Ministry, a five-bedroom residence on Delaware Avenue that is being converted from two houses to provide low-income community housing for women 65 years of age and older who can care for themselves.

Thieves "stole all of the 220 lines," Hurlburt said. "They crawled under the house and took all of it, every single bit of it."

The theft included copper in the plumbing.

Hurlburt was a bit frustrated because she knows for each $1,000 in additional renovation costs, the rent for the potential occupants increases.

"What we'd really like to do is keep construction costs low enough to get women in there for $350 or $375 rent," she said.

Hurlburt said she recently learned insurance will cover none of the costs to replace about 50 feet of the wiring and plumbing, which could be at least $3,500 and possibly closer to $5,000.

She and the board that governs the ministry will put in security lights and special doors to the crawl space.

"Police and the insurance adjusters say that will slow them down," she said of future theft attempts. "But it won't stop them."

Fortunately, the air conditioning compressors had not been installed because of fears they would be stolen, she said.

Her frustration soon disappeared because repairs to the project were being made "lickety-split," she said. The home's scheduled opening this winter shouldn't be delayed too much.

The Legacy Home will have five bedrooms; three bathrooms; one large kitchen and one small one; common areas, including a sun room; and a laundry room. Each renter would have her own bedroom.

Applications will be taken in the future through United Way of the Bluegrass and screened by the Community Action Council of Lexington-Fayette County. No date has been set just yet.

The project, the first for non-profit Lexington Cooperative Ministry Inc., is an example of cooperative living for people with low incomes. By living together, the women will be able to help one another and share the responsibilities that come with independent living.

Hurlburt, who chairs the board, provided the down payment in December 2009 for the two houses that have since been connected and for expenses. She is the unity minister at Unitarian Universalist Church, and owner of Parent Care Ky, which determines and manages the needs of the elderly and disabled for their families.

I first wrote about Hurlburt in May 2010, when she was seeking volunteers to renovate the houses. Businesses have donated materials and services for the home, and individuals have donated financially.

The home was featured at one of former Urban County Councilwoman Debra Hensley's Social Stimulus events that highlighted businesses and non-profits on Delaware. Through the event and a silent auction for items for the home, a "substantial" amount of money was raised, Hensley said. But now that has been canceled out by the theft.

So to jump-start donations and make up for the loss due to the theft, Hensley has agreed to provide some matching funds for donations to the home. "It is a call to action," she said.

Generous donors like Hensley and a variety of builders and businesses in the area is why Hurlburt's frustrations are kept in check.

"It is saying my prayers and reframing my anger and frustration in the spirit of gratitude that keeps me going," she said.

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