MARY JANE SKALA Hub Editor
LEXINGTON — Crossroads Mission Avenue will have a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday at noon as it begins its expansion into its fourth city in central Nebraska.
A vacant building at 907 W. 8th St. will be renovated into 17 one-room apartments that can accommodate single men, single women or families in Dawson County. It is expected to open in 2024. Crossroads is a Christian non-profit organization that provides housing, job training and support to enable homeless people to become self-sufficient. It was launched 39 years ago in Hastings. It expanded to Kearney in 2012 and Grand Island in 2018.
Daniel Buller, executive director of Crossroads, said a facility in Lexington was first suggested by Brian Levander, chairman of the board of Crossroads and owner of Levander’s Body Shop at 2807 N Ave.
The council considered Levander’s idea and is now finalizing the purchase of the property. The total cost of $1.5 million includes purchase, construction, renovation, furnishing and administration costs. Carrefour is also launching a fundraising campaign to raise $675,554 for the project. Carrefour will apply for a grant of $750,000 from the Federal Home Loan Bank, a private institution with which it has previously worked.
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“We’ve realized over the past few years that we don’t just serve Kearney or Grand Island. Crossroads serves the entire western half of the state,” Buller said. He said North Platte has a homeless shelter, but there’s nothing between North Platte and Cheyenne.
“Customers have nowhere to go, so they come to Kearney,” Buller said. The Kearney facility opened with 27 beds in 2012 and expanded to 42 beds in 2013. It has since added a women’s facility as well as 15 transitional apartments designed for people who have completed the Crossroads program and who are looking for affordable housing. This facility is full.
Residents, referred to as “guests” by Crossroads staff, receive safe shelter, hot meals, and life skills and money management classes to help them live independently. Buller said Crossroads fulfills its mission more effectively when its facilities can be distributed throughout the region. “The Hastings facility went from an overwhelming community to a blessing once we opened the Kearney and Grand Island facilities,” Buller said.
As Crossroads was considering the Lexington facility, Healthy Blue Nebraska called out of the blue and offered $20,000 to begin funding the project. “To me, that’s an affirmation to take the right next steps,” Buller said.
“We took action, trusted the Lord, found this building and presented it to council,” he added. The six-member Crossroads Board of Directors and Levander’s Automotive will present a donation of between $50,000 and $60,000 to launch the Follow the Need campaign.
Buller said the same business model will be used in Lexington as that used in Hastings, Kearney and Grand Island. Crossroads has a combined total of 45 employees at these three facilities. “Our management has learned that there is a way to do this to maintain this. We can take a donor dollar and turn it into 3 dollars,” he said.
Jake Ondrak, currently facilities manager for Kearney Crossroads, will also become the regional manager overseeing operations in Lexington. Next year, Crossroads will hire staff for Lexington. He will also open a temporary Mission Thrift Avenue in Lexington, a successful thrift store that has brought in needed revenue while teaching Crossroads customers the intricacies of managing a job and money. A permanent store site will be found next year.
In July, Crossroads opened a monthly food pantry in Lexington at the Dawson County Fairgrounds, in conjunction with the Heartland Food Bank, after the Lexington mobile food pantry closed. The food pantry serves an average of 450 families each month. “If you come, we won’t ask questions. If you say you need food, we’ll give it to you,” Buller said.
Buller said Lexington has been very welcoming to Crossroads, “with its arms wide open. There is no resistance. It’s meant to be a transformation, not just a bed and food.
“I think it’s our job to form the minds of communities that have a sort of jaded view of homelessness. Homeless people who come to Crossroads are just ordinary people who just need help and of opportunities. They’re some of the most incredibly talented people,” Buller said.
More information about the fundraising campaign can be found at www.crossroadsmission.com.