Aid group sets plans for City of Hope Residents invited to learn more about planned relief center

Annual rent of $5,000

State officials welcome group's use of old hospital site

September 29, 1997|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

For two years, Harvest International has pursued an abandoned state property near Marriottsville with plans to renovate it as an international aid center.

With the state's endorsement, the organization wants to start building its City of Hope at the former Henryton Hospital, meanwhile allaying any fears neighbors might have about its programs for the needy.

The state Board of Public Works awarded Henryton, built in 1923 as a tuberculosis center, to the nonprofit, humanitarian organization Sept. 10.

Samson Doolin, Harvest International director, said he expects to sign a 15-year lease this week. The organization will pay an annual rent of $5,000, with an option to buy at the end of the lease.

Volunteers will begin work immediately to convert the 50-acre campus into the City of Hope, a village offering family services, international aid, addiction treatment and eventually a hospice program.

"We have a credible organization willing to put $5 million into renovating Henryton into a humanitarian center," said Richard N. Dixon, state treasurer. "It is a much better use than another penal institution or more residential development."

Since the hospital closed in 1985, the state has spent about $100,000 annually for security and minimal maintenance. Henryton was declared surplus three years ago, but asbestos problems and its isolated location along the South Branch of the Patapsco River deterred many potential users.

Owings Mills-based Harvest International made the most acceptable proposal for the property, state officials said.

"What Harvest International has proposed is an ambitious, detailed plan," said Sen. Larry E. Haines, a Carroll County Republican. "Its programs will be licensed and regulated by the state. All improvements will go through the local development channels."

Its parent organization, Life- Link, an 11-year-old international relief organization based in Tulsa, Okla., "has a good track record and the resources to help," Haines said. LifeLink has donated $700,000 to City of Hope.

The site, surrounded by state parkland, is ideal for the center. Its proximity to the port of Baltimore is vital to its international relief programs, Doolin said.

Residents of the sparsely populated area in southeast Carroll County and the northeastern corner of Howard County perceive threats to their security from clients who will use the center.

But Doolin said: "These people will be intensely screened, not just picked up off the street. Our main thrust is to help those who may have had curve balls thrown at them, but have demonstrated that they can succeed, if given a chance. The screening will determine if our program can benefit an individual. We will not be a burden to the community."

Doolin, City of Hope volunteers, state officials, Haines and Republican state Sen. Christopher J. McCabe of Howard County will meet with area residents at 7 p.m. today at Patapsco Middle School, hoping to dispel fears and answer questions. The school is at 8885 Old Frederick Road in Ellicott City.

Drawings of the proposed $5 million renovations will be available at the meeting. Organizers expect to complete the first of three phases by late 1999.

The first phase includes a vocational training program for recovering addicts and a distribution center for international relief operations.

Initially, the program will be daytime only for about 40 men in one of the largest buildings on the campus, the hospital's three-story brick administration building. The structure can be renovated quickly, said Peter Notari, an architect and a volunteer with the Neighborhood Design Center, which works with humanitarian organizations.

The 40,000-square-foot building will also be used for administrative offices and a distribution center. Notari estimated it will take $1.48 million and two years of reconstruction before the first phase is operational. The City of Hope is raising all the funds.

Pub Date: 9/29/97

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