Princeton—The Kentucky Campers on Mission spent two weeks in Princeton working at HR Ministries’ new building on West Main Street.
The 11,000 square-foot historic building, constructed in 1913, was the longtime home of Johnson’s Furniture. The local ministry purchased the property this summer, and director Harrell Riley said he hopes to start moving in Dec. 1.
“God made this building available to us, and now with the Campers on Mission here helping, we are one step closer to getting set up and ready to serve the community out of this building,” said Riley.
Campers on Mission (COM) is a national fellowship of Christians who load up their campers and take part in short term volunteer assignments, many of which are construction and renovation projects.
The Kentucky chapter has approximately 100 members, but usually 20-25 are assigned to each project. A group of 15 COM members were in Princeton Oct. 31 through Nov. 10 working on the HR Ministries building during the day and relaxing in their campers, which were parked at the City County Park, each evening.
“We typically work on projects from April to October, but we are going a little longer this year,” said Annie Brown of Fordsville.
Brown has been with the organization since 2005, and learned about the COM ministry after the campers helped with a construction project at her church.
“All you really need to be a camper with us is a good attitude,” said fellow COM member Brenda Tucker of Calhoun. “You don’t need any skills.”
Kentucky chapter members come from a variety of background—a used car salesman, a lawn service business owner, teachers, nurses, a county agent.
“We don’t have a carpenter in the group—not a carpenter by trade at least,” said Tucker “But these guys are great and they do wonderful work.”
While many of the men in the group spent their two weeks in Princeton laying new floors in the HR Ministries building, constructing walls, patching walls, painting and replacing light fixtures, some of the women headed out to the HR Ministries office to help address Christmas cards, mail ministry information and fill backpacks for the organization’s prison ministry. Other women in the group worked alongside the men salvaging wood and painting trim.
“We are reclaiming all the baseboards and painting those. Some were used in one place and we are moving them to another, but we have done a lot of reclaiming here in this building,” said Riley.
“It’s not just about keeping the cost down, it is about preserving as much of this history as we can.”
Riley said the 100-plus year-old building is “in great shape.”
“We are grateful to be able to come in and breathe new life into this building,” he said. “Our goal is to expand our ministry but also to make downtown Princeton continue to look better.”
The two-story building will be restored through a series of phases. Riley said the Campers on Mission helped with phase one.
“Phase one is getting the downstairs ready so we can move Joseph’s Storage Bin in,” he said.
The ministry currently operates the Joseph’s Storage Bin thrift store on Market Street.
“We were just running out of space,” said Riley. “Here, we have plenty more space and we are also going to be able to expand and improve some of the things we offer.”
A new furniture section is planned for the store, and the clothing area will be set up to resemble as boutique rather than a thrift store, Riley explained.
“We want to get everything moved, set up and ready to go with Joseph’s Storage Bin first. Then we will focus on getting the office moved and set up,” he said.
The office on 293 North will be relocated to the new building, and Riley said there will be space available for the ministry’s Moving Ahead program which assists residents with benevolence and other needs they may have.
“Combining spaces will save funds on utilities, as well as provide room for expansion,” Riley said.
The goal is to have phase one completed by Dec. 1 so volunteers can begin setting up the store.
“After that, we plan to do some remodeling and work upstairs,” said Riley.
The second floor of the building, which once served as the local Elks Lodge, has ample space and is framed by historic woodworking, which Riley wants to restore.
On the second floor, the ministry wants to keep an “open concept.”
Plans upstairs include ministry offices, a conference room, a community room and a prayer center.
“This will be an area upstairs where folks can come pray and fellowship,” said Riley. “This will be a special section that will give folks an opportunity to come in a pray and look out over our community as they offer prayers.”
Over the last 15 years, HR Ministries has established a nationally recognized model for serving. Volunteers serve Job Corps campuses, prisons and county jails, support churches and visiting mission teams and also plan community ministry events such as the annual Summer Slam free Christian music festival and this past year’s SolQuest event.
“We had a huge need for more space so we could keep serving people and expand our ministry. God answered that need with this building,” said Riley.
“We are grateful to the Campers on Mission for coming in here and helping us, and we will be looking for other folks to come and help us, too.”
Riley said the ministry’s presence on Main Street will hopefully reach more people in need not only in this community but from surrounding areas.
“When it is all done and folks see what we are trying to do here with this building, I think they will be impressed,” said Riley. “We hope they are.”
For more information on how to help, contact Riley at 270-625-0405, call the HR Ministries office at 270-365-6044 or visit hrministries.net. (The Times-Leader, Princeton)