CADILLAC — Working slowly and deliberately under the blazing mid-afternoon sun, a group of around 30 volunteers on Saturday sorted through various materials that once comprised a charter school in Hart, Michigan.

They were looking for insulation, wooden trusses, steel studs, plywood and anything else that could be reused for the New Hope Center facility under construction in Cadillac near the Wexford County Jail.

When finished, the 9,500-square-foot New Hope Center will replace most of the facilities currently being used by the formerly-named New Hope Shelter to house homeless men, women and families.

New Hope Center board member Jon McMahon said they were able to salvage materials from the Hart school under the condition they take all the materials — even the useless ones — which were transported to Cadillac in the beds of several semi-trucks.

Saturday was the first of many weekends that the shelter will be asking the community for help in building the New Hope Center.

McMahon said Saturday was essentially a test day to gauge the level of volunteer involvement they could generate; beginning in September, he said they'll rely much more heavily on donated labor to get the shell of the structure up before winter arrives.

With a completion goal of sometime in the spring, McMahon said the plan is to get the framing and walls up before snow falls, allowing them to do most of the interior work in the wintertime. McMahon said they're hoping to draw between 40 and 80 volunteers each day they work on the center.

New Hope Center Executive Director Chris Crawley said through volunteer labor and salvaged materials, they'll be able to shave $300,000 from the total cost of the project, which is estimated to run around $1.2 million.

A large portion of the project cost — $500,000 — is being covered by a Federal Home Loan Bank grant that was awarded last year. The remaining cost will be covered by donations, grants and other sources.

The new facility will have three wings to house men, women and families separately from each other.

Crawley said it's possible that the facility will open in phases depending on their financial situation; for instance, they might not be able to open all three wings at the same time but rather one at a time as funding becomes available to finish the structure.

At this time, Crawley said the plan is to sell two of the shelter's five existing facilities to help pay for the cost of the New Hope Center. He said they plan to keep the family shelter near Baker College, although they don't yet know what it will be used for. Their remaining two facilities technically are owned by Munson Healthcare Cadillac Hospital, which will retain ownership once New Hope Center moves out.

Disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic pushed back the start of the project by a few months, mostly due to delays in obtaining construction permits, but Crawley said they're back on track now.

He said being able to work outside is helping them to maintain social distancing among volunteers; once they move inside to start painting and trim work, however, this could become more of a challenge.

While the brunt of the volunteer work will be done every Saturday for several weeks beginning on Sept. 26, Crawley said they'll be working today, Wednesday and Thursday on removing nails from the wooden trusses.

Those who want to volunteer this week can show up at the New Hope Center site from 8 to 11 a.m. Make sure to bring a hammer and a pry bar.

Volunteers do not have to possess any sort of skill related to construction work. Crawley said much of the help they require involves things as simple as moving materials from one place to another.

In the future, New Hope Shelter will be posting event notices on their Facebook page. Volunteers can sign up through these notices or send an email to

Crawley said it's nice to have an idea how many volunteers will be showing up on any given Saturday, in order for them to bring the necessary number of water bottles, masks, hardhats and other items.

Currently, Crawley said they're close to capacity at all their shelters and can't accept many more clients, which is one of the reasons they wanted to build a bigger facility.

Having more beds to offer could become even more important in coming months, when a wave of evictions stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic make their way through the court system.

Crawley said they expect these evictions to result in a spike in local homelessness from August to October.

Since the New Hope Center won't yet be complete, Crawley said they will be limited in the amount of assistance they can offer but those seeking help can still call the central intake number at (844) 900-0500. From there, they will be referred to a shelter somewhere in Northern Michigan, Crawley said. 

Cadillac News