INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — Construction began Monday to transform the former Hiram Young School in Independence into a permanent headquarters for Truman Heritage Habitat for Humanity.
Across two phases, the renovation project will allow the local chapter of the nationwide nonprofit based in eastern Jackson County to expand the services it offers clients. Habitat for Humanity helps people build or improve their homes.
The first phase, which should be completed by October 2021, will create offices and classrooms, allowing the nonprofit to continue the counseling, lending and administrative work it currently does.
The second phase will allow Habitat for Humanity to expand the services it offers in the area by building a nutrition center and a Home Owner Preparation through Education, or HOPE, Community Center.
The phase also includes construction of an interpretive center, which pays tribute to the school’s history. Completion of the second phase depends on fundraising, which Truman Heritage Habitat for Humanity does online through its website.
The HOPE Center will offer financial education courses, home-weatherization services, home-preservation education, disaster planning, and construction workforce training in addition to community engagement and volunteer opportunities.
“By having housing affordability through homeownership, (clients) can invest in their health, they can invest in their education, they can invest in the opportunities of entrepreneurship," Christina Leakey, president and CEO of Truman Heritage Habitat for Humanity, said. "And it all starts with having a solid place to build from."
The Young School is located next to Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore at 505 N. Dodgion St. in Independence.
The school was built in the 1930s and is named after Hiram Young, a freed slave who became a successful businessman in Independence. He ran a wagon company during the days of westward expansion.
The school was only for Black students until the 1950s and has been empty since the 1980s.
Project manager and board member Paul Menne said the building remains in good shape, but it will need a new roof, new plumbing, new HVAC system and an electrical overhaul.
“Seeing a building come back to life and working with contractors, craftsmen that know how to re-plaster and redo woodwork is just absolutely fantastic,” Menne said. “The artistry in construction is really good.”