The woman leading the expansion of the city’s only homeless shelter for families has set an ambitious schedule for the project, which has a price tag of $300,000.

That project, announced nearly two weeks ago, involves the purchase and renovation of two four-unit apartment buildings next to Anchor House Family Assistance Center on South Vine Street.

While Centra Foundation helped pay for the project, it’s going to take more than money to keep the project on track for completion by the middle of the year.

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It’s also going to require something center director Deb Bedwell never seems to have any problem finding — free labor.

The first phase of the project began a week ago and involved stripping the eight apartment units down to the studs. Seven of the apartments will be renovated for use by homeless families. The present center has room for four families, but they must share common areas, including the living room and bathrooms.

The eighth apartment will be used as an office and provide computer access to help families get back on their feet.

Bedwell didn’t have to look very far to find help with the initial phase of the project. The Home Depot sent more than a dozen people to lend a hand tearing out drywall and filling trash bins with debris from two units.

A crew with Eric Skaggs Builders, the project’s general contractor, did the same with two units. Skaggs Builders gutted the inside of one unit and plans to provide the labor to renovate that unit.

Eric Skaggs said local Masons have agreed to demo one unit and may do all three.

“But if someone wants to jump in and help, that would be fine,” said Skaggs, who has been a member of the Anchor House board for a year-and-a-half.

Bobbi Thorneycroft, a longtime employee at The Home Depot, said she has never minded helping out at the center at 234 S. Vine St.

“We’ve done a lot of projects here,” the Seymour woman said as she carried drywall from one of the units to a nearby trash bin.

The work includes installing a playground and renovating the food pantry.

Store manager Bill McCulley, 48, of Indianapolis, said none of the people working at the store has to help out.

The Home Depot, however, views community service as an important way the company can give back to the communities where it has stores.

“We just ask for volunteers,” McCulley said.

And there are plenty who volunteer, he said.

McCulley said that, during the demolition phase, he would have 12 to 15 volunteers show up in separate shifts.

“We’ll be here until it’s finished,” said McCulley, who worked alongside staffers.

And the company will be involved in other jobs requiring free labor along with the way, he said.

Home Depot worker Matt Babbs, 37, of Seymour said he views the work as important.

“It’s a way for me to give back to the community where I live,” he said.

Both said they have known Bedwell for years and think she has done a great job of running the center.

People who have lived in the apartments, located between the shelter and their home, often have been trouble, Aaron Stone said. He lives just north of the apartments.

“I have found drug paraphernalia in my yard,” he said.

And vandals once wrote graffiti on the side of their home, he said.

The police frequently were called to the apartments.

As part of the project, a solid fence is going to be built around the complex, which will include two buildings, a playground and parking lots, and that’s something Stone said would be nice because it would provide separation between his yard and the center.

Skaggs said he’s excited about the project and hopes to stay ahead of Bedwell’s schedule.

“It’s going to impact the community and the neighborhood so much,” he said.

Once the units are ready for renovations, the professionals will take over, installing plumbing and electrical lines; heating, cooling and ventilation systems; floor coverings; and painting. A whole list of companies will be completing those projects, and many will donate some of their time and materials for the project, Skaggs said.

There will be a time toward the end of the renovation process when volunteer laborers will be needed, he said.

Once the apartments are renovated, any families in the present center will be moved to the new units, and the center will be renovated.

At a glance

To volunteer to work on projects at Anchor House, contact John Burkhart at 812-525-7459. To make a monetary donation to support the effort, contact Anchor House at 812-522-9308 or mail to Anchor House, Capacity Expansion, Box 765, Seymour, IN 47274.

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Aubrey Woods is editor of The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at awoods@tribtown.com or 812-523-7051.