BERRIEN SPRINGS — Neighbor to Neighbor, a Berrien Springs-based social service organization, has announced plans for a $1.2 million expansion that will nearly double the size of their facility on M-139.
Neighbor to Neighbor board Chairman Harvey Kilsby said that the plans were approved at a meeting in March. The project, set to begin this year, includes $950,000 for the first phase, involving the building of the new thrift store. The $250,000 second phase will bring upgrades both inside and outside the existing building.
Last year, Neighbor to Neighbor provided direct assistance to more than 3,000 clients and distributed nearly $52,000 in food, $91,000 in clothing certificates for their thrift store and $31,000 in furniture. It also provides social and emergency services including counseling, classes and support groups.
Kilsby said Neighbor to Neighbor already had money donated and will be asking local congregations and organizations to contribute funding.
“We are close to having enough to get started but insufficient to complete the project,” he said. “We depend very much on the generosity of the communities we serve.”
Neighbor to Neighbor is located between the Dollar General Store and the United Federal Credit Union branch, at the front of the Apple Valley Market shopping plaza. The new 9,300 square-foot thrift store building will be built on the east side of the current building and connected to it by two corridors.
Kilsby called the thrift store “a means to an end” as it provides the primary income source for the organization’s emergency client service ministry. He said Neighbor to Neighbor will be expanding their client services in coming months and years as the project moves forward, with that part of the ministry taking over the current thrift store area.
Neighbor to Neighbor Executive Director Laura Meyer noted that the organization is owned by the Michigan Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and is part of a strong network of social service agencies in the region, and partners with United Way, the Salvation Army and the American Red Cross.
“The new building will hugely improve what Neighbor to Neighbor can do in our community,” Meyer said. “We regularly receive far more clothing donations than we can process and sell in our current facility. This new building will help us turn over our inventory much more quickly and provide a much larger selection of good quality used clothing.”
The new building will be closer to the road than the existing building to meet requirements set down by the Berrien Springs/Oronoko Township Joint Planning Commission last year. Those requirements also called for the organization to have more windows on the front of the new building and add a “walled garden” area in front of the existing building.
As Kilsby noted, the Planning Commission’s requirements are part of their effort to slow down traffic along the corridor by bringing buildings closer to the highway. In this instance, the new building will be 30 feet closer to the road than the existing building.
The Neighbor to Neighbor project is one of the first to be approved under the new M-139 place-based code. Both the village and the township approved the code a few years ago to offer more flexibility when it comes to development along the corridor.
Oronoko Township Supervisor Mike Hildebrand said he’s glad to see the Neighbor to Neighbor expansion project take shape.
“I’m excited to see how their addition will be able to help more people in the future,” he said. “I strongly encourage people to financially support their fundraising efforts.”
“Neighbor to Neighbor has been involved in the community for many years,” he said. “I was not that acquainted with the services they provide until the flood in 2018. At that time, I quickly realized that they are incredible community members and provide very valuable resources to folks with needs.”