Here is an abbreviated description presented by our minister in the Wednesday Blast (11-30-16) about the recent situation involving the B&G Annex, lovingly known as Out of the Woods.
“OUUC owns a piece of property to the north of our main building which we call The Annex. For many years the Annex housed the Out of the Woods shelter for homeless families with children. In July 2016, Out of the Woods closed, and in August we decided to let their caretaker remain on our property. In September we signed an agreement with him, which in part said only one other person could stay on that property. On November 23, our caretaker called to tell us that the place had been filled with people and was no longer a safe place for him to live. Jerald Dodson and I moved the caretaker and his girlfriend out. But, in the process of getting a statement from him that we could give to the police, we found that some “squatters” came by invitation onto the property and that some had paid rent to our caretaker.
Board President, Michele Hendrickson, and Reverend Carol McKinley spent most of November 28, with the help of a security expert, removing people from the property. On the 29th four members of our Building and Grounds Committee sealed the building with plywood sheets.”
As upsetting as the recent situation has been, the very thought of all the possibilities of things that did not actually happen, but could have, gives us pause. Charged with fiduciary responsibility for OUUC, it is up to the OUUC Board to best protect our people and our assets. Even though those who visited the annex to remove food on December 3, 2016, reported that the inside is not very different than before this incident, the Board has been working to collect the information necessary to determine how to proceed. The board will be gathering relevant information as quickly as possible to determine:
- The estimated present value of the house
- The cost of repairing it
- Whether the property would be more valuable with the house left on it than if it were demolished
- The risks to the congregation and possible expense from leaving it standing without being
- How wetlands restrictions will affect the value of the property.
The Board sees this as two decisions. First: What to do with the building. Once we have the necessary information that will allow us to make an informed recommendation about the building, the Board will share that recommendation, and supporting data, with the congregation in written form. A congregational meeting will be called for discussion and a vote on the final disposition of the building. Second: Depending on that decision, the congregation and the board can further explore together over time how the property (with or without the building) might best be used. There are many possibilities which can be thoughtfully considered.
That being said, the members of your Board share the strong commitment to helping the homeless and the emotional attachment to Out of the Woods. Out of the Woods was not just a building or a program but a way of demonstrating our values and our vision. Through its many iterations over the years, it has become an icon for us, a symbol that made us proud of who we are and the values we all share. In its latest iteration, it was a beacon for many small families, producing a number of impressive successes. It was our desire to support Out of the Woods that put the heart into our annual book sale, Books, Brownies and Beans. It brought us together every year to move thousands of books out of boxes one day, only to box many of them back up the next. It was hard work and we loved doing it for the sense of purpose and the sheer joy of working together for a good cause. It is hard to see it go.
But in many ways Out of the Woods was as much symbol as it was reality, and the heart of the effort still remains. So we will continue Books, Brownies and Beans in the coming year. We will come together once again in February and lug books all over the building and have fun doing it – because – homelessness is still with us. We will find another project to which we can dedicate the funds we generate, and when we do that that, the best of Out of the Woods will remain.
Lorrie Eaton for The OUUC Board of Trustees