A Jamestown institution that has opened its doors to the community for 50 years will close them one final time this summer.
The decision to close the Joint Neighborhood Project, which came as a surprise to many, was not without reason.
"It was a financial decision," said Patty Perlee, executive director. "One of our major funders was eliminated, and we knew that we were not going to be able to replace the amount of money that the funder had given us each year. We wanted to prevent any duplication of services as well, and some of our services like the food pantry and the Nearly New clothing store can be obtained in other places in town."
The Joint Neighborhood Project, located at 556 E. Second St., will close its doors at the end of June.
P-J photo by Ryan Atkins
According to Perlee, the decision was reached this spring. The JNP will continue to operate until June 30, although its last official day of service will be June 28.
Currently, the JNP has a food pantry, which served roughly 80,000 meals last year; the Nearly New clothing store, which has clothing and household items; a summer day camp program for children ages 5-10; a live and learn English program, where basic English classes are taught to Spanish speakers; and a Hispanic service navigator program, which allows people who speak Spanish to come to the JNP and receive help.
"It can help them figure out how to solve their problem, whether they need help with translation, if they need help finding housing or if they need help finding a lawyer," said Perlee of the navigator program. "Any need that they have we're able to either help them with directly or refer them to the proper agency so that they will be able to get help."
The JNP also hosts a wide variety of health-related activities in conjunction with other area organizations. Throughout the five decades that the organization has existed in Jamestown, it has focused on community outreach programs, including fundraisers that helped to provide backpacks and school supplies to children and families who couldn't afford them. The families were able to register with the JNP, who would then raise the money needed to provide those items to the children.
Since the decision was reached, the JNP has been making every effort to help its current clients find similar programs and services around the community.
"Whenever a client comes in, they receive a letter to let them know that we're going to be closing," said Perlee. "We let them know where the other food pantries are that are within walking distance since so many of our clients walk. We're telling them where to go, referring them to St. Susan's if they need a meal, the Salvation Army and some of the other food pantries. If they need a clothing store, we're suggesting that people use Community Helping Hands, St. Luke's or First Lutheran, because they all have similar stores. We're also asking people who make donations to us to instead donate to those areas because they're serving the same population and they're nonprofits."
Although there are many analogous programs throughout the city for many of the services provided by the JNP, not all of its clients will have other options once its doors close. The navigator program, for example, is the only one of its kind in the city.
A POSSIBLE RETURN
When the decision was reached to close the JNP, the board of directors elected to maintain the 501(c)(3) status of the organization.
"If there is a new program or a situation that bubbles to the top, we'll be in a position that we could accept the challenge and maybe bring back services in the future, like the navigator program," said Perlee. "The building that we're housed in is owned by the Immanuel Lutheran Church, and I know that the church is interested in keeping this building available and active. I know that the foundations and the United Way will be keeping their eyes open for needs that may arise since the JNP won't be here anymore. Hopefully we'll be in the position to accept the challenge later. Even though we're closing our doors for now, there's the possibility that the JNP could come back in some capacity in the future."
The Joint Neighborhood Project was started in 1963 by the Immanuel Lutheran Church, 556 E Second St., after its sextons realized that there was a need in the neighborhood for youth programming. A basketball court was installed on the side of the church. Later, a gathering place for the parents was added, creating a community-oriented space for child interaction. Shortly after that, the Nearly New clothing store was started. The Joint Neighborhood Project was housed at the Immanuel Lutheran Church for many years before moving to its current location next door. JNP served as the first site of the WIC program and they also participated in programs with other organizations including the SPCA, health department and others. In 1981, the organization was officially incorporated and became an agency of the United Way.
"The JNP has really offered a wide array of programs from the very beginning," said Perlee. "As the demographics of the area changed, the JNP has evolved and changed as well. Eventually we ended up with many programs geared towards Hispanic families because of the large Hispanic population in the area. We had programs that helped out everyone, though. We were able to do a lot of things to help the community."
Since its inception, the JNP has been supported heavily by private donations, local foundations, area churches and the United Way.
"We're just glad that we were able to provide 50 years of wonderful service to Jamestown," said Perlee. "I really want the community to know that we're thankful that they helped to keep us alive for 50 years."