LAPEL – The town of Lapel could become home to a massive facility that would provide educational opportunities and serve as a "home away from home" for children with special needs.
The Lapel Town Council has given preliminary approval to rezone 40 acres along Ind. 13 near Madison County Road 650 South for the proposed Giving Hope Center.
The town council will conduct a public hearing in August to discuss potential rezoning of the property from agricultural to a general industrial classification.
During a presentation to the town council, Giving Hope Indiana founder Joe Shetterly said the 40 acres of land was donated by Shelby Materials for the proposed 125,000 square foot facility.
Andy Andrews, interim executive director of Giving Hope Indiana, said Thursday that Shetterly had a vision to locate the center in Lapel.
“Through his business associates, he knew it was possible,” Andrews said. “It’s right off of Interstate 69 and convenient for people to get to. We want this to be a home away from home. Our focus is on strengthening bonds of the families.”
The Giving Hope Center would be a 24-hour facility and provide therapy, education, recreation and family care.
Shetterly said the architecture department at Ball State University is working with a Missouri firm on the design of the facility. He said Ball State University students would work at the facility as part of their educational experience.
The proposed Giving Hope Center would "be a place for learning, development, rest and community," according to the Giving Family Hope website. Partnering will Ball State, "the Giving Hope center will offer therapy and sensory rooms, specialized programming and consulting, recreational areas, respite housing, staff training and family development."
Andrews said the goal is for the facility to provide care for 500 children and employ 500 people within five years.
After rezoning is approved and fundraising takes place, he said, work on facility infrastructure would start either late this year or in early spring 2018.
“The design is constantly changing as we work through the details of how the facility will operate,” Andrews explained. “There could be several pods that are connected.”
Andrews projected that the cost of the facility and the first-year operating budget would be from $20 million to $25 million.
Shetterly has a 20-year-old autistic daughter and realized, when she reached the age of 22, that she could no longer attend high school, Andrews explained.
“He realized there was nowhere for the kids to go,” Andrews said. “He looked in Indiana and across the country and found there were very few (facilities for special-needs children) or it was extremely expensive.”
Andrews said Shetterly started forming the concept for the project in 2013.
“The Giving Hope Center will provide recreational activities for families, knowing how difficult it can be to go out to eat or just enjoy being together out of their home," according to the website. "Families will also be able to schedule sensory and therapy sessions for their loved ones, allowing them time to run errands, go on dates or strengthen the family unit outside of the challenges."