After nearly two months in operation, the Hope Center is home to three service ministries with three more close to opening.

After nearly two months in operation, the Hope Center is home to three service ministries with three more close to opening.

But it has been a long time in the making.

Jessica Schulze, chief executive of the Hope Center, said it took two years to finalize a lease with the Marysville school district but on Jan. 1, the first few ministries moved into the old East Elementary School on Chestnut Street and the building was transformed into the new Hope Center.

"The building couldn't be better suited to the dream," Schulze said.

The building allows for many ministries and community services to be under one roof but divided into three different categories: compassion, community and the next generation.

The compassion ministries are housed in the northwest part of the building. The personal needs pantry relocated from a small building on South Oak Street to the Hope Center.

"People have to make choices and sometimes if we can help enough with these items, it will free them up to pay another bill," Schulze said. "I think people are surprised how many middle-income Americans we're seeing in these programs. People who never really needed to access these programs have to now."

In March, the Clothes Closet will relocate from the basement of the Union County Agriculture building. The Family to Family Furniture Bank plans to open the Saturday after Easter.

The Community Kitchen, originally set up to serve 40 people at a time, seems to be the place with the most activity and growth, Schulze said. More than 450 meals were served last week

"It started as one meal and grew to three and now we're up to four," she said. "It's grown so fast, we're already outgrowing the room we designed for it.

"The goal is to be at two meals a day, six days a week within two years," she said. "So we'll add a new meal about every six to eight weeks. Hopefully, no one ever goes hungry again in Union County."

The northeast wing holds Agape Church and the "next generation" section. The church auditorium was transformed from the main gym. The school's smaller gymnasium at the back of the building is the heart of the Refuge Youth Center.

"Our dream and hope is to raise $30,000 in the next month or so and have the Refuge open this April or May," said Schulze.

The Hope Center will host a three-on-three basketball tournament on March 24 as a fundraiser.

There are plans for meeting rooms and a café that organizers hope have running in the community section by September. The café will include a wall of televisions with gaming systems and a stage in the corner.

Schulze said the hope is that the café will generate money to help run the building. A computer lab and a prayer room round out the plans for the Hope Center.

Schulze says the community should be better because of the Hope Center.

"I'd like to see the statistics of our community be different; there should be fewer divorces," she said. "There should be fewer children living in poverty. There should be a demographic difference."

Watching the people served at the center more than pays off for Schulze.

"One of our elderly clients who comes to the meals and visits all the services is someone who lives on a fixed income," she said. "She came in one day last week and handed $5 through the window to the receptionist. She said, 'I don't know how, but I had $5 left this month and this is my donation to the Hope Center for all the things you've been able to do for me.' The whole staff said 'thank you.' She left and they all burst into tears.

"We're pretty excited about those moments," Schulze said.