THE HARPER-SMITH HOUSE, INC. HISTORY
In 1996, Bethel AME Church acquired the property located at 817 Athens Street, which was once owned by Mr. E.J and Latrelle Smith. Mr. and Mrs. Smith were faithful members of Bethel until their death, and willed this property to the church with the condition that it be used for educational purposes. The property was acquired under the leadership of Rev. Ashford E. Hunter, with finalization of the acquisition commencing under the leadership of Rev. J. H. Butler in 2001. From 2001-2004 the house was used for various church events and was occupied shortly by Set Free Ministries, a Non-Profit Ministry that houses and rehabilitates men battling substance abuse. In 2007 after Set Free vacated the property, Rev. David Martin began the Smith House Restoration Project and over the next two years renovations on the house included four new windows placed on the building and the process began to replace the roof. These renovations happened under the tenure of Rev. Thomas O. Lampkin.
In 2008, the Smith House Board was initiated. The original board members were: Rev. Thomas O. Lampkin, Rev. David J. Martin, Sis. Cornelia Martin, Sis. Geraldine Wells, Bro. Bryan Wells, Bro. Leroy Summerour, Sis. Annie Clara Martin, Bro. Paul Edmond, Sis. Dorothy Edmond, Bro. Trent Clark and Bro. Robert Clark. The board changed the name of this project to the Harper-Smith House due to the historical significance of the property. This home first belonged to the first black principal in Gainesville, Professor W. J. Harper. He played in integral part in the education of African American children at that time, and often encouraged minority students to go to college. In 2009, under the leadership of Rev. David Walker several fundraisers were done in order to raise money for current and future renovations, including working with ARAMARK to run concession stands at the University of Georgia home football games in Athens, GA.
In 2010, the Harper-Smith House Board began renovations by replacing the roof. Unfortunately, during the replacement process, the house caught fire and sustained extensive damage. However, out of tragedy came triumph as this provided much needed funding to be able to completely renovate the house. This year the house was also registered under the Local Historical Properties of Gainesville-Hall County. The final reading for this was on September 21, 2010 by the Gainesville City Council. It was adopted and the house was place on record as a historical property in the community.
In 2011, Meridian Restoration of Suwanee, Georgia was hired and the process of renovating the house continued. While the house in the restoration process, the business of ministry continued. In December 2011 the board sponsored a coat drive for Under the Bridge Ministries where coats were collected from the community and donated to people in need of winter clothing, including the homeless.
In November 2012, The Harper Smith House, Inc. Board received official notification of their 501(c)3 non-profit status. In December 2012, additional funds were received and with these funds renovations were completed on the house.
In January 2013, cosmetic renovations were completed and a final walk through was done. The final construction completion papers were signed in November 2013 and this marked the end of both Phases of the renovation process. Two major community service projects were also completed. The Harper-Smith House board partnered with the Hall County Community Service Center to assist the elderly and low income citizens with tax preparations as well as partnering with the Georgia Mountain Food Bank to collect over 500 pounds of food to give to people in need.
In 2014 the Harper-Smith House board began the task of renovating the yard to bring it up to city code. Sis. Cornelia Martin, Fundraising Coordinator for the board, tirelessly raised funds for this goal, and David Woods of Custom Landscapes completed this renovation. Also this year Cargill, Inc. generously awarded a grant to the Harper Smith House Project, and we are thankful for their contribution. We also would like to thank Office Pro’s for their generous donation of a conference table to the Harper-Smith House.
In March 2015, the board obtained the Certificate of Occupancy (CO) and we are now dedicating the property. We, the Harper-Smith House Board, are now ready to truly begin the work started by Professor Harper and the Smiths of bettering our community through education. We truly say THANK YOU to the Gainesville-Hall County Community for all your love and support, and we look forward to serving you in the future.
2017 - Harper Smith House was delighted to receive a visit, from our newly appointed Presiding Elder, Rev. Dr. Earle H. Ifill, M.Div., D .. Min, in which was given, a tour, of the house and given a brief history, and explanation, of Harper Smith House operations. Mr. Ifill was very delighted in the vision, of Harper Smith House, and its accomplishments.
Harper Smith House determined a financial goal, of raising $10,000, for the year; and we are delayed, to announce that we have accomplished this goal
Fiscal Year 2017 has been challenging. However, it has also been very successful and fulfilling. The Board of the Harper Smith House, Inc. gives God all of the glory for this success. The Board also wants to thank all its corporate partners, local businesses, individual sponsors, class teachers and volunteers for their financial support as well as their contributions of both resources and time. Combined, these all have helped the Harper-Smith House, Inc. to have a very productive year.
In December 2016, the Harper Smith House, Inc.'s Board of Directors set a 2017 fundraising goal of $15,000. To date, this goal has been met. It is anticipated that the 2017 fundraising goal will be exceeded by the end of the fiscal year.
The HSH was able to meet its 2017 fund raising goal through the two (2) major fundraisers. This included both a yard sale and a sponsored bowling event. Both of these events are anticipated to be annual occurrences. Funding for the HSH was also raised through the organization's participation in the Amazon Smile Program. The Board continues to encourage individuals to search for the Harper-Smith House, Inc. in the Amazon app. This is especially true as the 2017 Christmas Holiday Season is now in full swing.
Other significant goals that were met in 2017 include.
1. Launching the Harper-Smith House, Inc. website (www.harpersmith.org)
2. We have sustained our social and civic ministries to include, Music and Voice classes,
3. Sewing class and Spanish class, also Men's Bible Study.
In the summer 2017, the HSH participated in the Gainesville Hall County Black Historical Society's annual "Juneteenth" celebration, a celebration of freedom.
Also in working with other organizations and a number of individual donors, we were able to sponsor fourteen (14) children to attend the Engineering for Kids Lego and Robotic Camp, hosted by the J.A. Walters YMCA. The camp lasted for one week, and allowed children to build robots from Lego and program them using the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MTI) Scratch programming language.
2017 – The Harper-Smith House worked hard to reach it goal of $15,000. Omega Psi Phi Fraternity assisted us with a fundraiser to help us reach our goal. Also, our music and sewing
Classes are ongoing. The Engineering for Kids program was a success. We were able to send 15 kids to Summer Camp held at the YMCA. We give God the Glory and we thank Cargill and
Our new sponsor ZF Industries for their support.
In September, 2018 we are happy to report an additional member to the board, Sis. Sonya Wilkins. She brings a vast amount of knowledge and experience in community involvement.
Our new pastor, Rev. Michelle R. Rizer-Pool attend her first meeting with us in July 2018, and we are happy and delighted to have her on the board.
The Harper-Smith House, Inc. knows that God will continue to do marvelous things and guide the growth of the ministry in the coming year. The Board has experienced Gods goodness and miraculous provision time after time and we have faith that he will continue to supply all of our
Bethel African Methodist Episcopal, (A.M.E.) Church was organized and dedicated in 1901. Bethel AME Church is considered one of the primary African-American institutions in the Gainesville community. Its support of civil rights, human rights and of the community at large has earned several of its members praise by the local press and awards.
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