BENZONIA — The public is invited to become part of the new Benzie Area Christian Neighbors expansion project and help raise the final $400,000 needed for the construction of a new building and implementation of new programming.

The BACN Builds campaign is kicking off with a celebration from 5-7 p.m. on July 26 at BACN’s current Benzonia location. The local band Barefoot will be playing and free appetizers will be available from Southern Sin-Thesis. Project donations will be accepted; BACN staff also can arrange a visit to discuss a future gift.

The kick off for the BACN Builds campaign is the last step in a long running project to replace BACN’s aging building and expand programs to help neighbors, a decision BACN’s board of directors made in 2019.

Private donations made during a “silent” campaign has already raised $3.1 million. Due to the “community’s generosity”, the organization will no longer be seeking a $2.3 million loan to hep jump-start the construction process, which is expected to begin this year.

According to Kelly Ottinger, director of development for BACN, there will also be invitation-only kickoff events for the board of directors and volunteers with BACN before the public event.

She said the being sought will cover the final 10% of construction costs and help cover future maintenance expenses, as well as serve as seed money for new programs.

“The facility will allow us to do quite a bit of expansion in programming,” Ottinger said. “There will be a cost associated with that.”

Ottinger said the public campaign is less about how much people can donate, but how many people want to be involved in the project.

“We want people to be part of the process,” she said. “We’re more interested in the number of people who support us rather than the dollar amount they can give us. The more the merrier. We’re grateful for any amount, from $5 to $1,000. It is a wide open invitation to be part of the process.”

The public can donate at the kickoff event, or discuss other ways to donate. Information for donating, as well as online donation options, can be found at

“During this time, people can indicate whether they are donating to the capital campaign, or for operations,” Ottinger said. We want to make sure people’s money goes where they wanted it to go. We are also still running our summer match program.”

The new building will be in front of the existing building, so that services are not interrupted. The old build will be demolished when the new one is finished and services are moved into it.

The new building will be a 11,150 warehouse-style building with two distinct sides, to reflect BACN’s mission, according to David Oellerich, a BACN volunteer working with the design and construction team. The right side of the building will be commercial offices, rooms for training and classes, administrative offices and mechanical rooms. The left side will have a retail look similar to Costco or Sam’s Club.

It will be a painted structure featuring the clothing center, food pantry and other client service areas. There will be a covered area for donation drop-off. A central corridor will pass through the entire building between both sides.

The new building’s food pantry will be named after the parents of donors from the Wayne and Joan Webber foundation.

“We are ever grateful to the Wayne and Joan Webber Foundation for their generous project gift,” Ottinger said. “We will be proud to have The Chris and Theresa Webber (Wayne’s parents) Food Pantry welcoming neighbors into the new facility.”

Ottinger said rehabilitating the old building was considered, but the condition of it warranted replacement.

“The roof joists are being replaced one at a time, and we’re nursing the boiler along,” she said. “The exterior is rotting and pests are getting in. There are so many things that need to be fixed. The building looks good from the outside, but it is deceiving.”

The new building will also allow for more privacy for clients.

“I just think we’re all so excited,” Ottinger said. “It has been nearly seven years in the making. Just to be able to get to this point where we know it will be a reality and be able to invite the public to join in at this point is something we’re really grateful for.”

Benzie Area Christian Neighbors strives to improve the quality of life for people with limited resources in the community by providing food, clothing, financial assistance, education and social support in collaboration with area resources. BACN services Benzie and Manistee counties. Find more information at


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