Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

December 14, 2013

Jacksonville College seeking community involvement with new building projects

Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — Earlier this fall, Jacksonville College announced projects that would help meet the needs of a growing student body with new residential housing and an upgrade to a former JISD facility located nearby.

Now, the school has launched a three-prong campaign designed to encourage prayer, promotion and participation for these projects.

According to college president Dr. Mike Smith, of the 7,000 brochures printed, approximately 5,000 have been sent to alumni and to churches of the Southern Baptist Convention of Texas.

“We’re unapologetic in our belief … in Scripture that God builds houses, and we put our trust in prayer, (knowing) he is the one who changes hearts and who can encourage and enable people” to help, he said as JC publicist David Heflin added, “we want God to be honored in anything we do, and this is giving him a chance to use anyone he wants to help us build this house, (which in turn) saves us as much money as


The campaign kicked off just this past week and has raised about $10,000 of the $500,000 goal to build three residence centers that will house 20 students in suite-style living quarters. The 2013 fall enrollment was 560.

Administrators will be able to keep costs down by working with the Masters Builders – a BMA-affiliated group of volunteers to travel throughout the country helping churches and schools with projects by building the frame and drying in structures, and leaving the finishing touches to local


“They’ve been here before to help (construct storage space) for our fine arts program, and they’re really just great people,” Heflin said.

Additionally, Jacksonville College was contacted earlier this week by the Texas Baptist Men of First Baptist Church in Dallas, “who said they’re also ready and willing to come help out,” Smith said, adding that locally, churches have also volunteered their help.

“We’re a people of faith, and we like to pray for and support one another – I’m thrilled about it,” he admitted.

The proposed residential housing is the first new major building project for Jacksonville College, a Baptist Missionary Association of Texas school with roots dating back to 1899.

To meet the needs of a growing enrollment, the school has been renovating homes near the campus that were either purchased or donated.

The new halls will be constructed at 330 Kickapoo Street, behind Norman Library and next to the college's historic two-story Newburn-Rawlinson House.

The project is under the guidance of Lufkin-based Goodwin-Lasiter Architects, and will be constructed in phases, as funding allows, Smith said.

Original campus dorms received minor renovation this past summer. The school will most likely gradually phase out use and eventually tear them down, he added.

Heflin noted that ground was broken on the project in September, and “the way things are going, the city has been working very well with us, and we’ve got a good architect. So it’s really a matter of when funds come in that we can start the first phase of this project.”

Meanwhile, last June, JISD school board members authorized Superintendent Dr. Joe Wardell to enter into negotiations with Hobby Lobby Realty of Oklahoma City, which Smith said has offered a unique solution for the school.

HLR, operated by the Green family of Oklahoma that also has the national Hobby Lobby crafts store chain, was the sole bidder on the Joe Wright property, offering $90,000 for the 9.296-acre Kickapoo Street property, Smith said.

Once the transaction has closed, “HLR has the right to come to Jacksonville College and lease us the property, which they have verbally agreed to do. But because of legal and tax laws, they cannot come out and say 'We are giving this to Jacksonville College right now,' but in a year and a day from when the sale is complete, they do have that right to give it a 501(c)(3) organization if they chose to,” Smith said in an interview last June.

The building – constructed sometime after the turn of the last

century and housed both middle school and high school programs – would be the site of college courses and the home for programs operated by the Jacksonville Literacy Council.

“As of today, the deal has not been finalized but we’re still working with JISD," Heflin said. "I believe we’re maintaining the property” in the meantime.

College administrators have proposed a different measure for funding needed renovation at the school: An adopt-a-classroom program that publicly recognizes doors with plaques in each of the rooms naming the group responsible for the remodeling.

“Normally, when people build, they don’t always let the community share in the effort,” he pointed out. But classroom adoption “allows people to come in and share (and) I think it brings people together,” he said. “People like to jump in, be part of a


The student body is represented by more than 16 different countries, and Heflin said he knows many students would love to join together with the community on the projects.

"When we have people come in to help with the building and remodeling, it gives them time for fellowship, and they end up learning a little more about us,” Heflin said. “I think it’s a

positive thing.”