Carrie Rengers

HopeNet to break ground on major renovations near Central and Grove

HopeNet executive director Charity Schaulis says the nonprofit’s renovation of its space at 2501 E. Central is a “legacy project” thanks to the late Nancy Cochener as well as other donors.
HopeNet executive director Charity Schaulis says the nonprofit’s renovation of its space at 2501 E. Central is a “legacy project” thanks to the late Nancy Cochener as well as other donors. The Wichita Eagle

A couple of years ago, Wichitan Nancy Cochener approached HopeNet, a nonprofit counseling center near Central and Grove, with the offer of a $10,000 gift to help with security at the group’s building.

“Our building … is truly dilapidated, and she was very concerned about that,” says executive director Charity Schaulis.

Except HopeNet didn’t own its space, so Schaulis says, “We told her that’s just not good stewardship at this point.”

Cochener called her back in late 2013.

“She said, ‘Charity, we’re going to do it. We’re going to get you what you need.’”

Cochener made a donation that, coupled with a donation from the landlord and a few other people, allowed HopeNet to buy the building it’s in.

“She said, ‘I’d like to leave a significant gift that makes a lasting difference in this final stage of my life,’” Schaulis says. “That just spun us into a new journey that we did not anticipate.”

About a month later, Cochener died, but Schaulis says her gift lives on.

“It is truly a legacy project.”

On Tuesday, HopeNet breaks ground on a project to renovate the building’s 7,301 square feet and its 25,000-square-foot property at 2501 E. Central.

“We’re making a significant renovation in an impoverished part of town,” Schaulis says.

She says 40 percent of HopeNet’s clients come from within two miles of its office. Seventy percent are at or below the poverty level.

“Essentially we offer coaching and counseling when life falls apart,” Schaulis says.

While insurance often restricts how much counseling someone can receive, Schaulis says HopeNet is available “for the duration that you need for the healing process.”

She says the idea is to help stabilize patients’ lives and then get to the root causes of their problems.

Physician Paul Davis founded the faith-based nonprofit in 1991. HopeNet works with a network of 400 partners, such as churches and community agencies, to help patients.

The group served more than 675 families and individuals in 2014. The renovated space will have the capacity to see 1,000 patients a year.

Schaulis says Shelden Architecture and Hutton Construction “came forward to help lead the renovation of the property” and “have been amazing supporters for us.”

She says the goal is to create “an unpretentious landmark.”

“We want to be a very welcoming site,” Schaulis says. “When you are in crisis … it really takes a lot of courage to ask for help. It really does. Especially if you’re dealing with a mental health issue.”

She says the new HopeNet will be convenient, safe and unintimidating.

“We’re not going to make it a fancy building. Our intent is to make it secure and safe for our clientele and for the staff that serves,” Schaulis says.

“The skeleton is strong, the roof is good, but the inside is really dilapidated.”

The new entrance to the building will be in the back for confidentiality, “which is important in our line of service,” Schaulis says.

“The renovation will bring exceptional functionality.”

There will be some new landscaping outside “just to warm up the site.”

“The appearance will be fresh.”

The groundbreaking ceremony will be at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Cochener’s daughter is coming from Seattle to represent her mother.

“She understood the value of HopeNet,” Schaulis says of Cochener.

She says Cochener’s gift, along with the generosity of others, will “enable HopeNet to really be a beacon of hope into the future.”

Reach Carrie Rengers at 316-268-6340 or Follow her on Twitter: @CarrieRengers.