Freedom Foundation preps for Project Selma

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

Freedom Foundation executives say they are busy preparing to advance Project Selma, which includes the renovation of a four-story historic downtown building, and financing programs that will enhance the community by strengthening families.

Based in Colorado, the foundation applied for its IRS nonprofit 501 (c)3 determination letter after it was incorporated in Sept. 7, 2005, but it is yet to be awarded. The IRS has tightened procedures for making the determination of granting nonprofit status to organizations in the wake of requests following Hurricane Katrina, and requests are taking longer.

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Shawn Samuelson, chair of the board of directors of the Freedom Foundation, said plans are proceeding, including a national search for funds to complete the renovation of the Teppers building at Broad Street and Alabama Avenue. In its first year, the Foundation raised $150,000 said Samuelson, who left a corporate job and a $160,000 annual salary a year ago at age 26.

She said they expect the foundation’s budget to double next year with active fundraising efforts underway. She said they don’t plan to solicit funds in the Selma community.

“We’re raising funds through private donations, foundations and special events,” Samuelson said. “We are also preparing grant proposals to submit to several funding sources who give millions of dollars a year for building renovations and programs.”

It is estimated the complete renovation could cost more than $2 million to make repairs on all four floors and the roof, along with equipment and furnishings for an Internet lounge/coffee shop and an ice cream parlor.

The upper floors will be used for social service programming such as a child care center where mothers will do more than just drop their children off. To benefit from the free childcare, parents have to agree to counseling services that foundation executives say “addresses breaking a life cycle.”

Samuelson said they are implementing programs in Colorado that are successful, and they don’t try to recruit church members. In fact, not all of the executives and volunteers are members of the nondenominational church pastored by Freedom Foundation co-founder and president, Mark Duke.

The foundation is currently administering similar programs in Colorado, which are providing the same services to be offered to Selma families in need.

“The main services of the foundation are designed to see people break out of life cycles they’ve been in,” Samuelson said. “We focus our time and resources on a handful of families, who get a life coach. We talk about budgeting, parenting skills and career development. We sit down and assess their needs, then we have a network to help address their needs.”