A new place to fuel ministry

An artist?s rendition of the new headquarters for MB Foundation proposed for the corner of D and Washington streets in Hillsboro. Jon Wiebe, MBF CEO and president, said the design aims to combines elements of a church and a financial institution,God must have a sense of humor, or at least an appreciation for irony.

In recent years, Hillsboro-based MB Foundation has likened its mission to being a filling station for faith-based ministries.

?We don?t ask people to provide fuel for our own ministry, we?re just the truck driver or the gas can,? said Jon Wiebe, president and CEO. ?The donors provide the fuel. We?re just trying to get it wherever they want it so it will make ministry, charity and good works happen.?

Now, the Mennonite Brethren-related national stewardship ministry plans to break ground in July for a $2 million office facility on the site of the former Prime?Time convenience store?which, of course, passed along plenty of fuel in its day.

?It?s a story we?d love to tie in to,? Wiebe admitted with a smile. ?We?re actually located at a former gas station.?

Or at least soon will be.

The Hillsboro City Coun?cil completed a long and sometimes arduous journey earlier this month by approving the appropriate zoning changes for the project, thus clearing the way for construction.

Plans are being finalized for a two-story office building with about 8,000 square feet for offices, meeting areas and related spaces.

Wiebe said MBF hopes to break ground in July and move into the new facility next April.

Room for growth

Wiebe said the growth of the ministry, and the staff to manage it, had been pressing the limits of its current 5,500-square-foot headquarters at 315 S. Lincoln. In addition, the 1950s structure was built with a split-level design, limiting handicap accessibility.

?We?re a national ministry and we serve people beyond Hillsboro, but we still wish our headquarters was a place older folks could feel like they could come to?and they do come,? Wiebe said. ?But it?s an issue with our split-level approach.?

Wiebe said it seems likely that MBF?s ministry will continue to grow in the years head, which would only heighten the space issue for staff.

?There continues to be potential for growth, and the trajectory seems right,? he said. ?Even to accommodate what we have, it doesn?t feel like we have the space we want.?

Wiebe said the foundation staff and board had considered a major remodeling of its current building, or partnering with Tabor College on a project that would incorporate the college?s visitors center a half block to the east.

In the end, moving ahead with a new building was deemed to be the best option.

Property challenges

The old PrimeTime location, meanwhile, had become an eyesore and health hazard because distant corporate ownership had all but abandoned it.

?We got pretty excited about the opportunity to help our community with something,? Wiebe said. ?That began to step up more and more. We realized there were challenges, but we were excited about who is going to take on those challenges??

When MBF became aware that the property was headed for a sheriff?s sale, Wiebe knew the ministry needed to investigate the property sooner than later.

?I was referred to a gentleman who is an expert in environmental concerns,? Wiebe said. ?So he came up, looked at it, knowing that we are a charity and risk-adverse. Then he stepped up and said, ?I?ll buy it for you.??

Wiebe said he never expected such an offer.

?That was just huge?it was an incredible God-thing,? he said. ?He said, ?I?ll take all the risk. You can choose to buy it when it?s all cleaned up, and the building is razed and tanks removed.??

Wiebe said the man had offered to flip the building for a small fee. Since then, the man has waived the fee as well.

In addition to the PrimeTime lot, MBF also has purchased the two residences immediately to the north along South Washing?ton Street.

?We definitely needed the first house, so we bought it a few months ago,? Wiebe said. ?The next house we don?t really need, but I was concerned about unhappy neighbors, and just having the breathing room in case we need it for parking or expansion in the future.?

Wiebe said the Prime?Time lot will never be fully ?clean? of gasoline contamination in the soil, but tests confirm that ?liability is low and there really isn?t any health concerns for our employees.?

Moving ahead

Between now and groundbreaking, MBF staff and board will be working with an architect to finalize the plans and work with a contractor.

Wiebe added some of his staff team are hoping to broaden the PrimeTime legacy in the new building.

?Now people are asking for arcade equipment in the break room because when I was in college, I played video games there,? Wiebe joked.

?I don?t know if that?s going to happen.?

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