New group plans survey on housing, community needs

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK | News-Telegram Managing Editor

Aug 5, 2007 - A Sulphur Springs minister has formed a non-profit group whose first goal is to evaluate the housing needs in Sulphur Springs and, with any luck, help spread financial literacy.

Valanderous Bell, minister of Central Church of Christ, said the Nehemiah Foundation has been certified by the state of Texas to operate as a non-profit organization. Bell said the foundation is based on the book of the Bible by the same name, and the idea came from personal study of the chapter by Bell and members of his church.

"We were moved and immediately began developing this program to give the much-needed attention in addressing the needs of our own community," Bell wrote in a press release announcing the foundation's formation.

According to Bell, the purpose of the foundation is to "create an atmosphere of community revitalization and new housing construction," to minister to the physical needs of the community and "to include a variety of assests beneficial to our intended plan of community development."

Along with Bell, the Nehemiah Foundation has four other directors: Daryl Bowdre, a minister; Theopolis Holeman, group vice president of Duke Energy Power Delivery; John Cooper, owner and operator of Cooper Land Surveying Inc.; and Dr. Don O'Neal, a Sulphur Springs physician.

The first order of business is a survey to gauge attitudes and opinions about what the city's needs are, with emphasis on housing.

"We will conduct a survey of the general public to determine the needs and desires of people in our city," Bell said. "We want input from everyone. You can have the nicest house on Azalea Lane, and we still want to hear your opinion."

The survey will be conducted on several dates later this month. The start date will be Monday, Aug. 20, at Central Church of Christ, located at 301 Gilmer St., suite B. The survey will also be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 21, 23 and 24, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 25.

After completing the survey, Bell said, they expect to use the results to seek the help of local lending institutions to conduct training classes and seminars related to topics such as first-time home buyers, home financing, money management and credit scoring.

That idea falls in line with a concept being pushed in the field of economics in recent years, the belief that more people need education to enhance their "financial literacy."

The U.S. Congress established the Financial Literacy and Education Commission in 2003 toward that end, and the commission published its National Strategy on Financial Literacy last year.

"Many local or grassroots organizations are well-positioned to deliver homebuying information and counseling because of their familiarity with the local market," authors wrote in the policy statement on housing.

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