Wednesday, December 18th, 2013
Fund started to help trailer park residents move
By Kathy Thompson
CELINA - Local organizations want residents of Mercelina Mobile Court to know they are not alone or forgotten and help may be on the way.
Last week, owners of the 53 trailers in the mobile home park were given a notice of eviction by Celina attorney Louis J. Schiavone, who represents the mobile home park company and two of its trustees, Jerry and Verdice Brandts. Residents have until August to leave, the letter states.
The city intends to purchase the property to expand its lakefront parks. City council members on Friday passed first reading of an ordinance to buy the park and the nearby former Versa Pak property for $2.9 million.
Pete Hierholzer, owner of Celina Wine Store, gave a $500 donation to the Mercer County Civic Foundation for relocation expenses for the Mercelina residents.
"Something has to be done," he said. "Since the news came out, these people have been on my mind a lot. There's a whole lot of people in this community that feel bad and we want to help."
Glenn Hux, executive director for the nonprofit civic foundation, said Hierholzer's donation establishes a "relocation fund" for the residents.
The monies collected will be dispersed under the direction of the Mercer County Council on Aging, Sources Community Network Services and Our Home Family Resource Center, Hierholzer said. The organizations are meeting Dec. 30 to see exactly how each can help the residents and "put together a plan of action," said Karen Howick, executive director for the council on aging.
"This is very painful what these people are going through," she said. "But these people are not just going to be forgotten."
Many of the residents, elderly or disabled, voiced their frustration, anger and dismay when told last week. Some told the newspaper they have nowhere else to go and are on limited, fixed incomes. Others said they have no means to purchase a new home or pay the cost of moving their mobile home; some recently spent money to improve their mobile homes.
"It's simply not fair," Gary Locke, 49, said last week.
He has lived at the park in the same home his parents lived for 35 years. Although Locke and his sister, Lynn, are confident they will be able to find a place to live, they worry about their neighbors who have become "more than friends."
"They're family," Gary Locke said.
Howick said the good news is that residents have until August to move.
"The bad news is many of them don't have any means to move and are losing the home they bought as a retirement home," she said. "It's going to take a lot of work to get them into a new place, let alone get them packed up and then figure out what to do with the mobile homes."
Howick said those in the greatest need will be the first to be helped.
"We're going to make a list of those who have the most needs and work from there," she explained. "It's heart-wrenching, especially to get this news right before Christmas. But we're going to line up a plan."
Getting the residents a safe place to live will be the first priority, Howick said. The situation is "unchartered territory" for her and many of the agencies in the area, she added.
"But Mercer County is known for taking care of its own," Howick said. "There are a lot of people out there who care and want to help. We realize that progress moves forward, but we also have to take care of the damage that gets left."
Kirk Moriarty, interim executive director for Sources Community Network Services, agreed with Howick.
"The first priority is getting these people a safe haven," he said. "This is going to take some coordination on all our parts to see that things are taken care of properly."
Celina Mayor Jeff Hazel said he encourages the community to help.
"I'm pleased with seeing those stepping up to help in the community," he said.