Many of the Peter S. Knox Service Center’s buildings have fallen into disrepair.
Much like the intent of the ambitious center.
The 15-building complex, generously donated to the United Way by the Knox Foundation in 1996 for community service organization use, is under-utilized and under-capitalized – the latter because the nonprofits using them don’t own them and can’t make improvements to them.
The association created to manage the properties has fallen into similar disrepair – and allegedly hasn’t even been following its own rules and bylaws.
Perhaps as a result, facilities have reportedly been used as residences – against zoning laws – and even for-profit enterprises – against the letter and spirit of the nonprofit center’s code and 501(c)(3) status.
The good folks at Heritage Academy independent Christian school, 333 Greene St., were looking to expand to the little-used Knox Community Center across the street when they stumbled onto the mess that had grown up around it.
Despite having its own full-time mission of providing a Christ-centered, high-quality education – with “an intentional mission to the children of low-income families” – Heritage boldly moved to help resolve the snarled situation.
Heritage offered to face the situation head-on – by offering to relieve the United Way of the center and help restore it to its intended charitable purposes.
The United Way board gladly took Heritage up on the offer – though three of the six entities in the complex refused to go along. As a result of the failed negotiations, Heritage recently filed a “quiet title” lawsuit to have the courts officially recognize Heritage’s title to the properties.
Heritage would like to expand its K-8 school to include a preschool and an expanded community-wide program for dyslexic students.
Beyond that, it’s unclear what might happen to the rest of the complex, although three nonprofits there now – CSRA Economic Opportunity Authority, Comfort House Inc. and Augusta Partnership for Children – are good with Heritage’s rescue and will stay put.
Except that they might have the ability soon to make improvements to their properties, thanks to Heritage Academy.
The Knox Foundation did something wonderful for the community in the 1990s. Today, Heritage Academy – an oasis of love, discipline and scholarship in a neighborhood in need of it – is doing something remarkable to right the Knox Service Center ship and preserve its foundering mission.
It was an easy call for the United Way to yield to the problem-solving Heritage Academy. We trust it will be for the court-appointed special master and the judge, too.
Regardless, if the entities resisting this rescue – One Love Services Inc., Maranatha Tabernacle Church and Imago Dei Community Development Inc. – are truly in compliance with IRS regulations and Knox association bylaws, then they have nothing to fear.
“Heritage isn’t interested in displacing any of the legitimate nonprofits” at the Knox Service Center, academy attorney Ed Enoch told The Chronicle’s Susan McCord.
Fact is, the entire community has Heritage Academy to thank for offering to help renew the promise of the Peter S. Knox Service Center.