After more than a year of planning and re-planning, Handi-Crafters was finally given approval to expand and renovate one of its buildings on Barley Sheaf Road in Thorndale.

"They approved the final development plan," said John Jascoll, Development Director for Handi-Crafters. "We can put the construction bids out and start planning when the groundbreaking will begin. We are hoping in June."

One of the hold ups to getting the final development plan approved was whether or not Handi-Crafters would have to do a traffic study. After discussion, the commissioners decided it. However, if Handi-Crafters ask to expand again in the future or the use of the building changes, a traffic study will have to be done.

Aside from expanding to fit the needs of the already existing clients, Jascoll says they are adding to what they already offer to many of them.

"We are adding an older adult care center for the older members," Jascoll said. "We've had people coming here for 20 to 30 years and they are getting up there in years, with some in their 60s, 70s, and even 80s. The older adult care will give them a place to come every day to suit their needs."

"It is a place where people can come on and have fun with their friends."

Aside from the older adult care center, a new warehouse will be built at the rear of the existing building, while a new cafeteria and larger workshops will also be added.

"We hold social events for the clients, dances in the cafeteria, right now we have a partitioned wall that separates the cafeteria from the workshops," Jascoll said. "Once we have the new cafeteria, there won't be any sharing of the workshop and cafeteria, all the social events can be held in the cafeteria alone."

This will be the second full scale renovation Handi-Crafters has gone under in the last 10 years, with the first occurring in the mid-90s on the first building.

"This building was built in 1968 and we went through a major renovation about 10 years ago," Jascoll said. "We opened up the workspace and made it bright and cheerful. We want to do that with the expansion and renovation of the other building."

Barring any setbacks, Handi-Crafters is hoping for all construction to be completed within 18 months of the groundbreaking.

"We're going to do it in stages because we plan to continue to use the building," said Jascoll. "We can work around what we have."

According to Executive Director Amy Rice, the approval of the plans took close to a year.

"They (commissioners) were adhering to the rules and ordinances," said Rice. "It was a question of making sure we adhered to the rules and ordinances. It was never a question of we don't want you to expand or we don't like you. They were very supportive of our plan. They just wanted us to get it right."

According to Jascoll and Rice, the expansion and renovation will cost close to $2.75 million.

"Originally it was going to be $2.6 million. We hoped to break ground last fall," Jascoll said. "We're now thinking it will be about $2.75 million. We've raised slightly over $2.4 million from contributions and private benefactors."

The agency raised more money at their annual spring break fundraiser, April 2 at the Downingtown Country Club.

"It was a great success," said Jascoll. "There was a lot going on. We had a reverse raffle and gave away over $8,000 in cash prizes."

The event is a major part of Handi-Crafters fund raising activities. Just from sponsors and anonymous benefactors alone they were able to raise nearly $25,000. The final tally was not yet available.

"I'm sure financially it will prove to be a great success," said Jascoll.

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