The HALO Foundation, a nonprofit organization that operates a local shelter for homeless youth, will receive title to the former Rickman Conference Center and retreat facility and the more than 2 acres around it through a lot frontage variance approved Tuesday morning by the Jefferson City Board of Adjustment.
The donor is F&F Development LLC, a unit of the Farmers Companies.
Kirk and Jamie Farmer of the family-owned Farmer Companies were particularly involved in the almost $1 million renovation, which will result in HALO — an acronym for Helping Art Liberate Children — using the structures and surrounding grounds to provide living quarters for homeless youth. It also has branches in Kansas City, Portland and New York, as well as international facilities.
HALO was launched in 2012 by Rebecca Welsh, with the mission of helping to fill some gaps for low-income and at-risk youth. Formally known as the HALO Learning Center, the Jefferson City branch focuses its programs on empowering youth to graduate from high school and become successful members of the community, Welsh said.
"The donation of this land is literally a dream come true," she said Tuesday. "The generosity of Kirk and Jamie Farmer will help us greatly expand our efforts throughout the community, where there are so many homeless girls and their children in need of care."
For their part, the Farmers are every bit as enthusiastic about the HALO presence at the Rickman Center as Welsh.
"We've known Rebecca and have supported HALO since it was founded," Kirk Farmer told the News Tribune Tuesday. "We are very proud to support HALO and their mission not only in Jefferson City but in orphanages across the world. The opportunity to acquire the Rickman Center and work with HALO to take over the old hotel and conference center has been a work in process for over two years.
"Rebecca has shown amazing leadership by shining a light on the needs of homeless teens in our community that are in extremely challenging situations," Farmer said.
"HALO is taking these kids and teaching them life skills, helping them get an education, giving them love, sometimes tough love, with the goal of helping these young women become productive and contributing members of our society.
"Needless to say, we are all in and hope and the community is as well," Farmer said, speaking on behalf of himself and his wife, Jamie.
The Board of Adjustment voted 4-1 to approve the recommendation, presented to the board by Eric Barron, senior planner with the city's Planning and Protective Services Department.
"The purpose of the request is to permit the transfer of approximately 2 acres of property to HALO," Barron said. "The property is located on (3519) Bennett Lane, 1,500 feet south of Christy Drive."
The location is near the southernmost border of Jefferson City.
"Due to the location of the facility, the donated ground would not have direct connection to public right of way but would be served by an access easement across the existing private driveway/roads that serve the property," Barron said.
Stacey Young, chairwoman of the Board of Adjustment, said, "I think this is a wonderful donation for the organization and the community. This facility will greatly enhance the lives of those young women and for the good of the whole community."
Board member Paul Graham cast the lone dissenting vote in the matter, explaining he was concerned the body was overstepping its jurisdiction.
HALO is hosting its major annual fundraiser, the Jefferson City ArtReach Auction, on March 3 at the Bennett Lane facility.