A small nonprofit organization with a big idea could bring a rural assistance center to Smiths Grove and provide such items as food, clothing and equipment for military veterans and others.

SOKY Patriots, a nonprofit formed last year, is raising funds to get the assistance center started on a small scale as soon as this spring, with much grander plans coming later.

The nonprofit’s founder, Tim Allen, hopes to raise $15,000 in the project’s first phase. Through a Facebook fundraiser and a crowdfunding campaign, Allen said he has already raised more than $3,500.

“I’m hoping we can raise the money and get a pre-built building up by April,” Allen said.

Allen said that first phase would include a food pantry, emergency clothing and furniture, hygiene supplies and mobility equipment for assistance to anyone in need.

Allen, formerly with the Kentucky Veterans Brigade nonprofit that specializes in helping military veterans with disabilities or other needs, formed SOKY Patriots as a way of reaching more local residents.

“It’s all about helping people with disabilities, whether they’re veterans or not,” Allen said. “We’ll take all services and put them under one roof.”

Eventually, Allen would like that roof to cover a 10,000-square-foot center that would house areas for food preparation and dining, a clothing closet, offices, a multipurpose area and storage for mobility equipment. His plan also includes an outdoor amphitheater for music events and movies and a playground accessible by youngsters with disabilities.

“Ultimately, this project will be in the $400,000 to $500,000 range,” said Allen, whose plan for the center includes serving parts of Edmonson, Barren and Allen counties in addition to Warren County.

Trying to make his dream a reality, Allen has met with Smiths Grove and Warren County officials as well as leaders of the Barren River Area Development District.

“He (Allen) seems heartfelt about it,” Smiths Grove Mayor David Stiffey said. “He’d like to find a place for the center, but available buildings are few and far between. It all sounds good, but sometimes it takes some time.”

Allen has met with BRADD staff members about grant opportunities, and BRADD Executive Director Eric Sexton believes his plan has merit.

“We thought it was a pretty good idea,” Sexton said. “We outlined some ways that BRADD could be of assistance if he needs grant funding. I think it would definitely fill a need in Warren and surrounding counties.”

Once Allen identifies a site, Sexton says his multicounty agency may be able to provide some expertise.

“I think it’s a really neat idea and would be beneficial to the entire region,” Sexton said. “We’re hoping that, once a location is determined, we can possibly help get some grant funding.”

– More information about SOKY Patriots and the group’s plans for an assistance center can be found at the sokypatriots.org website.

– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.

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