A Forsyth County ministry serving women and children is closer to completing its expansion thanks to a large donation from a local business.
Jim Sharp, director of Abba House, said American Proteins and the company's owners, the Bagwell family, recently committed to providing a $150,000 matching grant to the organization.
Abba House, founded by Sharp and his wife Chris in 1992, is a 12-month residential program that helps women, some with children, overcome addiction and abuse problems.
The ministry is in the Silver City community of north Forsyth, near the Dawson County line.
Tommy Bagwell said his family decided to help because Abba House gives women a hand up, rather than a handout.
"[Abba House] gives the ladies a chance to reform and rehabilitate their lives," he said. "I know a lot of them get their GEDs and go through work and training programs.
"The ladies can come out [of the program] being able to actually achieve a level of self-support."
For nearly two years, Abba House leaders have been working to raise about $1.1 million in order to obtain $1.55 million in loan funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development.
Abba House applied for the low-interest matching loan in 2004 and in July 2007, the ministry's board members signed necessary documents to receive it.
The total funding will be used to complete the first of a two-phase major expansion of Abba House, which Sharp said will cost about $2.65 million.
"This [grant] from the Bagwells puts us within $300,000 to $400,000 of reaching our goal and being able to break ground on the project," Sharp said. "I'd estimate, we should be ready to start building within the next six months."
The first phase of the expansion will include a multi-purpose room, sanctuary, kitchen and cafeteria to feed up to 150 people. It also will feature computer classrooms, a library, exercise rooms and housing for 25 women and their children.
The second phase will add another wing of housing, accommodating 32 women and children, as well as a children's center.
The buildings will occupy 22,000 square feet on the nearly 10-acre Abba House site on Dahlonega Highway.
A small portion of the funding for the project comes from money raised through its thrift store, though Sharp said the majority of store proceeds go to overhead costs.
The thrift store now has two locations. One is on Dahlonega Highway near the Dawson County line and the second is by Hammond's Crossing at Hwys. 369 and 306.
Bagwell encouraged support of Abba House, saying the matching grant is "a challenge" for both its leaders and the community.
"It's a challenge to both the board and management of Abba House to go out and continue to bring in funding and attention [for the program] ... and to give impetus to have others [potential donors] go out and take a look at the program," he said.