Samaritan’s Purse president Franklin Graham, left, speaks with Blowing Rock Councilman Jim Steele and Gwen Steele prior to the grand opening of the organization’s new building in Blowing Rock. JEFF EASON PHOTO
Thursday, June 06, 2013
(Last modified: 2013-06-06 09:04:53)

Source: The Blowing Rocket

Two years ago, the fate of the building that formerly housed the Robert and Miriam Hayes Performing Arts center and cost $10 million to build was uncertain.

A year ago, the Blowing Rock community breathed a collective sigh of relief when Samaritan’s Purse purchased it for $1.5 million with the intent of turning it into a training and special events facility.

On Friday, Samaritan’s Purse hosted a special grand opening and ribbon cutting for its new building. Approximately 100 people, including local and state elected officials, attended.

“We have training that we do all the time,” said Franklin Graham, president and founder of Samaritan’s Purse. “We used the Broyhill (Conference) Center for years, but the Broyhill Center was taken off the market for folks like us. So, we didn’t know what to do or where we were going to go.
And then, of course, God provided us with this building, which we think is a lot nicer than the Broyhill Center.”

Samaritan’s Purse is a Christian-based relief organization located in Boone that helps people after disasters such as the recent tornadoes in Texas and Oklahoma. The organization plans to train many of its volunteers in Blowing Rock at the new facility.

“I remember when I read in the newspaper that this facility was for sale and nobody had bid on it, so the bank took it,” Graham said. “I thought, if I had been here — I was in Alaska at the time — I would have gone to the courthouse and put in a bid. But then I read in the paper, in the last paragraph, that there was a 10-day period for an upset bid.

“I had no idea what an upset bit was. I checked the calendar and I realized that I still had two days left. I called Jimmy Furman, who is our treasurer, and talked with Jimmy about it.

“Jimmy said, ‘Franklin, do you really need it?’ I said, ‘Jimmy, if I can get it for this price, yeah, I could use it.’ He said, ‘I’ll call the clerk of court and find out what we have to do to make a bid.’
“Nobody outbid us, so here we are.”

Samaritan’s bid for $1,493,100 was accepted Aug. 30, 2012.

According to Graham, Samaritan’s Purse has spent the past year sprucing up the building and modifying it for its purposes.

“We’ve gone over every inch of the building and it is a first-class facility,” Graham said.

Prior to the ribbon cutting, Graham introduced Blowing Rock Mayor J.B. Lawrence to the crowd.

“It wasn’t many months ago that I was sitting with (Blowing Rock Chamber president) John Aldridge, (town manager) Scott Hildebran and Keith Tester,” Lawrence said. “And we were wringing our hands wondering what’s going to happen to the Hayes Center. Of course, by this time my son,  Justin, was referring to it as the ‘Wells Fargo Arena.’ What would it become? Was it going to be an albatross? Was it going to be an eyesore? We just didn’t know.

“Look what it has become today: a very vibrant part of our community. We are so excited about it.
“We didn’t know what it was going to become, but God had a greater plan for this building than any of us could every imagine,” he said.

After the ribbon cutting, guests walked upstairs to the banquet room and dined on appetizers prepared by Samaritan’s Purse staff. Following that, guests were treated to a live concert featuring contemporary Christian music star Michael W. Smith.

According to John Aldridge, Samaritan’s Purse has agreed to hold some training sessions during the months of February and March, when business is slower than usual for Blowing Rock’s shops, restaurants and lodging establishments.

“Blowing Rock has been so supportive,” Graham said.

“The chamber and the town have been extremely helpful,” he said.

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