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Council looks to donate $49,000 to Empower Me

Xavier Smith • Updated Feb 4, 2017 at 1:00 PM

The Lebanon City Council will look to make a donation to the Empower Me Center next week after one councilor pushed to help the group’s efforts.

The council will look to donate $49,000 to the group after Councilor Rob Cesternino expressed support for the group’s mission to help special needs children in Wilson County.

“What Empower Me does is absolutely amazing and its humbling. If you’ve never been there, you should get there. We take care of our veterans. We take care of our seniors. We do some things for our children, but I don’t know that as a governmental body that we’ve ever done anything for the special needs,” Cesternino said last month.

Cesternino reiterated Empower Me executive director Michelle Hill’s figure of 492 special needs children in the Lebanon Special School District, which prompted him to form a resolution to donate $49,000 from the council to Empower Me.

“I think these kids need our support and deserve our support and the work that is done for them is absolutely amazing,” he said.

Ward 4 Councilor Rick Bell, who also serves on the Empower Me board of directors, said last year that he believed it was time for the group to have a permanent home after it operated from the James E. Ward Agricultural Center since its inception. The group was unable to use the facility last summer due to the Wilson County Expo Center construction. 

The council approved to rezone about 26 acres of unaddressed land on South Hartmann Drive to commercial service at the request of Jim Agee on behalf of Empower Me Day Camp. 

Empower Me announced plans last year to build a state-of-the-art facility on about 16.5 acres. The group also terminated its contract to buy land on Carver Lane last year. 

The new facility will consist of a 37,000-square-feet community recreational building, recreational sports complex, complete with a splash pad, playgrounds, sports court and the Miracle Baseball Field. It will also house independent living cottages on the property.

Hill said the center would allow the group to serve more than 200 special needs children each week during the summer and thousands through year-round programs. 

Empower Me Center was given a check last week from an anonymous donor for $120,000 to put toward their goal of building their new facilities.

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