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Sale of Old New Castle estate would benefit Sunday Breakfast Mission

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The Kensey Johns home, on the corner of Delaware and Fourth streets in New Castle, is a three-story structure of 5,600 square feet.

The Kensey Johns home, on the corner of Delaware and Fourth streets in New Castle, is a three-story structure of 5,600 square feet.

By Sam Waltz

Proceeds from the hoped-for sale of a $650,000 Old New Castle estate home donated to the Sunday Breakfast Mission this year are targeted to help fund a culinary arts program for those helped by Mission, many of them homeless, some in recovery or re-entry from incarceration.

The Rev. Thomas Laymon, president of the Mission, said developing such new income-generating skills as work in the food services industry is essential to the work of the Mission with its clients.

A $50/head gala event on Sept. 25 featuring a “designers’ showcase” of the home headed by Hockessin’s Barbara D. Pettinella at Designers Den will kick off the marketing of the home, Rev. Laymon said. Tickets are available online, and the Mission also seeks corporate and individual patrons.

“We at the Sunday Breakfast Mission have been blessed by this wonderful gift,” said Rev. Laymon, “and we want to use it for the right purposes, for His purposes, in our mission.” Proceeds from the sale will be used for both capital and operating needs, he said. “We want to try to be a good steward.”

The Mission has a $10 million capital project under way, Rev. Laymon said, and the Mission already has raised about $5.5 million in cash and in-kind contributions, he said. Adding the culinary arts program to that will require another $500,000.

The Mission presently serves about 800 meals a day.

The Rev. Thomas Laymon of the Sunday Breakfast Mission chalks the opportunity up to

The Rev. Thomas Laymon of the Sunday Breakfast Mission chalks the opportunity up to “divine intervention.” Barbara D. Pettinella (on stairs), from Designers Den in Hockessin, will stage and market the home starting with a gala on Sept. 25.

Although Rev. Laymon declined to talk about the details behind it – “the Lord works in mysterious and wonderful ways,” he said – the gift came in awkward circumstances, according to people in New Castle.

A wealthy out-of-town family had acquired the home as a retreat, with the intent of remodeling the property, including its carriage house. But the politics of Old New Castle intervened, with disagreements from a handful of prominent families that ultimately killed the remodeling plans at the city’s level, prompting the owners to vacate the property and donate it.

Founded in 1893, the faith-based Sunday Breakfast Mission has historically operated “hand-to-mouth,” depending on the donations of the faithful and some corporate largesse for help in its mission. It’s one of several charities providing such services, among them Brother Ronald’s Immanuel Dining Room, the Neighborhood House, the Little Sisters of the Poor who care for Delaware’s elderly poor, and others.

The Mission estimates it costs about $1.83 to serve a meal to its clients. And needs at the Sunday Breakfast Mission just keep on growing, thanks in part to the homelessness from the economic downturn, from the dramatically increasing heroin epidemic, and even from the increases in women and families among the homeless – which the Mission adapted in recent years to serve.

The donated Kensey Johns home, dating to the 1800s, is a three-story structure with 5,600 square feet, rooms that can accommodate six to nine bedrooms, as well as a home office or study, two parlors, a formal dining room, a butler’s pantry adjacent to the kitchen, and a loft. The yard features a spacious patio as well as the brick carriage house, gardens and all of what people would expect in a historic property.

Given their inability to remodel the house to their needs, with the carriage house to become a two-car garage, James and Martha McKinnon of Princeton conceived of the gift. Laymon credits “Divine intervention,” explaining that the McKinnons were sitting outside a Wawa store talking about what to do with the home when they looked up at a billboard for the Sunday Breakfast Mission.

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