From left are Guardian Savings Bank Loan Officer Jason Deller, David Hastings, Executive Director of Housing Opportunities Northen Kentucky (HONK), and Keith Borders, of Guardian Savings Bank, are shown at the open house in Elsmere, Ky. Photo provided

Keith Borders


ELSMERE, KY – Housing Opportunities Northern Kentucky (HONK) held an open house September 28 at a home the organization recently rehabbed in a low-income area of Elsmere, Kentucky. Guardian Savings Bank has a longtime community donor partnership with HONK. 

The house at 37 Spring Street in Elsmere, was founded and built by former slaves in the late 1890’s to serve as a school for African American children. It was a one-room school.

437 Spring is the site of one of the first schools in the area to formally educate African American children not long after the end of slavery. It was started in the late 1800s by leaders of the African American community in the Erlanger/Elsmere area. Among those leaders were two formerly enslaved people, Thomas & Fannie Green, and a deacon of a local church, Mat Slaughter.

Photo provided

Judy Cables, Northern Kentucky Tribune, writes thagt the original owners realized the value of a good education. “Born into slavery in the mid-1800s, Thomas & Fannie Green, would’ve been forbidden from a formal education. As their family grew and their freedoms evolved, they would’ve undoubtedly wanted to make a better life for the next generation.

David Hastings, Executive Director of HONK, said the school became known as The Dunbar School. In fact, HONK didn’t realize the significance of this property until the prior owner shared details as HONK was signing the purchase contract. Prior to HONK, the same family had owned 437 Spring for the past 70 years. They were the same family that added a second story, dug out the basement by hand, and otherwise converted the one-room schoolhouse into a four-bedroom home in the 1950s.

The 3-bedroom, 2.5 bath home was rehabbed by HONK. This represents the fourth home HONK has developed in Elsmere. This major transformation was made possible with significant help from Dennis & Lois Doyle, Guardian Savings Bank, PNC Foundation, FDS Bank/Macy’s, Northern Kentucky University’s Mayerson Student Philanthropy Project/Learning By Giving Foundation, St. Timothy Church in Union, The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, The Ed & Joann Hubert Family Foundation, individual donors and volunteers.

Significant upgrades have been added to this home, thanks to the generosity of a local family.

Photo provided

The open house attendees included descendants of the Dunbar School founders, descendants of children who went to school there, and descendants of people who taught at the school.

“This property has a long history in the local African American community,” says Hastings. “We are thrilled to have had the opportunity to transform a property of such significance.  

“Volunteers put a lot of work into this one.  Their contributions have played a critical role in our ability to keep costs down and make this home affordable. “We certainly couldn’t have done this without them.”

HONK is a faith-based, non-profit organization with a mission to help low income families and individuals reach the goal of stable homeownership through programs of education and support.  HONK has helped 105 households in Northern Kentucky to become homeowners, Hastings said.

HONK uses a 12-18 month lease-to-own program to help people achieve homeownership.  HONK works with each household to improve credit, reduce debt, develop savings and otherwise prepare for homeownership while living in the home they are working to purchase.  HONK families typically experience all four seasons in their home before buying, so they are familiar with the utility costs and maintenance expectations of their home before purchasing.

More information about HONK can be found at .

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