A religious calling to help others has long guided the life of Vendetta Hines. Growing up in Brooklyn, NY, her mother was a preacher who helped to get kids off the street. Hines became an advocate for people with intellectual disabilities and a special education teacher. She also worked as a child protection investigator in New York and Warren County, NJ.

Hines moved to Palmer Township 15 years ago and in 2015 she started The LIFT Center in Allentown. The Lifestyle, Integrity and Fullness Treatment Center promotes character, growth and independence through positive reinforcement, social interaction and individual choice for persons with intellectual disabilities. Its unique model uses a combination of Gestalt reinforcement and other learning theories.

“We saw explosive growth due to our service model which is highly sought after. Within 1.5 years we’d already outgrown our current facilities,” Hines explained. She knew she needed to expand but had to find the right place for it. She started by working with the Small Business Development Center at Lehigh University on the development of a business plan. “They provided me with a lot of help. They really wanted to help me succeed. They respected the work that I do.”

After attempting to purchase the building where her business is currently located fell through, she pursued another property outside of Allentown which also didn’t come to fruition. Finally, she found a two-story former manufacturing facility at 526 S. Aubrey Street on the city’s South Side. While assembling her financing portfolio she knew she would need a gap lender to fill in the final piece. Enter the Pennsylvania Minority Business Development Authority Revolving Loan Fund and Allentown Economic Development Corporation.

PMBDA loans aim to stimulate growth and expansion of minority-owned businesses and to create jobs. Loans of up to 90 percent of the eligible project cost (or $250,000, whichever is less) can be used for machinery and equipment costs, land costs to purchase and renovate, or for new construction. It can also be used for building acquisition, construction, rehabilitation, engineering, architectural, legal and other related costs.

It was during a meeting with City of Allentown Business Development Manager Daniel Diaz when Hines found out about PMBDA. The fund is administered by AEDC for Lehigh and Northampton Counties on behalf of the state. Diaz put her in touch with David Dunn, AEDC Program Manager of Economic Development Programs, who helped her apply for a loan which served as a gap loan for her financing package.

The sale closed just before Thanksgiving on November 22, 2019. The new building will provide 7,000 square feet of space to house the day program. Renovation plans include adding a sensory room and a movie theater room. Hines plans to begin the remodeling work in April and open in November. LIFT will offer the same services at its new location but will be able to accommodate 30-40 clients with the same number of employees to meet state requirements.

“I’ve been a public servant my whole life. I’m inspired to do the work I do. I love it here in Allentown, so I am happy that I was able to keep my business here,” she said. “I love that my business brings jobs to the city.”