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ForKids' New Facility Will Lift Up Homeless and South Norfolk

This article was taken from Inside Business, written by Sandra J. Pennecke

An architectural rendering of the new ForKids Center for Children and Families under construction on Poindexter Street in the South Norfolk section of Chesapeake.

ForKids Inc., one of the state’s largest service providers for homeless families, will soon have a larger, more efficient and technologically-advanced facility in Chesapeake.

The nonprofit agency is consolidating its headquarters at Colley Avenue and 42nd Street, education center, regional housing crisis hotline and family shelter into a 60,000-square-foot, three-story facility where South Norfolk’s public library once stood. The price tag for the Center for Children and Families is $17.25 million.

“We’re consolidating staff from five different locations,” said Thaler McCormick, ForKids chief executive officer. “I do believe that the South Norfolk facility is going to be a radical shift from how we do business together. It’s going to change the experience for families, children and volunteers. I do think this is a deeply transformational project for ForKids and our work in the region and it will have a profound impact on what we do.”

A research and advocacy center is also part of the project and McCormick said it will allow them to do more system related work and change the way they do business.

“We will look very different five years from now,” she said.

Becky Lyle Pinkard, ForKids external relations manager, said the capital campaign has raised $20.7 million. The goal was recently increased from $22.5 million to $25 million to accommodate seed funding for services.

The campaign included $2.25 million for the new Suffolk Regional Headquarters – the Birdsong Center for Families on Constance Road – which was dedicated in November 2018 and $5.5 million for the organization’s GROW campaign which includes its endowment fund, services seed fund and infrastructure.

ForKids has been breaking the cycle of homelessness and poverty for families and children through innovative programs and advocacy since its founding in 1988.

According to the organization’s website, its programs help more than 225 families and 450 children every day and touch the lives of more than 70,000 people each year. McCormick said the new center, designed by Tymoff + Moss and being built by Hourigan Construction, has been in the works for about a decade, but officially for the past five years.

The facility’s first floor will include a commercial kitchen, dining area, STEM lab, case manager offices, and a state-of-the art education center with five classrooms. Maker spacers and tutoring rooms will be included in the education center as well. The second floor will have the call center, board room, break room, and offices for development, finance, and the research and advocacy center.

A 20-family emergency shelter on the second and third floors will increase the agency’s capacity to temporarily house families and children by 50%. McCormick said about 110 will be employed at the building to start but has the capacity for 150 employees.

The building’s exterior will feature eight murals and banners giving SoNo an art district. The interior will display a 248-piece collection of artwork created by children in ForKids programs.

McCormick said it will make it a beautiful, vital space for everyone who experiences the building – children, clients, volunteers and teams.

A 4,000-square-foot rooftop garden will be a place for children and families to gather and play. A newly renovated city park will be accessible right beyond the facility’s back door.

“We have kind of had our head down working on all the details and working on this enormous campaign for so long that it was frankly stunning to finally get to break ground,” McCormick said. “We still have a few million to go to fund the project, but it seems within reach. It really was a bit of a dream to bring all of these services together, grow capacity and have a project that our families, our team and the community would really be proud of.”


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