Merrick Hall Reopens After 15 Years to House Teen Moms and Their Children

After ten years, a vision came true

When Jon Bon Jovi first stepped on Northern Children’s Services campus about ten years ago, he recognized the beauty in one particular building, Merrick Hall.  Today, Merrick Hall opened its doors back up again for the first time at the Grand Opening and Dedication Ceremony.

The relationship between Northern Children Services and the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation began back in 2004 when the Philadelphia Soul Arena Football team built a beautiful playground on the campus.  Throughout the last decade the partnership has continued culminating in JBJ Soul Foundation’s support of the renovation of Merrick Hall.

“From day one on the campus of Northern Children’s Services some ten years ago, I marveled at the history and hidden beauty of that old building – Merrick Hall,” stated Jon Bon Jovi, Chairman of the JBJ Soul Foundation. “When this project came about, it was a natural fit for us to provide one of the lead donations for this building.  It is wonderful to see it now fully restored to glory and in use for such a purposeful cause – addressing the needs of young mothers in this community.”

Merrick Hall stands for new beginnings

Not only does Merrick Hall stand for the successful future of the Generations program, it represents the rich history behind the past 161 years of service of Northern Children’s Services.  Thanks to this newly renovated building, the organization will be able to change the lives of more young women and children in the community who need it most, just as it was able to do in 1853 for orphans described as “innocent victims of social poverty during an era of unparalleled economic luxury.”  Learn more about the history of Northern Children’s Services and how it has evolved from an orphanage to now being one of the only accredited facilities of its kind in the Philadelphia area by clicking here.

“The (Merrick) building will now expand our capacity to serve the needs of the Generation programs.  In addition, it will provide 4 permanent housing units for our homeless Mother/Baby population.  This is a tremendous accomplishment for Northern and the community that we serve.  I am extremely proud and thankful to our Board of Directors, supporters and donors.  Without their support, this would have not been possible, “Mr. Lavallias said.

A tearful message to the crowd

A current resident of the Generations program gave a tearful speech to the crowd explaining the significant impact Northern Children’s Services and Generations program has had on the life of her and her son, Rashee.

“With all of this love and support given I was able to graduate from high school on time despite the fact I had my son at a young age.  Furthermore, NCS as a team was very helpful and a huge blessing in making my prom a vigilant success, she said.  “Ms. Cherenne (Peoples), Ms. Rasheedah (Small), Ms. Isis (Polard) and Ms. Nakia (Gordon), thank you for never turning your cheek.  When times got rough – those times when I felt like giving up – your words of encouragement helped me through the darkest moments.”

For details about the Generations program and the impact of Merrick Hall on the lives of these teenage mothers, who are either homeless or transitioning out of foster care, please click here.

A sincere heartfelt thank you  Wawa-Merrick-Hall-Opening

In addition to the JBJ Foundation, IKEA and Wawa were huge contributors to the success of this project. For the past 27+ years, Wawa has been an invaluable partner and a huge component to the success of Northern Children’s Services.  Because of Wawa’s great generosity, a day care was created on campus and many donations were given to aid with events and projects.  Thanks to their lead commitment of $430,000 towards the Generations Campaign for Merrick Hall, the building was able to undergo a complete renovation and open its doors up for the first time today.  The relationship between Wawa and Northern Children’s Services is a special one and one that continues to grow.  To learn more about Wawa’s contributions to Northern Children’s Services, please click here.

Thanks to IKEA, furniture from the store was not only donated to the building but over the course of three days, employees from the South Philadelphia, Conshohocken, and Corporate Office came and assembled all of furniture for each and every room.  See their progress photos by clicking here.

“IKEA is proud to support Northern Children’s Services, an organization that has great value in the communities it serves.  Our expertise in home furnishings was a natural fit to donate and furnish the residential living spaces (including apartments, dorms, and shared living and dining rooms) at the newly renovated Merrick Hall. The IKEA team of talented designers from Conshohocken and New Haven were able to bring in all their home furnishing knowledge to support a better everyday life for the young mother and babies living at Northern Children’s Services.  In addition, Urban Express supported the transportation and assembly of over 100 pieces of IKEA furniture.  At the final phase, over 50 co-workers from IKEA Conshohocken, IKEA South Philadelphia, and the IKEA Service Office, along with support from our friends at Philadelphia University, came together for three days to transform Merrick Hall into a warm and inviting home,” commented Camilla Meiby, Store Manager IKEA Conshohocken.

A dream finally becomes a reality

Now that the doors have opened, Tracey Lavallias, CEO and President of Northern Children’s Services, is able to say that the same vision he had when he stepped into this role in 2008 has finally come true.

“One of the first buildings that caught my attention was Merrick Hall, not only because of its appeal but the history behind this building.  I distinctly remembered the children occupying the building when I was first employed in 1997, including about 30 adolescent boys residing in the dormitory style housing that Merrick consisted of.  I distinctly remember one troubled resident completely turning his life around.  He is currently a part-time employee and remains a part of the Northern family.  These experiences prompted the resurrection of Merrick Hall, with the goal of helping more children and families overcome obstacles and achieve their goals,” Mr. Lavallias said.

A similar success story can be found here, outlining a former resident of Northern Children’s Services, who came back 20 years later to pay it forward.

For photos of this event, please click here.  You can also check out our Facebook page to see a full album of the journey of the Merrick Hall transformation.

NCS in the News

Check out all of the media coverage surrounding this event, which included articles from the Roxborough Review, Manayunk-Roxborough Patch, NewsWorks, KYW News Radio, and CBS Philly.  

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Northern Children’s Services supports the healthy development of children, while stabilizing their families to build stronger communities.

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