Northern Children’s Services renovates oldest campus building, bolsters programs with $4.6 million effort

By Jessie Fox – Originally published by NewsWorks on December 25, 2013 

Ten years ago, the Northern Children’s Services Board faced a big decision: Find a new location or take a stand and reinvest in its Roxborough campus.

At the time, the 70-year-old structures weren’t living up to their potential. Whether it was the spirit of nostalgia or a gut instinct is yet to be determined, but soon after, the board chose to roll up its sleeves and get on with the work of restoring the campus.

The subsequent decade has seen several major renovations, highlighted by current renovations at historic Merrick Hall.

“It has been a major undertaking to say the least,” said architect Jamie Wyper, former chairman of the Northern Children’s Services board.

What it means

NCS offers a home for homeless teen mothers and their children, providing shelter, food and comfort while guided them through a daily routine that provides communication, life skills and structure.

With a campus that has served its community for 160 years, NCS strives for healthy development of children and stabilization within a family foundation.

In combination with the architectural landscape, Merrick Hall’s restoration plays a significant role when feeding new life into the campus and region. It’s the oldest building on a six-acre campus.

“Its restoration for current needs is a model for cultural and architectural preservation,” said Wyper, principal in the Jacobs Wyper Architects firm. “The exterior restoration will make the building sparkle, and the interior renovation will bring new life – figuratively and literally – to the campus.”

With an aim of continuing to serve its family and expand its capacity, NCS took lessons from its 160-year history.

First learners, now doers

In the midst of their new Generations Campaign, which seeks to raise $4.6 million, NCS called upon corporations and executives for help.

With partners including Wawa ($430,000), IKEA ($300,000) and the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation ($100,000), along with $1.8 million in government grants and $1.7 million in foundation and individual gifts, they stand $500,000 away from reaching their goal.

The campaign will allow NCS to expand services for youths and pregnant teens while doubling the number of beds available for teenage mothers. It will also provide four apartments for permanent, supportive-residential housing for homeless women between the ages of 18 and 23, each with up to two children.

The restoration of Merrick Hall, a 140-year-old building, will result in a three-story facility with eight rooms to accommodate mothers with one or two children.

“We are moving the needle forward on long-standing social issues including poverty, abuse and neglect,” said NCS CEO Tracey Lavallias. “The Merrick project and the expanded Generations Programs will allow us to serve more young women who have faced these issues and deserve a better future.”

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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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