The Wichita Children’s Home, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, is in need of an upgrade, officials say.
After being awarded a $1 million challenge grant from the Mabee Foundation, the organization is one step closer to accomplishing that goal, said Sarah Robinson, CEO of the home.
“We realized we need to keep up with the needs of the children,” Robinson said. “We need to redesign to better meet those needs.”
When the building at 810 N. Holyoke originally was constructed in 1963, it was designed as a long-term shelter for children, Robinson said. In recent years, it has become more of a crisis care center, where children typically do not stay for longer than 60 days. Children who are abused or neglected find shelter at the home, Robinson said. It sees around 1,500 children every year, from “little bitty babies to 17-year-olds,” she said.
“We’re the front door to the system,” Robinson said. “Most do go home eventually; some go to foster care.”
Funds from the grant will go not only toward a new Children’s Home, but also a Multi-Purpose Center and Bridges Apartments – temporary housing for homeless and abandoned 16- to 22-year-olds.
The program, which was started in 1992, was designed as a “safe place for them to grow into adulthood,” Robinson said. It provides educational services and vocational training. This past year, all 25 youth who were eligible to graduate either did so, or they received GEDs, Robinson said. Once they have found jobs and are on their feet, people with the program help them find a home, Robinson said.
“We teach them independent living skills like cooking and how to ride the bus,” Robinson said. “Budget, budget, budget.”
The proposed new facilities will include a day care, exercise facilities, classroom space and a teaching kitchen, she said.
In order to be eligible for the challenge grant, the home first must raise $7.3 million by Jan. 8, which includes pledges paid over a five-year period. After applying the $1 million grant, it must raise an additional $700,000 to accomplish its capital expansion goal. Fundraising is just now starting, Robinson said, and the home will rely on donations from the community.
“We’re one of the community’s oldest charitable organizations,” Robinson said. “We want to help them see our vision – see how much this will benefit these kids.”
For more information or to make a donation, visit the Wichita Children’s Home website at www.wch.org.