When Jennifer White envisioned an “Extreme Makeover” for a youth resource center to help homeless teens, she didn’t expect anything quite this extreme.
About 100 volunteers showed up in November to clean out an old church that will serve as a new home to a center to help runaway and exploited teens. Wichita businesses and churches have responded by practically rebuilding the inside of the new center at 11th and Emporia.
“The response has just been awesome,” said White, organizer of ICT SOS, a volunteer community organization created last spring. It formed so that concerned residents could help professionals and law enforcement fight local human trafficking.
A new kitchen, new floors, new ceiling and new paint have been added to the site since November, White said.
White originally thought individual volunteers would shoulder all the work in refurbishing the center, which will serve as a base for the Wichita Children’s Home’s Street Outreach services program, which helps vulnerable teens.
Then Bauer & Sons Construction stepped in to help with some of the major refurbishing projects.
Star Lumber put it in a new kitchen. Gracepoint Church stepped in with new flooring. David Rader of Meadowland Fine Remodeling is installing cabinets. A&H Electric,. Floyd Plumbing added their expertise in the restoration of the old building. Bell Mirror replaced windows. ACT Inc. is power-washing the place. Razooks Furniture, Cohlmia Furniture, His Helping Hands, and Habitat for Humanity have provided materials, expertise and labor for the center’s opening next month.
Officials at the Wichita Children’s Home say that without organizations such as ICT SOS and its volunteers, resources such as the youth center would have taken much longer.
The group hopes to finish the center with a volunteer workday at 9 a.m. Jan. 16 — Martin Luther King Day — to help put on final touches.
Volunteer Kansas said the workday includes helping assemble donated furniture, put books on shelves, store supplies, hand art and decorate the center.
The center hopes to begin accepting teens the next day.
The building will give teens more than a place to seek refuge from the streets, find food, do their laundry and take showers.
It will also provide a space for social workers who will connect youth to housing and local services.
Research shows that runaway and homeless teens are most at risk to be lured or forced into domestic human trafficking. By helping them get off the streets, social workers and law enforcement hope to help prevent teens from being preyed upon by those who would put children into forced labor and commercial sex.