ABC House Executive Director Jennifer Gilmore-Robinson gets almost giddy when she talks about progress on renovations of the organization’s new office complex at 228 Fifth St. SW in Albany.
“This is something that has been our goal since I was hired six years ago,” she said. “This will allow us to double our capacity to provide services to children.”
ABC House provides services to abused children and counseling to families. Founded 21 years ago, it treated 57 children in its first year of operation. Last year, it served more than 600 from Linn and Benton counties, provided counseling services to nearly 100 families and helped educate more than 3,000 children and adults on ways to help keep kids safe.
Gilmore-Robinson said the 11,000-square-foot building, which was built in the 1980s to house a bank, is ideally located south of the Linn County Courthouse. It also provides access for clients from both counties.
The current ABC House office encompasses 4,600 square feet of space. Due to space and staff limitations, there can be delays of up to two to three weeks for medical exams and trauma counseling.
Jordan Gerding is the project manager and Keith Wardrip the project superintendent for Gerding Builders LLC.
ABC House design team partners are: Broadleaf Architecture, Brothers Plumbing, Comfort Flow, Gerding Builders, M&W Electric, McGee Engineering, Omlid & Swinney Fire Protection & Security, Paradigm Spaces and Udell Engineering.
“We’re on schedule and everything is rolling forward for a Dec. 26 completion,” Gerding said.
The exterior of the two-story building has been stripped and new walls are sprouting up throughout both levels.
Gilmore-Robinson said one of the building's unique features is a covered drive-through area providing clients with added privacy.
“I’m especially pleased that we are able to take a building that has been empty for four or five years and repurpose it into something that is going to help children for many, many years to come,” she said.
The ABC House board of directors had been searching for a new office for some time and had considered constructing a new building, but the price tag was too steep, Gilmore-Robinson said.
Planning began in earnest in 2014.
The new building was purchased for $895,000 and the total project cost — including equipment and furnishings — is targeted at $3.1 million.
“But that’s all part of a $5.1 million campaign that will include expanding staff from 14 to 22 over three years to be able to provide our expanded services,” Gilmore-Robinson said. “We have enough space in the new building to be working with two children or patients at a time and still maintain confidentiality.”
She said the facility is being designed and constructed based on colors and styles — even the widths of hallways — that professionals say are nonthreatening to traumatized children.
“We will have a marine theme throughout,” she said. “We want it to be whimsical and soothing.”
A portion of the campaign funds will also be used as seed money in an endowment for long-term maintenance projects. The campaign has raised $3.9 million so far.
Gilmore-Robinson said the new building will also feature the Karly Sheehan playroom, named for a 3-year-old child who died in 2005 as the result of abuse by her birth mother’s boyfriend. Karly's father, David Sheehan, and his current wife, Liz Sokolowski, held a fundraiser in January that brought in $28,000 to create the playroom.
The first floor of the new office will house staff offices, waiting rooms, counseling rooms and a community room. The second floor will feature waiting rooms, an advocate room, medical provider rooms, conference rooms, interview rooms and a laundry, plus play areas for children.
“I really like that there is so much light on the second floor,” she said. “It feels so open, safe. It’s not scary.”
Gilmore-Robinson said the project’s funds are going further thanks to donations from many participants, from the building's former owners to contractors, architects and suppliers.
Gilmore-Robinson said 1 in 4 children will be abused in their lifetime.
To learn more about ABC House or to donate to its campaign drive, visit www.abchouse.org, or call 541-248-3978.