It was teeth-chattering cold in February 2018, when workers broke ground on the remodeling of a former bank at 228 Fifth St. SW in Albany. But it began the transformation of a long-empty building into a warm and inviting new home for the ABC House.
Executive director Jennifer Gilmore-Robinson wondered if Thursday afternoon's conditions would be similar to those of a year ago, as large snowflakes fell a couple of hours before a scheduled 3:30 p.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the $3.1 million project’s completion.
Dozens of people gathered under a large covered drive-through area as children, assisted by the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, cut a large red ribbon to celebrate a new era for ABC House, which provides a variety of services for abused children.
“This dedication celebrates weeks, months and years of work from many individuals and groups,” capital campaign co-chair Ralph Scariano said. “We are fortunate to have an executive director with such great vision, along with a staff and board of directors that kept the vision on track and completed the job.”
Scariano introduced his fellow campaign members, chairman Jim Merryman, Dixie Belveal, Carolyn Gardner, Shelly Garrett, Frank Morse, Barbara Stellmacher, Jason Yutzie and Jay Dixon.
Board members are Yutzie and Dixon, Stephenie Martinenko-Ray, Debbi Ray, David Peterson, Valerie Fulleton, Faylene Gardner, Norm Jager, Jeff Kline, Heidi May-Stoulil, Rosa Plascencia, Kori Sarrett and Gordon Vogt.
Yutzie, who chairs the board of directors, said the concept for the new building came during a retreat four years ago.
“We determined we needed more space and we did a small remodeling at the old building,” he said. “We looked at many options, including constructing a new building, then we found this great building. What has been done is amazing.”
Yutzie said a community survey indicated broad support for the proposed campaign, which turned into a $5.1 million effort. That included the purchase and remodel of the building, plus equipment, furniture and increased staff to provide more services over a three-year phase-in.
“I am blown away by the generosity of the people of Linn and Benton counties,” Yutzie said.
As remarkable as the project was, Yutzie said, what was more amazing was what ABC House would be able to do for children.
Gilmore-Robinson said numerous partners made the project possible.
“This building will help children feel safe, welcome and there is a sense of whimsy about it,” she said.
She dedicated the building to “all of the children who have come through ABC House, all of the children who will come through our new ABC House and all who love them. May this be a place of peace, healing and safety.”
“It’s amazing how they took the old bank building and turned it into this beautiful building,” Albany Mayor Sharon Konopa said. “It’s a wonderful asset for Albany and it will help so many children. I’m amazed at how much larger the building is.”
John Kollaer of the Mennonite Village praised the ABC House board members, staff and volunteers for pulling the project together.
“We are truly blessed to have this in our community,” he said.
Linn County Commissioner John Lindsey said he was impressed.
“The location is perfect,” he said. “This is really an impressive thing. It says something about the ABC House staff and volunteers. It’s a shame this type of service is needed, but they did it right. They did a tremendous job. The old building is unrecognizable.”
The new building encompasses 11,000 square feet on two levels. On the first floor are staff offices, counseling rooms, waiting rooms, a large conference room, material services, a community room and a reception area. Occupying the second floor: rooms for medical providers and directors, waiting rooms, examination rooms, conference rooms, laundry, several interview rooms and a play area.
In May 1997, ABC House opened a temporary location at Lebanon Community Hospital and treated 57 children its first year. Last year, ABC House served more than 600 children from Linn and Benton counties, provided counseling to nearly 100 families and helped educate more than 3,000 children and adults about ways to keep children safe.
The building is directly south of the Linn County Courthouse and was purchased for $895,000. With renovation and furniture, the tally came to $3.1 million. ABC's former home is on the market for $799,000 and Gilmore-Robinson said there have been “nibbles” from potential buyers.
The remainder of the campaign funds will be used to increase staff from 14 to 22 over the next three years and triple the number of youth ABC House will be able to counsel.
Visitors were impressed by the hand-glazed ceramic tiles that adorn walls and offices, as well as the ocean-themed murals painted by Corvallis artist Erica Greminer.
Keith Wardrip was the project superintendent and Jordan Gerding was the project manager for Gerding Builders LLC.
Other partners included Broadleaf Architecture, Brothers Plumbing, Comfort Flow, M & W Electric, McGee Engineering, Omlid & Swinney Fire Protection and Security, Paradigm Spaces and Udell Engineering.
Gilmore-Robinson praised project participants, who often pointed out “neat ideas” and then made them happen while staying in budget.
Staff members are: Gilmore-Robinson, executive director; Dr. Carol Chervenak and Dr. Carissa Cousins, medical providers; Erin Ferris, clinical manager; Virginia Corcoran, medical assistant; Sherri Robertson, medical clerical assistant; Esther Friedman, forensic interviewer; Christine Rhea, family advocate; Mary Wickersham, volunteer coordinator; Amy Hulan, counselor; Melissa Whiteman, community prevention coordinator; Glenda Lonstron, development director; Deanna Hubele, development assistant; Itamar Jimenez, receptionist; Mai Shoua, administrative/accounting assistant.