NORMAN — Standing outside in the August heat of Oklahoma is not a usual Thursday morning activity for most — unless it’s for a good cause.
The crowd of about 50 individuals that gathered outside the former site of Immanuel Baptist Church, 210 S. Cockrel Ave., didn’t seem put off by the rising temperatures. In fact, the crowd acted as cheerleaders for a growing nonprofit.
Center for Children & Families officially broke ground on a $3.5 million project Thursday morning that will revamp the former church into a larger facility to house the United Way of Norman agency.
CCFI Executive Director Katie Fitzgerald announced at the groundbreaking that the project would take exactly one year.
“In addition to breaking ground on this building today, CCFI is extremely excited to announce that we have received a $500,000 challenge gift from the J.E. and L.E Mabee Foundation. With this challenge gift, we are at 60 percent, or at $2 million, of our $3.5 million Champions for Children Campaign goal,” Fitzgerald said. “However, we have only 11 months to raise another $1.5 million in order to receive the Mabee match and complete this campaign and project. We need you. We need the community like we never have before.”
When complete, the new 24,000-square-foot facility will serve 500 more children and parents annually by 2016, double the number of service hours CCFI can provide to individual clients, integrate services under one roof to improve client engagement and retention, offer a children’s therapeutic area, update therapy observation rooms, accommodate more items into the agency’s Baby Pantry, offer outdoor therapeutic playgrounds for children ages 0-12 and more.
Currently, CCFI is housed in a 9,000-square-foot space inside the Community Services Building at 1151 E. Main St. but borrows 25,000 additional square feet per week in the community.
“In getting to this moment, we have experienced nothing short of a series of small miracles. The fact that we are standing here today, about to put shovels in the ground, is without question, a moment of true providence for CCFI and our community,” Fitzgerald said. “We also want to recognize and appreciate Immanuel Baptist Church, the previous owner of this facility. The church believed in our vision and worked with us over the past year to transition what was for so long their sacred space into our sacred space, and we are most grateful.”
Cindy Merrick, Champions for Children Campaign co-chair, said during the groundbreaking that she was beyond thrilled about the expansion.
“For almost 45 years, CCFI has been here every day, year in and year out, for the children of our community. And we have had a tremendous impact. Every year, we help over 80 percent of the teen parents we work with graduate from high school,” she said. “The national rate is 40 percent. In 2012, we graduated 94 percent of our eligible senior teen parents.
“Since 2007, we have stabilized foster care placements for over 90 percent of the highly traumatized children we serve. And, we have dramatically reduced juvenile crime and delinquency in the neighborhoods where CCFI provides out-of-school services, in some cases by 80 percent.”
Since 1969, CCFI, formerly named Juvenile Services Inc., has partnered with schools, neighborhoods, donors, public agencies and families to provide education, prevention and treatment services for families.
CCFI offers strength-based programs and services to aid and educate families coping with abuse, neglect, divorce, separation, teenage pregnancy, a lack of quality, out-of-school care and/or other adverse experiences.
For more information about making a donation, call Erin Barnhart, CCFI resource director, at 364-1420, email her at email@example.com or visit ccfinorman.org.