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December 17, 2013

Youth Shelter opens to public

DUNCAN — Youth Services of Stephens County opened the new youth shelter to the public Sunday, and the first children to stay there are expected Dec. 23.

Plans to build a new shelter have been discussed for several years, but the idea didn’t grow legs until land was donated for the purpose in 2008. In the following years, Youth Services Board, with help from the community, worked to raise more than $1 million to build the home without having to accrue debt. Leading into fundraising, the board members all vowed to remain on the board until the project was completed.

“Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to raise a house,” Barbra Davis, youth shelter director, said. “This began primarily as a dream. The women with the shelter presented it to the Youth Services board and the Youth Services director. They supported the dream.”

Davis said a lot of people have been involved in the fundraising efforts and the building process. She said the community’s support has been a large factor in getting the shelter built.

John Herdt, youth services executive director, said this project has been a long time coming. The youth shelter has been in the same house since 1979, and the desire to build a new location has continued to grow substantially in the past decade.

“It’s fantastic,” Herdt said about the new shelter. “It’s come together. I’ve been the director of the agency for almost 31 years. It finally came about with lot of help from the community.”

The home contains a boys’ wing, a girls’ wing and a nursery. The boys’ and girls’ wings consist of multiple bedrooms, each with two beds. Each wing also has a bathroom.

The primary living space has an open floor plan, which allows children to be seen from the kitchen area and around the living room. A play area is set up for smaller children with half doors so they can be contained and supervised. The pantry serves as a safe room in case of severe weather.

The house contains doors to shut off the main sections of the home from the front entry. Included in the entry area is a counseling room and a restroom.

For Davis, the new home has responded to all the needs she has recognized. There are a few things remaining on the project, including the addition of wooden blinds, the construction of a basketball court and the placement of a exterior storage building.

“This has truly been a collaborative effort of the staff, board and community at large,” Davis said. “We are going to do incredible things at 810 N. Fifth. This inspires us to never give up and work hard for what you want.”

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