Northern Home is Now Northern Children’s Services, Breaks Ground on $4.6 Million CampaignBy Erin Kane |
The updated branding for Northern Children’s Services, formerly Northern Home
Merrick Hall, a two-and-a-half story Italianate mansion, seems to rest sullenly on the tree-lined campus of Northern Children’s Services. Vacant for a decade, the silent, sprawling building is in poor shape, buckling from water damage and years of deferred maintenance — a long departure from its onetime splendor.
Enter the shovels.
In early June, Northern Children’s Services and its partners broke ground on the public phase of a $4.6 million dollar campaign to wholly restore the building, converting it into a multi-unit residence for young mothers and their babies. Wawa, a longtime supporter, pledged the leading commitment of $430,000. The Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation also contributed.
“Merrick Hall is the oldest building on our campus and we’ve looked forward to restoring it to its historic beauty for many years,” says Tracey Lavallias, President and CEO of Northern Children’s Services.
The groundbreaking also served as the public unveiling of the organization’s name change — it was formerly known as Northern Home for Children — a move that reflects a widening scope of services more comprehensive than housing alone.
“The word ‘home,’ was misleading,” says Lavallias, referring to the numerous community-based programs operated by the organization, including a satellite office in Chester, Pa. “Our new name reflects the evolution of who we currently are.”
Spurred by a three-year feasibility study, the rebranding effort is among the ways the 159-year-old organization is seeking to raise its profile. And if the sunny new logo and catchy tagline, “a little more sunshine,” are any indication, the nonprofit is gaining momentum.
A Place to Call Home
Northern Children’s Services provides holistic care through a series of programs, combining child welfare and behavioral health to meet the changing needs of at-risk populations.
The Merrick Hall renovation, slated for completion in summer 2013, will include 12 units — four will be permanent residences — nearly doubling the organization’s capacity to house young mothers and their children on the Roxborough campus.
But the campaign to restore the building into a welcoming residence is a small part of what Northern Children’s Services accomplishes across two counties. On campus, the organization operates two residences for young moms, called Generations I and II. While residents attend school or work, a fully licensed childcare center supports them.
“We are a family,” says Cherenne Peoples, who directs the Generations programs and their ongoing services. “Most of our girls have never had stability in their lives. We offer that.”
Twice a year, Northern Children’s Services invites program alumnae back to campus to celebrate Thanksgiving and Mother’s Day — an effort that encourages strong ties and a family atmosphere. “We support their connection to us,” explains Peoples, “when they are residents in our program and afterward.”
Thinking Outside the Box
While much of the organization’s funding is sourced from the government, “in a changing environment,” says Lavallias, “we need to be more creative in the ways that we support our core programs.”
One of the ways involves the nonprofit’s board, which meets 10 times a year. Each member sits on two committees, a requirement that supports development outputs. Other ideas include the establishment of new collaborations, such as increased school and community-based partnerships.
“Our strategic goals are independent of a formal affiliation or merger,” explains Lavallias, but exploring the potential of a future union remains on the table. “The question we always ask is: how could that add value to what we’re doing?”
Northern Children’s Services also has plans to launch a micro business — such as a coffee shop or possibly a thrift store — staffed by current residents who would gain marketable skills and even discern a career path.
“A for-profit social enterprise would support our efforts to provide high-quality services,” says Lavallias, who aims to transform the organization into a strong regional player. “We need to do business in a different fashion.”blog comments powered by Disqus