After several years of strategic planning and ambitious fundraising, UCAN debuted our new $26 million Therapeutic Youth Home for Department of Children and Family Services youth on Thursday, Aug. 6 at 10:30 a.m. with a ribbon cutting ceremony on UCAN’s new Drost Harding Campus. The facility, located at 3640 W. Fillmore St., is an integral part of UCAN’s commitment to serving DCFS youth and to becoming a greater community-based asset by offering youth programs and violence prevention initiatives.
Guests toured the spacious three-story facility that comprises Phase 1 of the two-phase project on the seven-acre campus. Youth will move from UCAN’s Residential facility on the northwest side into the new facility in late August. Phase II of the project has started for the John D. and Alexandra C. Nichols Program Center. Once completed in spring 2016, the entire campus will accommodate more than 250 UCAN employees.
The new Therapeutic Youth Home is one of the largest capital projects in North Lawndale in recent memory and can accommodate up to 70 youth. It provides a safe, structured living arrangement for youth who have suffered trauma and neglect, and was designed to prepare youth to transition and live successfully in a less structured, more home-like setting through individualized treatment.
Our Ribbon Cutting Ceremony featured UCAN CEO Tom VandenBerk; George Sheldon, acting director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services; Ald. Michael Scott Jr. (24th); George Drost, UCAN Life Trustee; and Sylvia Davis, UCAN alumna; among other speakers.
To meet the current and future needs of at-risk youth and youth in care, the 51,000-square foot Therapeutic Youth Home features: kitchen and group therapy rooms on every living unit; single bedrooms and bathrooms; a computer lab; spacious game room, weight room and media room; enhanced art therapy space; multi-use gymnasium; green space for outdoor recreation; fenced and secured campus grounds to help ensure privacy; healing and organic gardens to promote peace and tranquility; and improved lighting.
The Drost Harding Campus, named after prominent Chicago-area families who generously supported the project, is being constructed in two phases. The second phase features the new John D. and Alexandra C. Nichols Program Center that is under construction and scheduled to open next spring. The community-based campus will enable UCAN to provide expanded outreach services focusing on youth leadership, violence interruption/prevention, clinical and counseling services, mentoring, case management, family support services and workforce development. Youth will be tracked via the Peace Hub, a collaborative violence prevention initiative led by UCAN that was launched by a five-year, $1 million commitment from the Boeing Corporation.
Guests representing the city of Chicago, Cook County, foundations, nonprofits, elected officials, UCAN benefactors and staff, and North Lawndale residents and business owners will take a self-guided tour of the building, and be greeted by UCAN youth who will reside in the facility.
“This much-awaited ribbon cutting event is the culmination of years of commitment by many dedicated people who had a very forward-looking vision for our youth. Our supporters and partners are to be congratulated for their financial commitments, resourcefulness, creativity and old-fashioned hard work. We couldn’t be prouder of this beautiful facility that will serve as both an oasis and launching pad for our youth,” said UCAN Governing Board Chairman Rick Fleming.
UCAN CEO Tom Vanden Berk added: “Our boards foresaw that UCAN’s current Residential facility had outlived its usefulness and was quickly becoming obsolete. We all knew that our youth deserved and needed a better environment to become our future leaders. I am incredibly thankful to our boards, UCAN staff, our generous funders and the project team that turned our vision into a reality. UCAN now is well positioned for many years to come to build strong youth and families through compassionate healing, education and empowerment.”
UCAN President and COO Zack Schrantz said the $39 million organization’s strategic move to North Lawndale complements various youth-oriented programs and programs that UCAN managed in the community before campus construction began.
“Whether it has been our management of the Safe Passages program in North Lawndale in partnership with Chicago Public Schools or our impactful 360 Violence Prevention programs in area schools, we know that our ever-expanding relationships in this community will continue to be a win-win proposition for everyone involved,” said Schrantz. “We have been an active and visible partner in the community and plan to expand that role after we move into our new headquarters on the campus next year.”