Epworth Village to open home for girls
Editor’s Note: the following is written by Melanie Wilkinson, York News-Times managing editor, and is printed courtesy of the York News-Times.
Harrietta Reynolds, Epworth Village CEO, has announced that the entity will be opening a home for girls in two months.
Epworth Village has historically only housed boys – so this will be a major change for the agency. The last time Epworth provided even temporary residential services for girls was in 1990.
Reynolds describes changes at Epworth as being “very exciting,” as the agency has been in rebuilding mode over the course of the last eight months.
“There is a great amount of excitement and hope,” Reynolds said, crediting the reformed board of directors for working to help make this happen. “They have stepped out and said yes, we can do this.”
Reynolds said the target date for the girls’ arrival is May 1.
They will be housed in the Dinsdale Building, which is a building constructed in 2009. The building is a residential site in which each client will have her own room.
This facility, on the Epworth campus, has been empty for several years – with the exception of a short stint during which the Child Advocacy Center had a satellite office there.
“We are starting the hiring process now,” Reynolds said, noting they will be “starting out small and growing over time. We will take five girls to start, iron out all the wrinkles and train, train, train our staff. We are looking to hire eight behavioral interventionalists. These people will be with the girls in the cottage and at the school.”
Reynolds said the girls will be between the ages of 14 and 18.
With the arrival of girls will also come changes at the Epworth School. She said they are redoing the bathrooms there, to accommodate both girls and boys, as this will be the first time the school is co-ed.
“There is a great need for residential care for girls, especially in the part of the state west of Lincoln,” Reynolds said. “These girls will come from all over the state, through the probation system as the boys now do as well. With the changes in the state, they will come with a probation officer rather than a case worker through Health and Human Services.
“As a United Methodist organization, we are looking to develop more private funding so we are not completely reliant on state funding,” Reynolds explained.
That reliance on state funding greatly impacted Epworth in the last few years – as well as others in the state, as 30-35 other similar agencies closed. While Epworth’s staff had to be trimmed from approximately 150 people down to 46, the York agency was able to stay open and begin the rebuilding process. Reynolds attributes that to “a hard working board, gracious donations and a whole lot of prayer. Over the last 1 ½ years, we have been doing an extensive outreach to churches, asking for funds.”
And there have been some incredible donations.
“I called Roy and Gloria Dinsdale (who were the original contributors for the Dinsdale facility on campus years ago) and I told them we were considering opening the facility for girls. They were very open and appreciative. And then last Friday, I got a check from them for $40,000 to start this process.”
For others who want to help Epworth, Reynolds suggests they first go to the entity’s website to see the services that are offered here.
“We are asking churches to accept us as their mission project,” Reynolds explained.
“When people think of missionary work, they often think about work done overseas, and yes, that is greatly needed. But we have needs right here in Nebraska, children not being served, broken families. We have the structure to help them now and we need people praying for us. We are based upon the teachings of Christ – he reached out to the left-out ones and the vulnerable ones. That is our mission here – but we need to pay our bills and pay our staff to make that happen.”
Reynolds says the commitment is strong. “We have some very skilled and committed people working here and we are committed to training and giving them the tools to succeed here, no matter the position they hold. There are no easy jobs here and it is a calling.”
Reynolds said a walk-through was conducted of the Dinsdale building, “and we have all the furniture we need. We want to get some real mattresses – but we have mostly everything we need physically to get started. Our biggest needs right now – prayer and financial gifts.”
She said Epworth is currently licensed for 12 girls and 12 boys – and starting out slowly, on building up to those numbers, is key. Currently, there are 10 boys residing at Epworth Village. Reynolds said they are “taking the boys we are equipped and staffed to serve.
“We want to do this right,” Reynolds said. “We are looking at quality of care, rather than quantity now. All the youth here will attend our school, they will receive individual therapy at least once a week, as well as group therapy and family therapy if they have families.
“We are working on adding a music program, as well as a spiritual program. We are really looking forward to the future.”
“Change is hard, but we need to change and we need to look at the positives,” Reynolds said. “Everyone deserves a chance at a positive life – there is a place for everyone in the choir. The growth here in the last eight months or so has really been a miracle, as well as a result of many people working together. People are being called to raise this place up. Epworth can really make a big impact on children’s lives.”
(Photo Dinsdale Cottage) News-Times/Melanie Wilkinson - The Dinsdale Building, which was built in 2009 on the Epworth Village campus, has been closed for several years. That’s about to change as plans are underway to open it as a residential facility for girls in May.