Workers began pouring a large cement slab around 2:30 a.m. Friday north of Robert. This slab is the foundation upon which a United Methodist Children’s Home will be built.
By day’s end, they had finished pouring the slab for the administrative clinic on the 126-acre property off LA 445. The plan is to pour the rest of the main building’s foundation – the classroom and dormitory area – in about two weeks.
Workers will begin putting up concrete walls and metal studs next week, and by August 2021, the first facility will be ready for move-in, said Doug Hall, lead development officer.
The undeveloped property was purchased in December 2015 to become the Southeast Louisiana site of a premier treatment facility in the middle of 50 percent of the state’s entire population.
“The foundation of regional services in Southeast Louisiana will support a state-of-the-art psychiatric residential treatment facility with an adjacent clinic and administration building,” according to Rick Wheat, president and CEO of Louisiana United Methodist Children and Family Services.
“We’re seeing our dreams coming into reality now,” Hall said. “It will be a place where we will help thousands over the years. Children and families will be ministered to in the years to come.”
“This is definitely a foundation built on a rock of faith,” added Patrick Blanchard, director of development and public relations/ in house counsel.
Despite the economic downtown, pandemic and hurricane this year, the non-profit organization has found the stability and depth to move forward with its multi-million dollar project with the goal of helping children not many others want to help, Blanchard said.
Blanchard said, no matter what, the organization and its supporters are committed to its mission: Guiding children and families home to experience God’s love by following the teachings of Christ.
Relying on faith, the group is confident the project will get fully funded and come together.
The non-profit raised $4 million of the $10 million needed to cover costs for the first two phases of construction. The project consists of five phases.
A line of credit with the Louisiana United Methodist Foundation has been established against their endowment until the other $6 million for the beginning phases can be raised.
“It’s definitely an act of faith, and we believe because the mission is so important that our past experience shows us that God blesses us, and we feel confident that we will continue to receive those blessings,” Blanchard said.
The general contractor, Frank Anzalone, is pleased with how progress is going, Hall said.
Although move-in is still a year away, staff are already excited knowing that the kids will be in a much different facility from the current one.
“Right now we are in a facility in Mandeville that was not designed to be a children’s home. It’s an old psych hospital,” Hall said.
Children who are some of the most abused and neglected in the state will move into a facility specifically designed to address behavior issues and actually encourage them to behave like children, he said.
“No one wants to live in a group home, so if you make it as nice as you can, it makes an unpleasant situation a little less unpleasant,” Blanchard said.
Besides offering some of the best care to these kids, he hopes that the facility and space help the children to regain a little more of their innocence.
“It will be a lot more room for children to be children out there with that much land,” Hall said.