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Boys' shelter readies to open

September 23, 2009
Several months of hard work soon will pay off, when Blue River Services moves its Wyandotte House for boys into a new facility in Corydon.

The 3,700-square-foot facility is finished and will be ready for occupation when licensing is issued early next month.

James L. Shireman Construction built the structure, which is designed to house up to 10 boys — two to each bedroom. The facility has two wings, with bedrooms in each wing. It also is equipped with a large laundry room, where the boys will do their own laundry, kitchen, exercise room, study room, manager's office with an observation window, and outdoors garden spot that will be tended by the boys.

The new building also is equipped with sprinklers, a fire alarm system and surveillance cameras and is handicapped accessible.

"Our old Wyandotte House was actually built to be a home, not a shelter," BRS President and CEO Daniel Lowe said. "It served our purpose for a long time, but the number of referrals have increased and we needed more room."

The old shelter, also in Corydon, housed both male and female teenagers for a while, but a new facility for girls was built several months ago. When funding became available, construction was started on a new facility for boys.

"First Harrison Bank donated $10,000 for the building and provided us with a construction loan," Lowe said. "We also received a Community Development Block Grant the county commissioners applied for. The Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis and the Community Foundation of Harrison County provided the rest of the funding.

"As soon as we move into the new building, we'll be selling the old house," he said. "It's a great location, but we no longer need it, and we've decided to put it on the market.

"This program has come a long way. The Harrison-Crawford Juvenile Task Force were the original founders of this program. They came to us and wanted us to step in and continue their mission. We really appreciate all they did. But our beds were all full and it was time to upgrade to this facility."

Tara Gooteé Allen oversees the shelters and youth services at BRS.

"It's going to be great having more space," she said. "We're extremely happy about it. We'll be able to house up to 10 boys here, which will be mainly 15-to-17-year-olds.

"The boys have worked real hard helping move all the furniture and getting things set up," she said. "They also give back through community service. They volunteer at the animal shelter and the food pantry, and they got a grant through the Youth Philanthropy Council and the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana for a program they call Random Acts of Kindness. If the kids see a need in the community, they can vote on meeting that need."

The youths can work to repair playgrounds, furnish clothes or shoes to someone in need or work on other community projects. The girls at Wyandotte also help in the community on projects like the memory garden located at the Harrison Township Fire Department.

Youths who are housed at Wyandotte House attend classes at their regular school. If for some reason that's not feasible, they can attend the alternative school or can work toward earning a GED. The program has a tutor come to the center four days a week after school, and drug counseling is available for those who need it. The kids can have family visits three times each week.

"These are not bad kids," Allen said. "We don't get kids with severe problems. These are good kids who have made bad decisions."

Jason Smith, 18, has been in the program for seven months.

"It's been a great help," he said. "I love it here. It's a stress-free environment, and I don't get in trouble. I'm now on the fire department, and I plan to go into the Army."

"I like it, too," Aaron Bratton, 18, said. "I've been here 45 days. There's lots of benefits here. I got my GED, and I've started taking CNA classes at Ivy Tech. The people here have been a great influence."

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