A local child welfare nonprofit will strive to improve outcomes by creating a more efficient and effective environment for children and families at a single integrated campus.
D.A. Blodgett-St. John’s (DABSJ) broke ground Aug. 19 on a $10 million multipurpose facility at 2184 Dean Lake Ave. NE adjacent to the organization’s Knapp Street campus in Grand Rapids, which already houses several separate residential treatment homes. The new building, expected to be complete in late 2022, will serve as the campus cornerstone, integrating services that were previously at three separate locations, Leonard, Knapp and Fuller, under one roof — an intentional move to improve outcomes for the nearly 7,000 children and families the agency serves annually.
Locating all services onto one campus also will save the organization $2 million over the next two decades, according to DABSJ President and CEO Mary Muliett.
Launched in August 2018, the Together for Kids campaign has raised more than $9.8 million toward the $10 million goal with the help of nearly 500 separate donors. The campaign was boosted by a $1 million lead gift from the late David Samrick and his wife, Susan, honorary campaign co-chairs. The Samrick family and their company, Mill Steel, have been longtime DABSJ supporters. A health center within the building will be named the David & Susan Samrick Health & Family Center in their honor.
Integrated Architecture is serving as the project’s architect. Erhardt Construction is the general contractor.
When finished, the integrated campus will feature expanded programming space, administrative offices, and educational and wellness space, including the aforementioned health clinic, family visit rooms, a youth café, activities center, school classrooms, meeting rooms and counseling rooms.
The reconfigured campus also will have upgraded utility systems that will save money over the long term. Additionally, consolidation of services will result in more efficient use of employee time and improve collaboration across the organization, Muliett said.
“I’m super excited for all of our (over 350) team members at D.A. Blodgett-St. John’s … because together we’re so much stronger, and this brings all of us to one space, under one roof,” Muliett said. “We’ll be able to bring forward our mentoring program, behavioral health, family preservation, foster care, adoption programming and our residential treatment all to one space to support kids and families in a continuum of care that D.A. Blodgett-St. John’s has done so well for so many years.”
Muliett said the need remains high in the region for DABSJ’s services. From 2010 to 2016, the rate of children confirmed as victims of abuse or neglect in Michigan increased by 30%. In Kent County last year, more than 1,800 cases of child abuse and neglect were confirmed, and 400 children were removed from their homes because they were no longer safe.
In 2017, DABSJ served 8,784 individuals, and by 2037, that number is expected to grow to 17,568. Muliett said DABSJ will continue to meet the present and future needs of West Michigan’s children and families for safety and well-being with the community’s help.
“In 1887, we responded to a need and never looked back. As we work each day to support children and families in our community, I am grateful and humbled by the nearly 500 donors, supporters and foundations who are making this next chapter a reality.”
The Together for Kids campaign is chaired by Jim Weaver, president, M-Industries; his wife, Barb Weaver, marketing manager, M-Industries; Charles Lott, senior vice president, Wells Fargo Bank, and his wife, Natalie; and Beverly Grant, community volunteer, and her husband, George.
“As we work to provide the very best in programs for vulnerable children and families, I am pleased to be part of an effort that improves outcomes for children from very difficult backgrounds while also saving money over the long term,” Jim Weaver said.
“Demand for our programs is increasing,” Beverly Grant added. “Unfortunately, neglect and abuse of children in Kent County continues, and we need to provide an exceptional safe haven for youth in our area as we remain strong advocates for their care.”
The campaign has received support from local and regional foundations, area businesses and community donors.
“We have been so fortunate to receive gifts to this important campaign,” Charles Lott said. “Our campaign cabinet is so appreciative to the community for their meaningful gifts to help us reach the finish line.”
Barb Weaver described the expansion of DABSJ as “an exceptional opportunity for the community to help build a strong network of support for children and families that are struggling.”
“Consolidating all services helps the organization become more effective and efficient in caring for kids. We know that these children and our community will thrive over time,” she said.
History of D.A. Blodgett-St. John’s
In the 1880s, Grand Rapids was a busy commercial center driven by the lumber industry. Despite the city’s prosperity, an alarming number of children were made homeless and orphaned as epidemics of typhus, diphtheria, scarlet fever and cholera swept through West Michigan. Community leaders called for action. In 1887, a group of Grand Rapids women mobilized under the name of The Children’s Home Society, which soon became the D.A. Blodgett Home for Children. Their leaders were Jennie Blodgett and Emily Clark. Jennie Blodgett’s husband, Delos A. Blodgett, purchased a house for their use, which they soon outgrew. In 1908, Delos Blodgett and the couple’s son, John Blodgett, built a large, red-brick institution on Cherry Street, a building that still stands today.
Not far away, Bishop Henry Richter and the Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids opened St. John’s Home in 1889, also in response to the number of abandoned children. The “castle,” as it was affectionately dubbed, was made possible by the support of John Clancy, a lumberman. Named for Clancy’s patron saint, the agency served the dual purpose of caring for children and housing the motherhouse of the Dominican Sisters Grand Rapids, who were called to staff St. John’s Home. In 1922, the Dominican Sisters’ motherhouse at Marywood was completed, and the Leonard Street building was devoted solely to the residential care of children.
Formed from the merger of D.A. Blodgett for Children and St. John’s Home in 2010, DABSJ supports vulnerable children and struggling families through mentoring, behavioral health and family preservation, foster care, adoption and residential treatment. With the help of community volunteers and through more than 15 programs, DABSJ addresses a wide range of complex needs for kids and families in West Michigan.
BY THE NUMBERS
DABSJ Together for Kids Campaign Budget
Building and campus construction, including large multipurpose facility; parking, landscaping and lighting; walking/biking trail and bridge; and facilities annex: $11 million
Technology, security and phone systems: $300,000
Advancement campaign expenses: $200,000
Project total: $11.5 million
Less Leonard Street campus sale: -$1.5 million
Total campaign goal: $10 million
Total raised: $9.8 million