(GRAND RAPIDS, MI.) Today, D.A. Blodgett - St. John’s (DABSJ) cuts the ribbon on its 43,000 square feet, $13.9m headquarters facility on the organization’s expanded 36-acre wooded campus at 2172 Dean Lake Avenue in Northeast Grand Rapids. The new two-story building serves as the nonprofit’s administrative hub and integrates all children and family services into one location, a first since the 2010 merger that brought together D.A. Blodgett for Children and St. John’s Home into one entity.
A public ribbon cutting ceremony featuring remarks from organization leaders, campaign officials, local dignitaries and representatives from the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce will be held at 5pm, followed by a public open house at 6pm
Combined, the 136-year old organization impacts 14,000 people annually while also saving $2m over the next two decades by consolidating operations into one central facility.
The integrated campus features expanded programming space, administrative offices, health and family clinic, community meeting space, gymnasium and educational and wellness space for the children and families supported by the organization.
The building contains many intentional features that may be easily overlooked by the public but are incredibly impactful to the youth and families served at the facility. As many youth that enter the facility have experienced trauma, DABSJ worked diligently to provide subtle, inclusive touches such as:
- Accessible playground to accommodate all children and parents.
- Sensory calming spaces throughout the building
- Specialized furniture
- Sensory garden
- Multiple entrances to ensure dignity.
“This facility was built with 100% focus on the needs of children and families. It was done in a way that provides dignity and respect for their experience,” said India Manns, chairperson of the DABSJ board of directors. “I was absolutely amazed by the level of detail put forth by the DABSJ team to ensure this facility is a comfortable space for everyone. Most importantly, to those we serve.”
Erhardt Construction served as construction manager and Integrated Architecture served as the project architect.
The reconfigured campus provides critical operating space, a centralized medical clinic, and classrooms, and utilizes upgraded utility systems that will save dollars over the long term. Additionally, by consolidating services from multiple campuses, the new facility will reinforce efficient employee time and improved collaboration across the organization and with partners, which ultimately results in better outcomes for children and their families.
To honor the organization’s deep history spanning back to 1887, a two-story history wall will reside in the staff entrance. The display includes a nod to the Dominican Sisters, who cared for children at St. John’s Home for more than 80 years. As well, a pillar from the original Blodgett family estate resides in the entrance. A history committee helped uncover archives that will be incorporated into this area.
“Years ago, the organization dreamed of uniting the DABSJ team and services into one facility, innovatively designed to meet the needs of children and families,” said Mary Muliett, president and chief executive officer at DABSJ. “Today, that dream has been realized. Having one physical space that is integrated and responsive, matches our standard for what children and families need and deserve.”
Launched in August of 2018, the Together for Kids campaign surpassed its $10m fundraising goal with $11.1m raised with the help of over 500 community donors, local businesses, and area foundations. The campaign was boosted by the late David Samrick and his wife Susan, honorary campaign chairs, as they donated a $1m lead gift. The Samrick family and their company, Mill Steel, have been long time DABSJ supporters. A health center within the building is named the David & Susan Samrick Health & Family Center. An additional very generous lead gift was provided by K.D. Elenbaas, who requested the education wing of the building be named in honor of former St. John’s Home leaders Dave VanRooy and Mark Thomson.
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,” said Jim Weaver.
“Demand for our programs is increasing,” said Beverly Grant, “Unfortunately, neglect and abuse of children in Kent County continue, and we need to provide an exceptional safe haven for youth in our area as we remain strong advocates for their care. This new space provides just that.”
Aside from lead donors, the campaign has received broad support from local and regional foundations, area businesses, and generous community donors.
“We have been so fortunate to receive so many gifts to this important campaign,” said Charles Lott. “Our campaign cabinet is so appreciative to the community for their meaningful gifts to help us open this world-class facility.”
“This campaign has been an exceptional opportunity for the community to learn about and help build a strong network of support for children and families that are struggling,” said Barb Weaver. “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.”
Formed from the merger of D.A. Blodgett for Children and St. John’s Home in 2010, DABSJ impacts over 14,000 lives annually through behavioral health, family preservation, foster care, adoption, and residential treatment services. With the help of community volunteers and through more than 15 programs, DABSJ addresses a wide range of complex needs for children and families in West Michigan, striving every day to build an ever stronger community.