ForKids purchases Kelly’s building

Published 9:26 pm Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A regional organization that helps homeless families has purchased a prominent restaurant location in Suffolk and plans to turn the building into a regional services center for Western Tidewater.

ForKids recently purchased Kelly’s Tavern, 119 W. Constance Road, and has kicked off the organization’s first capital campaign in its 29-year history to help pay for the cost of the building and renovating it.

“We need to have a facility in Suffolk to serve the greater Western Tidewater region,” said ForKids Chief Executive Officer Thaler McCormick. “This really is a very conscious decision to stay in Suffolk and make a long-term investment in Western Tidewater.”


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For McCormick, the purchase brings a part of her career with ForKids full circle.

She remembers having a lunch meeting at Kelly’s regarding the former Center for Hope and New Beginnings, which operated a family shelter on Finney Avenue in Suffolk. ForKids took on that building in 2008 and began operating a shelter there, later transitioning the building to an office and location for after-school programs when ForKids moved to a hotel-based model of housing homeless families in Western Tidewater.

While the Finney Avenue shelter was able to house about six families per night, McCormick said, the hotel model was able to serve about 35 families per night. ForKids worked to move families into other housing as soon as possible by providing services such as rental assistance, educational and employment services and more.

ForKids also has after-school programs, including tutoring, for children, which currently take place at the Finney Avenue location. McCormick said volunteers have been reluctant to come to that location in the evenings, because they do not feel the neighborhood is safe.

“They’re very much the heart and soul of our programs,” McCormick said of the volunteers.

The organization decided to seek a new location that was prominently located and easily accessible by public transportation.

The former Kelly’s location will not serve as a shelter, McCormick said. The 7,000-square-foot building will serve as a larger office space for employees to work, provide a larger and more welcoming space for after-school programs and allow the organization to receive and process donations of clothing and other items there.

It will house counseling rooms, meeting space and classrooms with upgraded technology for tutoring and adult education, McCormick added.

McCormick said the Finney Avenue location will be placed on the market, and the proceeds from the sale will go toward the capital campaign.

The organization hopes to raise about $2 million for the Suffolk Regional Services Center, which will serve Suffolk, Franklin, Isle of Wight and Southampton. George Birdsong, chief executive officer of the Birdsong Corporation, is the chair of the campaign committee.

A larger capital campaign with a goal of $14 million will also include a new regional family shelter at a location yet to be determined, as well as an endowment to fund future services and facility needs.

McCormick said close to $450,000 has already been raised for the campaign for the Suffolk center. Renovations will begin once a majority of the campaign goal has been pledged, she added.

“We’re excited to make this investment in Suffolk,” she said, adding the organization anticipates more community involvement with the more prominent location. “We really wanted to be able to put down permanent roots.”