Sign unveiled for ForKids

Published 9:02 pm Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The former Kelly’s Tavern on West Constance Road is slowly transforming into a regional services center for the ForKids organization, which aids homeless families in the area.

More than 80 people attended a sign unveiling at the building near the city’s busiest intersection on Wednesday.

“We are pleased Suffolk was chosen as the regional hub for Western Tidewater,” Councilman Don Goldberg said at the event.

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The building, once opened, will be a regional hub for Suffolk, Franklin, and Southampton and Isle of Wight counties. ForKids staff will work at the building, but it will not be an overnight shelter, and few clients will come to the building to seek help. Rather, staff at the building will put clients up in motels and work with them to find permanent housing.

The organization also provides job skills assistance, school advocacy, summer camps and other help.

“The ultimate goal is to find them employment and a home of their own,” said George Birdsong, who is leading the capital campaign to raise the $1.8 million needed to renovate the building. “This office gets busy finding them a permanent place, but you don’t go into this building to spend the night.”

Birdsong touted ForKids’ success rate in improving the outlook for families. Last year, 98 percent of families exited the program to permanent housing. About 93 percent of kids in those families advanced to the next grade in school. And ForKids achieved these results with about 14 percent overhead, he said.

Chief Executive Officer Thaler McCormick said the new center will be important to help the community connect with ForKids.

“I have stayed 21 years, because I met our families and I was changed,” she said. “This center really is for the community of Suffolk. We would not be able to do this and be here today without our community supporters and volunteers.”

The organization serves about 30 to 35 families a week in Suffolk and Western Tidewater and receives more than 1,300 calls for service here, McCormick said.