DeKALB – For 62 years, Family Service Agency has been vital to the mental health of DeKalb County residents. Finally, the agency soon will be in a space that will alleviate stress on its employees and, in turn, the people they serve.
FSA executive director Tynisha Clegg and development director Sarah Slavenas donned hard hats Thursday afternoon to give a tour of the former Associated Bank building at 1325 Sycamore Road, which FSA recently bought for $475,000. The building originally was listed at $600,000, Clegg said, but an in-kind donation from the Rosenow family, which sold the property, lowered the purchase price.
FSA’s operations have been shoehorned into the 9,000-square-foot space at 14 Health Services Drive since the building was built in 1970.
“Our staff doesn’t have a break room,” Clegg said.
The new space will be at least 14,000 square feet, and if Clegg and her staff get their wish, the drive-thru will be enclosed, resulting in 17,000 square feet.
“That’s the pie in the sky on our wish list,” she said, adding that she hopes to set aside at least 1,500 square feet of the building for future growth.
“I know they struggle to make it work [in the current location],” said Jesus Romero, who also took the tour. In addition to owning Taxco Mexican Cuisine in Sycamore, he’s a member of the DeKalb County Community Foundation board and a former FSA board member.
He couldn’t stop smiling as he envisioned the possibilities in the new space.
“This is so exciting,” he said.
Clegg said the bank building’s ATM will be shut down Dec. 28, and should the drive-thru be enclosed, FSA will pursue opportunities to rent that space to other community groups for free – so long as FSA isn’t using it at that time.
Before Irving Construction began demolition last week, FSA staffers got a head start – in fact, Clegg said Slavenas and Holly Peifer, director of the Children’s Advocacy Center, kicked some holes in the walls that are to come down.
“Yeah, that was therapeutic,” Slavenas said.
They’re bringing down virtually all of the interior walls in order to create an open, welcoming concept.
That’s vital for both the employees and clients, Slavenas said. What will be significant is going from five interview rooms to 13, allowing the agency to serve clients faster.
“Immediate intervention is everything, especially in cases involving trauma,” Slavenas said.
The agency is going to keep the bank vault for storage. A room on the second floor will be dedicated to abuse victims’ interviews with law enforcement, and it has a separate entrance and stairway, for clients’ privacy.
“That’s tremendous for their privacy,” Romero said. “We wish none of these things happened, but unfortunately, they do. They do happen.”
Whereas Children’s Advocacy Center clients previously needed to go to the county’s health department, 2550 N. Annie Glidden Road, or Rockford for medical examinations, those now will be done in-house.
“We’re trying to eliminate the need for them to go elsewhere so they can have it done here, where they’re comfortable and where our staff has those initial conversations and establishes a relationship,” Clegg said. “A lot of times, they don’t have the means to travel.”
In addition to the Children’s Advocacy Center, FSA’s programs include the Center for Counseling, Youth Mentoring (formerly known as Big Brothers Big Sisters) and Senior Services. In addition to the seniors’ Club 55 programs, FSA recently added Senior Connections, through which residents are matched with seniors to bring more socialization, companionship and fun to their lives.
While FSA hopes to be in the space in October 2019, Clegg said because of the number of inquiries staff was getting since the for-sale sign went up at the current site, she wanted to give a tour of the new site and an update on the timing of the transition.
Steve Irving, who’s run his construction business 50 years, and built notable buildings, such as the DeKalb Police Department, said demolition shouldn’t take more than a month. Then FSA will go out for bids on the build.
“We fully anticipate being in on that bidding process,” he said.
For the demo, he said the company submitted its typical bid for such a project – then removed 100 percent of the profit and overhead, making it a $16,000 job.
“My wife and I and our company, when we can keep our donations in the community, we do it. I couldn’t think of a much better way to give back. My office is across the street, and I’ve lived here my whole life,” Irving said. We’re glad to help them out, to help an agency that serves the community.”
The current location originally was smaller, and it was added onto in the early 1990s. Of late, the leaky roof needed fixing, and even after money was spent on fixing an elevator lift, it’s still a lift, meaning it isn’t conducive to electric wheelchairs, and only can handle up to 600 pounds.
While FSA staff initially had expressed hopes to be in the new building by now, Clegg said it quickly became clear that such a massive transition needed to be done carefully and done right.
“Not having embarked on this project, we hadn’t fully encompassed what it was going to take,” she said.