Thompson Child & Family Focus expanding

Todd Cohen

MATTHEWS, N.C. — Continuing its 122-year evolution, Thompson Child & Family Focus is adapting yet again to changing community needs and market forces.

The Matthews-based provider of treatment, care and education for at-risk children and families has merged with The Family Center in Charlotte, and launched a campaign to raise $10 million to develop a new child development center and expand residential facilities to treat mentally-ill children.

The moves will reduce costs and overlapping services, and let the merged agency offer a continuum of residential and community-based services ranging from prevention to intervention, says Ginny Amendum, its president.

Formed in 1886 as an orphanage of the Episcopal Church, Thompson for nearly 100 years focused on providing custodial care for children ages two to 18.

In the 1970s, in the face of changing social needs, the agency began adding services to treat “kids whose lives were in disarray,” says Amendum.

And in the early 1990s, moving beyond its focus on intervention services, Thompson began to develop partnerships with other Charlotte agencies to build programs focused on prevention services.

In 1996, for example, Thompson teamed up with United Way of Central Carolinas, the Junior League of Charlotte and the YMCA of Greater Charlotte to open a child development center on North Davidson Street in northeast Charlotte.

The center, operating 12 hours a day, five days a week, under the umbrella of United Way’s “Success by Six” program, served 100 children and their families at any given time, particularly children with special needs or at risk of developing them, says Amendum, who was hired to launch and direct the center.

The center also serves as a model site that provides “best-practices” technical assistance to other agencies in Mecklenburg, Cabarrus and Union counties, and in Chesterfield County in S.C.

Thompson will locate the new 24,000-square-foot center it is developing with funds from the campaign at West Boulevard and Romare Bearden Drive.

Fryday & Doyne is architect and Rodgers Builders is general contractor for the new center, which will replace the existing facility and serve 150 children.

The campaign, which began its quiet phase in October 2007 and kicked off its public phase in June, had raised $8.6 million by mid-July, including $1 million pledges from The Bank of America Charitable Foundation, The Duke Endowment, Horizon Lines Inc. and the Merancas Foundation, and a $500,000 pledge from The Wachovia Foundation.

Funds from the campaign also will be used to build four cottages at its residential campus in Matthews, increasing by 40 percent to 50 percent the number of children with a range of mental-health disorders that Thompson can treat at any given time.

As a result of the merger, the annual operating budget for the combined organization for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30 will total roughly $12 million and its staff will total 190, representing an initial reduction of $3 million and 10 employees from the combined totals of the two agencies before the merger.

Thompson suspended programming this summer at the Treetops camp that The Family Center owned and operated in South Carolina, and is working to develop a strategic plan for the camp.

And Thompson, which raises $1.5 million a year in operating support through its annual fund and grants, secured $820,000 in pledges for the next five years at its annual fundraising event this spring.

“The intent of the work of Thompson,” Amendum says, “is always to serve the needy among us and always to be a really strong community partner.”

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