Campus taking shape for women in crisis

The Rev. Tony Marciano
The Rev. Tony Marciano

Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Every other Wednesday for the past 18 months, volunteers and staff from the Charlotte Rescue Mission and United Family Services have met at 7:30 a.m. to  plan the development of a new 11-acre campus that will house two new facilities, one for each group, to serve women in crisis.

The collaboration has yielded big cost savings, will produce improved services and could lead to some joint efforts in operating the campus, officials of the two groups says.

“The two agencies get along well together, and have a great deal of respect for one another, and a great deal of trust with each other,” says the Rev. Tony Marciano, executive director  of the Charlotte Rescue Mission.

Marciano suggested the collaboration after the Rescue Mission had purchased 11 acres, twice the space it needed, for a new 90-bed facility to replace its 12-bed Dove’s Nest program for women with substance-abuse problems.

United Family Services at the time was looking for a site for a new 80-bed shelter to replace the 29-bed shelter it operates in a county-owned facility.

So for the past year-and-a-half, a building committee that includes representatives of both agencies, as well as volunteers the two groups recruited with expertise in land development and construction, has met regularly to address issues such as the location of a storm-water retention pond, of water, sewer and utility lines, and of entrances to the property.

Marciano estimates the joint site-development work alone has saved his agency well over $100,000.

And Jean Davis, interim CEO at United Family Services, says the collaboration has saved the agency up to $1 million.

After expecting to pay as much as $1 million for land alone, the agency paid only $350,000 to the Charlotte Rescue mission to buy half its 11-acre site.

And lawyers for both agencies donated $140,000 of pro-bono legal services to the collaborative effort.

Volunteers have been critical to the collaboration.

On a pro-bono basis, for example, Crowder Construction is providing an employee who will serve as project manager overseeing site development for the entire campus.

And the company’s president, Bill Crowder, serves on the building committee, along with Trey Dempsey, vice president of development at Lincoln Harris, who spearheaded the environmental analysis for the site; Tim Garrison, president of construction firm RT Dooley; Tim Mahoney, senior vice president at Wells Fargo Corporate Properties Group; and Chris Thomas, a partner in  retail division at Childress Klein.

Both agencies are in the midst of separate campaigns to raise $10 million each.

The Charlotte Rescue Mission has raised $6.8 million and expects to open its facility in May 2012.

The expansion will enable the agency for the first time to accept who have custody of their children.

United Family Services has raised over $4.9 million and could open the facility late in 2012 if it continues raising money at its current pace.

At United Family Services’ new shelter, women, including those with children, will be able to stay for up to one year, compared to a maximum of 30 days at the agency’s current shelter.

The new shelter also will give the agency space to offer more programs to women “to ensure they get a fresh start,” Davis says.

While each group has conducted its own fundraising, they have teamed up to host events to raise awareness about the needs of women in crisis.

As a result of one of those events, Wachovia on Sept. 30 hosted a fundraising event for both agencies that also aimed to raise awareness about the needs of women and opportunities for volunteering.

“Collaboration,” says Davis, “takes a relationship based on trust and experience together.”

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