BEMIDJI – Ben Stowe was more than happy to help Evergreen Youth & Family Services move into its new location.
“They fed me and they housed me,” he said. “There’s a tremendous debt there.”
Stowe, who now owns and operates a very successful local business, NLFX Professional, was one of Evergreen’s clients years ago. As a teenager, the nonprofit provided him housing through its Transitional Living Program, which offers safe housing for young adults living on their own.
“I look around, at my beautiful wife, my beautiful kids, my 20-year-old company; I wouldn’t have any of that if I had to navigate my way on the streets,” said Stowe, the father of three. “The program has benefitted me richly by allowing me to get into this life, the next chapter.”
Stowe noted that he has great parents and was raised in a good home, but during his teen years, he needed to spread his wings.
“Sometimes, it’s just mutually agreeable to leave,” he said, adding that he neither ran away nor was kicked out. “Sometimes it’s just time.”
So, when Stowe learned earlier this year that Evergreen was relocating its headquarters into a new location and needed a new video-surveillance system, he offered to install the technology at no charge to the nonprofit.
He was among many local supporters who came together to help the nonprofit relocate to its new site, 610 Patriot Drive NW, just north of the intersection of Anne Street and Irvine Avenue.
The relocation moved the youth drop-in center and Evergreen’s business offices, along with Evergreen programs including Independent Living Skills, Kinship North, and youth and family counseling services.
The Evergreen youth crisis shelter still is located at 622 Mississippi Ave. NW and was unaffected by the move.
The new site officially opened Thursday.
“It makes coming into work a lot nicer, it’s just a lot more welcoming,” said Becky Schueller, Evergreen’s executive director. “The space is just better set up for us.”
Local developer Bob Whelan partnered with the nonprofit to design the new building to fit Evergreen’s needs.
Whelan, who has developed several multi-family apartment complexes in the vicinity, built a two-story complex specifically for Evergreen. Its programs, offices and youth drop-in center take up the main floor, and the second floor hosts six separate apartment units that will be used for the Transitional Living Program.
“Bob Whelan is the reason we’re here,” Schueller said.
Evergreen leases the bottom floor directly from Whelan and has a master lease for the six upstairs units: four one-bedroom units, one four-bedroom unit and one two-bedroom unit.
The partnership developed after Evergreen representatives met with Whelan to apologize for a young adult who, through Evergreen’s scattered-site housing, had badly damaged one of Whelan’s apartments to the tune of $3,000.
Whelan, Schueller said, listened as the nonprofit representatives apologized and detailed long-range plans for a new site that would couple the operational offices with transition-housing units.
“He said, ‘I want to build that building for you,’” Schueller recalled.
Evergreen, which just celebrated its 35th year of service, now has better spaces for its staff and clients, Schueller said. Whereas staff members before were sharing offices, politely kicking one another out for interviews with youth and clients, it now has separate offices for its 13 staffers.
“This is a major thing for us, to have private space for confidential conversations,” Schueller said.
Further, the move has allowed Evergreen to expand its offerings. For youth in need, for example, the drop-in center now has free laundry and a bathroom with a shower. It also has its own kitchen, allowing a second kitchen to be used for education, such as those in Evergreen’s Transitional Living Program who may not know how to cook healthful meals.
“We didn’t have a place to do those things before,” Schueller said.
New Evergreen site
Evergreen Youth & Family Services
610 Patriot Drive NW
Bemidji, MN 56601
Phone: 751-8223 (remains the same)
Fax: 751-8070 (remains the same)