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Mary Auger and Becky Schueller: Evergreen has room at the inn

Evergreen has enjoyed many incredible statements of community support during our past 35 years of service in the greater Bemidji area. In 2011 and 2012, the Bemidji community kept our shelter doors open following the loss of a major federal grant. The Pioneer recently informed the community that we successfully recaptured this grant. We know that you will understand our relief at this wonderful news.

After the difficult financial year we just finished, Evergreen feels incredibly blessed to celebrate another crowning achievement. In 2013, a new chapter begins for Evergreen and the youth and families we serve. Thanks to the outstanding generosity of local developer Bob Whelan, on Dec. 17, we moved into new program and office space just north of Irvine and Anne Streets. This is beautiful new space which provides individual, private offices for confidential meetings with youth and families, program space for our new Drop-in Center and other youth services, agency business offices, and a teaching kitchen for our youth who are on their own. Perhaps most significantly, there are six youth apartments on the second floor of our new building for homeless single youth and young parents. These apartments are “starter housing” for youth to help them master the challenges of independent living in a supportive environment with a strong continuum of services and safe, skilled staff.

Evergreen’s board and staff worked for six years to make this project a reality. During this time, we cancelled one set of plans due to the economic downturn and resulting financial risk. Thanks to the support of Bob Whelan, Evergreen’s outstanding staff, the cooperation of the Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board and staff, and help from many community partners, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to welcome youth to their new homes in early January 2013. There is “room at the inn” and it is indeed, a happy new year.

Evergreen is proud to acknowledge the work of three staff who deserve special recognition for their efforts to make this project happen under a very tight timeline. For her energy, dedication, vision, and tremendous competence, we thank our ECS program director, Rebecca Hoffman. For her determination, follow-through, incredible knowledge base, and exacting attention to detail, we thank our operations director, Julia Conlon. For his long-term commitment, vision, planning, and safety focus (especially during our move coordination), we thank our human resources/safety/facilities manager, Randy Walden. We thank our ECS staff and our shelter staff for their hard work to minimize moving costs and go the extra mile to set up the new site to welcome youth warmly.

Building committee members Paul Diehl, Ann Cease, former police chiefs Jerry Johnson and Bob Tell, and current board member Vicki Ross-Rhodes gave us great advice and guidance during a multi-year period. Evergreen board members generously contributed to support the moving costs for 13 staff and six programs during our near zero-budget move.

As we said last year in a community thank you following our major grant loss, while many Minnesota communities may have greater financial resources than we do, Evergreen feels extremely rich in the level of community response and support for our work. We know that many people reached deeply to make generous contributions and we feel honored by your confidence in our work.

Dec. 31, 2012, marks 35 years of Evergreen’s service to the Bemidji area and community youth and families. Thanks to your generosity and expressions of support, we are looking forward to our next 35 years of “Strengthening Youth and Preserving Families.”

P.S.: The Evergreen Shelter will remain at its current location at Mississippi and 7th Street Northwest day or night, 24/7, when you are concerned about your child, the Evergreen Shelter is open. We encourage you to call us for help.

Mary AugER is chair of the Evergreen Youth & Family Services board of directors. Becky Schueller is the program’s executive director.