Social service group ready to convert gift of space to new offices

April 13, 1994|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Sun Staff Writer

Adel O'Rourke couldn't let the opportunity pass: The Rouse Co., owner of Harundale Mall, offered the Harundale Youth & Family Service Center 3,000 square feet of free office space -- double what it already was giving the counseling service.

But turning the cavern into usable space, at an estimated cost of $300,000, was up to the nonprofit agency.

That was a few years ago, said Ms. O'Rourke, executive director of the youth services bureau. Construction is to begin next week. But for a $64,000 state grant, the project depends on donated time, materials, labor and money.

"I think it's just incredible," Ms. O'Rourke said. "It's such a collaboration between the private sector and the state. It's a dream come true." On Monday morning, Gov. William Donald Schaefer is to bash in a wall to mark the start of the youth center's expansion.

It will take eight weeks for about two dozen contractors to create the offices that will allow the youth bureau to pursue expanding its services. Ms. O'Rourke hopes that the center will begin seeing clients in the new quarters at the south end of the mall about July 1.

The 25-year-old counseling service works with about 150 families at a time in family, group and individual therapy in such areas as teen suicide prevention, parent-help groups and continuing therapy for children whose parents are drug addicts. Clients pay on a sliding scale up to $45 a session, depending on their finances. Additionally, it runs programs with schools and other organizations. It is one of 21 youth service bureaus in the state.

The waiting list for therapy usually is at least three months long. The expansion will allow the bureau to add more counselors in hopes of shortening that list.

Among the counselors on the staff are three master's program candidates in social work from the University of Maryland at Baltimore. Ms. O'Rourke said other schools have asked if they could send student interns, but she has not had enough room for them to meet confidentially with clients.

The governor's office helped get the project started. When Ms. O'Rourke sought suggestions about how to get the donated space turned into offices, aides to the governor told her to involve the private sector.

It helped that she found Blase Cooke, owner of Harkins Builders Inc. in Silver Spring, a member of the governor's Construction Industry Task Force and a key player in several building industry organizations. The company learned of the youth bureau's predicament through the governor's office as well as the Baltimore-based Building Congress and Exchange, said Bob Widmer, Harkins' vice president for construction.

A talk with Ms. O'Rourke convinced him of the project's value.

"It was worthwhile," said Mr. Widmer, who lives in Pasadena. "It's my community."

Mr. Widmer took about six months to get the varied contractors together. Harkins is supervising the project, designed by architecture students at the University of Maryland College Park who worked with professional architects.

Among the contractors is Culbertson Restoration Ltd. in Glen Burnie, a specialty masonry repair contractor. Its president, Steve Johanson, golfs with Mr. Widmer.

"We're going to be cutting up the existing floor and removing sections of it so that plumbing contractors and electrical contractors can come in and lay their conduit," Mr. Johanson said.

His firm will be there next week and again about midway through the project. "It's a good cause. This particular program is going to help a lot of youths and families," he said.

Last year, Ms. O'Rourke also received a $64,000 state grant toward the project.

"I can be relentless when pursuing money," Ms. O'Rourke said. Only about $4,000 in kitchen equipment for the $284,000 expansion remains to be obtained.

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