$6.3m expansion will begin this summer
A non-profit on Bowdoin Street that has been assisting vulnerable families in Greater Boston since 1994 is making final preparations for an ambitious renovation project that will add a more capacity and a modern look to a building with a rich history.
The Family Nurturing Center — which seeks to prevent child abuse and neglect through direct programming for low-income parents—is planning to add two stories to its existing home at 200 Bowdoin St. The building once housed the original Meetinghouse Bank and was later the original headquarters of the Bowdoin Street Health Center. It has been the FNC’s home since the mid-1990s, but executive director Matt LiPuma says that the various programs that are vital to the center’s mission cannot grow and serve their 3,000 clients properly without updated, expanded space.
The expansion project will cost an estimated $6.3 million and could start as soon as this summer. The group has already raised over $2 million in a $3 million capital campaign. The balance of the project will be paid for using a mortgage loan and New Market Tax Credits.
LiPuma, a longtime Codman Square resident, says that the staff is excited to bring an enhanced family service center to the heart of Dorchester. The FNC bought the building from the Bowdoin Street Health Center in 2012 and in doing so made a conscience decision to anchor itself in Bowdoin-Geneva permanently, even though it runs programs and collaborates with health center, day care centers, and state-run programs across Massachusetts.
“The more we thought about it, we really wanted to make a commitment to stay here and try and deliver some of the services we deliver at other places right out of this building,” said LiPuma. “Families with young kids can actually walk here and participate in a playgroup or a nurturing program.
LiPuma says that 2,500 children under five live within a half mile of the building, but adds: “Right now, there’s really no space to run group activities like that here.”
That will change with this expansion, which will double the size of the building, which dates to 1953. There will be space for larger rooms for group play activities and dinners and parenting classes, which the FNC typically hosts off-site at partner agencies. Bringing some of that under one roof will be a great magnet for many families who can now walk to the center, located at the corner of Bowdoin and Olney streets.
“If you look at the plans, the idea is for this to be a welcoming place for families. One of the biggest factors in child abuse and neglect is social isolation,” explained LiPuma. “The idea is that when families are connected to resources and each other, they develop the skills that they need, the chances of abuse and neglect are much lower.”
One of the longtime efforts run out of the center is the Welcome Baby program, which brings gift bags filled with essentials for newborns and their parents right to people’s homes in Dorchester, Roslindale, West Roxbury, Hyde Park, and Allston-Brighton. Welcome Baby visits are available in English, Spanish, Cape Verdean Creole, Haitian Creole, and Vietnamese.
The center will temporarily re-locate from the Bowdoin Street space later this season to allow construction to begin. The project is expected to take 12-14 months to complete.
The fundraising effort continues to be a major focus as the small organization seeks to meet its $3 million goal. More details on the effort can be found online at changechildrenschances.org.