The “for sale” sign is gone, in its place a “now hiring” sign in the 900 block of West Broadway. There are a few more cars in the parking lot this week, and electric Christmas candles in the windows of once vacant offices. Visual cues as to what is happening on the Youthville campus are subtle.
Inside Libbey Hall, a stately building construed in the 1920s, there is activity. Boxes are being emptied and desks filled as people are moving into their offices. New life is being breathed into the campus — a campus mostly shuttered in 2011.
“It is very exciting, both for me personally and for the organization,” said Nickaila Sandate, Chief Executive Officer. “... We made the decision to take the for sale sign down and reinvest in this facility."
Sandate, a Newton girl, is in charge of reopening the corporate offices — and the future plans for the campus.
“I grew up in Newton,” Sandate said. “Both my parents were raised here and when they started having children they decided they wanted to come back to the Newton community to raise their children. This is where I grew up. I worked for this agency for a number of years. Our corporate office moved to Wichita a few years back. …. When the timing was right, we decided to move back.”
In 2011, an initiative by the state of Kansas to reduce the number of children in residential psychiatric services led to fewer children on the Newton campus. Demand was increasing on the organization's second campus in Kansas and services moved out of Newton.
Those factors are changing.
“It is our desire to stay ahead of the needs,” Sandate said. “Fortunately, there is an opportunity to expand our services and we have done that the past couple of years. We have provided at least three different types of residential services on this campus here.
Youthville, a division of EmberHope, Inc., started a Youth Residential Center II (YRCII) on the Newton campus, serving girls 10 to 18 years of age who are in the state’s custody as a “Child In Need of Care” in 2015.
Two more programs and cottages have been added. More could be coming.
“That is something we are busy talking about with both our executive team and our board,” Sandate said.
Libbey Hall, the once vacant building, will once again be the corporate home for EmberHope. This fall, the EmberHope board of directors voted to move the agency’s headquarters from Wichita back to the 19-acre Newton campus where it all began 90 years ago in 1927.
“We are looking at 10 years from now,” Sandate said. “We are looking at engaging the community in how we can best use these 19 acres to serve children and families in this community. By the time we get to that 100 year mark, we want to be fulfilling our mission and doing that alongside the Newton community. That is our focus and goal.”
That means some planning for the campus, and it means more people moving into Libbey Hall. Currently Sandate has an office. She is seeking a new Chief Financial Officer for the organization, along with advancement staff for marketing, communications and development, and human resources.
Each year, EmberHope provides residential, counseling, adoption, foster care and educational support services to more than 3,000 children and families through its innovative programs. The agency delivers services across more than 100 counties in Kansas and in areas of San Antonio and the Seattle areas. It employs more than 100 staff members.