Villa celebrates expansion

Five years of various construction projects have transformed and enhanced the 178-year-old campus of St. Joseph’s Villa into a modern, vibrant facility that serves as a safe and efficient community resource for families.

Earlier this month, Villa officials gathered with clients, volunteers, students, Henrico County Manager Virgil Hazelett and Fairfield Supervisor Frank Thornton to celebrate the campus’ transformation.

There was a strong sense of excitement and accomplishment in the air during the June 6 event at the Villa, where the changes will ensure that it remains a vital resource for needy families – 82 percent of them from Henrico. The improvements have helped the Villa build new partnerships, increase capacity, improve efficiency and expand the scope of its services.

“Before this project, we were serving 800 [people] – now we are serving about 2,000,” said Board of Trustees member JoAnne K. Henry.

The renovation is the first major construction of infrastructure and roadways on the 82 acre campus since 1931. A major investment is the new perimeter road that makes it safer for the 450 vehicles that access the campus each day, while removing them from the pedestrian walkways and safeguarding clients, staff, visitors and children.

“My son has attended the Villa for four years and will be graduating this year. I think it’s wonderful and it gives the children time to walk through the school without cars going by,” said parent Jaralyn McIntosh. “It’s the best idea they could’ve come up with.”

Other significant features include a new culinary arts center for dining and career training, a pedestrian avenue and walkways to connect buildings and campus resources, renovation of the gym and underground infrastructures including utilities and technology and restoration of the central garden and green spaces to promote outdoor learning and therapy.

The transformation began five years ago when architects, board members, engineers and staff devised a master plan for the future of St. Joseph’s Villa with safety and transportation as the main goals.

The building committee, led by Villa Chairman John Gentry, held monthly meetings for 26 months to create budgets plans and implement work. The Villa launched its first ever capital campaign, “Believing is Seeing,” with a goal of $10 million. Despite launching the campaign during one of the worst economic recessions in recent history, the Villa reached 99 percent of its goal. The money raised came from various donations from businesses, grants, staff, board members and friends.

The transformation is one that not only has helped expand the reach and scope of services the Villa can offer but has also been an example for the students.

“The number one reason to love the new campus is because of inspiration for transformation. Seeing what the campus has become inspires a sense of possibility in the individuals that they serve here,” said Villa senior Ellen Trebour during the grand reopening.

Said Villa CEO Kathleen Barrett: “They have been thrilled; we asked the students for their input and how they felt about everything. They were involved every step of the way, and everyone loves the finished project.”

Established in 1834 by the Daughters of Charity to serve as an orphanage and school, the Villa has now evolved as the oldest and largest continuously operating children’s nonprofit organization in the metro region. It is a non-religious affiliated, non-profit organization that works to serve children and families by providing children with special needs the opportunity to succeed through innovative educational and day programs. Many of those served are dealing with autism, homelessness, or physical and mental disabilities that would classify the children as “at risk.”

The project was recently awarded the Greater Richmond Association Commercial Real Estate Award for the best site improvements in 2011. The project finished under budget and before the targeted completion date.

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St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church, 9801 Fort King Rd., will host a Fall Children’s Consignment Sale from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Gently used children’s clothing, Halloween costumes, gear, toys… Full text

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