The Children’s Shelter and Family Service Center announces name change and plan to build a new facility

Plamedie Ifasso
The Daily Ardmoreite

The Children’s Shelter and Family Service Center announced Thursday their change to Community Youth Services of Southern Oklahoma as well as a plan to build a new facility to house their residents and services. 

In the last few years, the organization has seen a change in the demographics of children and families that come to them for services, Kaylyn Weldon-Gary, Community Youth Services Executive Director said. When the agency first began, the children it served tended to be younger in age, but now the average age of a resident is 14 years old. 

Weldon-Gary found that people often shortened the name to the Children’s Shelter, and weren’t fully aware of all the services the organization offered. Besides residential shelter, Community Youth Services also provides parenting classes, counseling, emergency resources such as food and clothing, case management and a pregnant teen course. 

“People were struck by the name,” Weldon-Gary said. “ They really thought that we were DHS. We are in no way associated with DHS, they're just a partner of ours. The stigma at DHS and the shelter, it made people not want to use our services. We are not here to take your babies away from you. We are here to help you as a family stay together, which is our mission.”

Weldon-Gary said the original idea for the tree logo came from a child who lived in the shelter a few years ago, and the organization connected strongly with the design. 

“She told us about it and said it’s the strong trunk for the strong foundation,” Weldon-Gary said. “It’s the roots we’re giving them by helping them heal and being mentors. Then the leaves were their hopes and dreams blooming.” 

Along with the new brand and name, Community Youth Services has decided to build a new 15,000-square foot residential building located on five acres of land directly across from Hardy Murphy Coliseum. The new facility will consist of a 20-bed residence, on-site educational center, an emergency room for temporary residents, an administrative and counseling wing as well as an outdoor living and recreational space. 

As of January 2021, the organization recorded that it has had to decline 24 requests for residency for homeless youth, and this does not include the request for residency of children that do not qualify for services. With the new campus, Community Youth Services hopes to reduce the number of declined requests 

“I think one of the biggest keys to note on the new facility as compared to our current facility is the ability to house female adolescents on one side, and male adolescents on the other side,“ Jessie Nance, President of the Board of Directors and Capital Campaign Committee Chair said. “That is currently an issue at our facility now.  If we have a population of six boys, we can't take care of that girl. It’s a constant revolving issue for us, and this facility solves that issue.” 

The Board of Directors launched a Capital Campaign to help raise money for construction, necessary furnishing and security. Phase one is estimated to be $4 million. As of today, Community Youth Services has raised over $2.2 million and are planning to raise the rest through grants, local foundations, and public donations. 

To donate to the campaign, visit Community Youth Service’s website and choose your preferred method of donation. The organization accepts online donations and mailed checks.