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Stephens Co. Youth Shelter Working for Bigger Facility

STEPHENS CO., Okla_ They work to help kids through crises. Now, the Youth Services Emergency Children's Shelter in Stephens County will have more space to do that.

The non-profit recently broke ground on a new location for its shelter. It will be bigger and better than the current one. Over the past two years, the shelter tried to raise $1.1 M to get it done but only ended up with $800-thousand. Even though they're short on funds, they still have enough to build the shelter.

7News visited with shelter officials to talk about the progress they've made so far. They say breaking ground was a huge sigh of relief. While the new facility is still several months from being finished, they are glad the hard part of finding the money to get it built is over. For one young woman who relied on the shelter in the past, it's bittersweet.

For Jordan Smallwood, the Youth Services Emergency Children's Shelter isn't a shelter at all. It was her home for a time in 2010.

"That's where I lived," Smallwood said. "That's where I have my memories. That's where I slept. That's where I had my warm meals."

Shelter Director Barbara Davis said that's what the new facility will continue to provide: a homelike environment. She said it will be even better, though.

The new building will be double the size of the current one. It will be wheelchair accessible with 6 bedrooms, a lot of natural lighting, and energy efficient with outdoor and indoor play areas. It's all to make troubled youth feel at home.

"Our shelter that already exists is a family-like setting, and we're not going to come off of that," Davis said. "We are going to build a brick home, because kids need to feel that they belong, and they need to feel a sense of safety."

Executive Director John Herdt said it took two long years of fundraising and grant writing to get to this point, and he's glad to see their hard work finally paying off.

"It just feels really good," Herdt said. "I am just excited for the staff over there to have a new facility, and it's just really exciting for us."

For Smallwood, saying goodbye to her old home will be bittersweet.

"I've been to a couple of other shelters, and this is the one I felt most at home at," Smallwood said. "I still come to visit. I still go to that house when I'm upset, because if I woke up at 3:00 in the morning, and I needed someone to talk to, there was always somebody. I will forever appreciate that."

She knows the new place will be a home for kids to make new memories. Herdt said they still need to come up with a few hundred thousand dollars to furnish the shelter. Once that's done, they hope to open its doors sometime in December.

The non-profit rents the current shelter from the city. No word on what the city plans to do with the building once the shelter moves out.  

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