Sonoma County's neediest children will have a new home next spring, when a long-awaited $11.3 million shelter on Highway 12 should be completed.
Work is almost half-done on the new Valley of the Moon Children's Home, a peak-roofed, wood-frame building on a knoll overlooking the highway near Oakmont.
"I'm counting the days," said Mark Regan, a day-shift supervisor at the home, which shelters hundreds of abused, neglected and abandoned children each year.
As happy as they are with the prospect of moving children into spacious, air-conditioned quarters in May, county officials and the home's financial backers say their work is far from done.
Bedrooms for 68 children, housed no more than two to a room, plus common areas, a kitchen and a dining area will be included in the 25,000-square-foot facility on schedule for completion in eight months, said Josette Brault, county project manager.
The next phase, a 23,000-square-foot building to house support services, including medical and mental health facilities, offices and family visiting areas, can't break ground until the county has $8.8 million in hand, Brault said.
A sudden $800,000 bump in that price tag prompted a private fund-raising group, the Valley of the Moon Children's Foundation, to consider boosting its contribution, said George Forrester, a retired business executive and foundation board president.
Schultz of Vila Construction nails in a rafter during construction
of the new Valley of the Moon Children's Home on Thursday on Highway
12 near Oakmont in Santa Rosa. This portion of the building will be
a group room. (KENT PORTER / The Press Democrat)
The foundation, which has already raised $2.6 million for the new children's home, had promised an additional $3 million by June 2005, he said. Having just learned the second building's cost went from $8 million to $8.8 million, Forrester said the foundation is inclined to up its ante, as well.
"We're very committed to getting it completed," he said.
The foundation's next major fund-raiser is a golf tournament and music festival Oct. 3-4 sponsored by B.R. Cohn Winery.
The Press Democrat's Helping Hand campaign last year raised more than $200,000 for the project.
To round out funding for the second building, the county needs about $5 million, Brault said. "It might be a while before we can get that," she said.Until the second building is done, the 27-year-old children's home, a cramped, time-worn facility, will continue to house support services and the Redwood Children's Center, where child sexual assault victims are interviewed.
The old facility, deemed a "disgrace" by some foundation officials, is licensed for 36 children, with up to six in a bedroom. It fails to meet state standards for segregating children by age and gender, Brault said, a shortcoming the new home will fix.
The young residents, ages 6 to 18, who have been removed from their parents' custody and placed in the home by a judge, will have more room by night and day, Brault said.
Counselors are looking forward to having more room to work with the children in groups and individually. "My office, there are people in and out of it all day long," Regan said. "There's no privacy."