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Leadership Forsyth shaping center
Opening set for early summer
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Forsyth County News
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For more information or to donate, visit the project’s Web site at
An old county-owned home is being converted to a visitation center for adopted and foster children, thanks to the efforts of a local nonprofit and a group of new community stewards.

Leadership Forsyth is an educational program that helps emerging leaders in the county learn how to get involved. Since 1989, each year’s class has picked a project to work on.

This year’s group of 32 students chose to help local nonprofit Supporting Adoption and Foster Families Together, or SAFFT, build a center for children to safely visit with family members they don’t live with.

The class selected it since the project had a good beginning and end, realistic fundraising goals and is a local need, said class spokeswoman Marcia Englefield.

“We felt like from a community-need perspective, it was something that met the charter of Leadership Forsyth,” she said. “It was something on which Leadership Forsyth could build a lasting legacy.”

A mutual relationship between the groups has pushed the project forward and kept it on track.

“The success is when SAFFT has what it needs to provide its services to Forsyth County,” Englefield said.

SAFFT arose as a support group for families in Forsyth County.

Noticing a need for a safe place for family members not living together to visit, the organization began working toward establishing its own center.

Executive Director Ashley Anderson, a foster parent, worked with Juvenile Court Judge Russell Jackson to receive approval from the county for a no-cost lease.

The group will use the old Hansard House on Veterans Memorial Boulevard for free, on the condition that the county can take back the property, which was once planned for a jail, at any time it’s needed.

Anderson told the board that even a year with the center would be worth all the work.

The group, with Leadership Forsyth, has raised about $5,000 toward its goal of $25,000, she said.

Several local businesses have stepped forward to donate services toward construction, Anderson said, but plumbing is holding up the project.

“Plumbing is a huge, huge thing that we need, but it’s very, very expensive; it would take a third of our budget. We’re really praying that a plumber comes through.” she said. “That would be a miracle.”

If everything stays on track, the center is set for a grand opening in late May or early June, Anderson said.

“It’s moving along,” she said. “I think a lot of people are excited for it to open.”

Two members of Leadership Forsyth have emerged as project managers due to their construction backgrounds: John DeRucki of DeRucki Construction and Brian Bolick of design firm Pond & Co.

“From my conversation with the Leadership Forsyth alumni ... it’s probably one of the more ambitious projects that a class has taken on,” Bolick said.

Work on the SAFFT house began in the last couple of weeks, he said, but many more donations of money and services are needed to complete the project.

Leadership Forsyth has put together a silent auction on its Web site for the next round of fundraising, which will open on April 19. The group also has lists of items and services needed on the site.

Fundraising in this economy and finding skilled laborers able to donate goods and services has been difficult, he said.

For Bolick, donating his architectural expertise to the project has been something he hasn’t had an opportunity to do before, but also something he’s enjoyed and looked forward to working on.

Though construction-minded people have stepped up right now, Bolick noted that Leadership Forsyth’s variety makes the project work.

“We’ve got folks with a lot of different backgrounds that have come together,” he said. “Everybody has found a unique way to participate.”