Jewish Family & Career Services is going to spend more than $5 million on its Dunwoody headquarters next year for a simple reason: The clients receiving and the staff delivering first-class services deserve it.
“The level of our building will match the caliber of the services we’re providing our clients,” JF&CS CEO Rick Aranson said in a pre-Thanksgiving interview about the community agency’s capital campaign.
JF&CS is launching the public final phase of its campaign in strong position but with an unexpected need for an extra boost.
The campaign was announced as a $5.1 million fundraising effort. With the support of all board members and several foundations, including three $500,000 contributions, the total raised has reached $5 million. With $100,000 more, JF&CS will reach its goal and will be able to break ground. The target to start the nine-to-12-month construction period is March (every month’s delay after that is expected to increase the cost 1 percent).
But construction costs in the Atlanta area have jumped during the private fundraising phase, so JF&CS needs an additional $350,000, for a total of almost $5.5 million, to build the facility as planned.
Aranson, who said he has met with 149 influencers and 10 potential partner agencies since he took over as CEO in July after 11 years as chief operating officer, is adamant that the agency needs to raise the extra money. The alternative is to scale back the facility’s transformation from an outdated office park converted for the use of JF&CS 20 years ago to a more functional, more flexible, more inviting complex that increases collaboration and capacity.
The capital campaign is following the example of the Ben Massell Dental Clinic, for which JF&CS conducted a $5.5 million fundraising campaign and opened a larger, LEED-certified, state-of-the-art facility in Midtown in 2008. The mastermind of that campaign, then-CEO Gary Miller, has provided strategic advice for the current campaign since retiring from JF&CS at the end of June.
The two biggest elements of the construction plans are a new building for the Tools for Independence WORKS program ($2.8 million under the original project budget) and an overhaul of part of the current building into an improved clinical counseling center ($1.6 million).
The TFI WORKS program is now isolated in a leased industrial park in Doraville. WORKS has outgrown the 3,300-square-foot space and has a waiting list for its services, which provide the tools for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to take care of themselves and earn a living.
The new building, which will take the place of a sustainable garden growing produce for food programs (it will move a little north on the property), will have 8,300 square feet with flexible teaching and meeting spaces built around a central common area called the Hub. The building will include an art studio, a teaching kitchen, an educational laundry facility and a quiet room, as well as four staff offices.
Aranson is just as excited about the plans for the clinical services center. He said the current facility lacks privacy and security and has the feel of a place for people who can’t afford better care, even though he said JF&CS clinical services are as good as those offered by private practices.
The new facility will rise to those standards, he said.
It will include a reception area that ensures confidentiality and provides more safety for child clients by separating them from adult clients. There will be soundproofed private offices and group therapy rooms, and new exits will enable people to leave without walking past others in the waiting room.
The other significant piece of the plans is a new main JF&CS entrance that combines an improved reception and waiting area with the Gathering Place, which will be a break room, a coffee shop and a meeting space. The plan is to open the Gathering Place to the general public and to use TFI Works participants as the staff so they can get work experience.
The concept of the Gathering Place fits Aranson’s belief in the need for more JF&CS partnerships with outside agencies and more collaborations within the agency.
The cumulative effect of the building improvements, he said, will help JF&CS “move people along a continuum from a tough situation to a better situation.”
The construction will apply the green EarthCraft standards, which, in addition to being environmentally friendly, should produce significant energy savings.
Leading the campaign are JF&CS President John Perlman and board member Cherie Aviv, backed by honorary co-chairs Ann and Michael Kay and Lois Blonder. Aranson said Perlman or Aviv has been with him for every campaign pitch.
The construction will take place in phases, in part to allow staff and services to keep operating during the work. Aranson said he’s not certain whether TFI WORKS or clinical services will be first.