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New Pathways to open new residence for girls

By Leanne Fuller lfuller@paducahsun.com

New Pathways for Children, a west Kentucky residential treatment facility for kids and teens in state custody, hopes to open doors soon at a new all-girls facility near its main offices and boys' campus in Melber, which administrators say will help the non-profit expand what it can do for the girls it serves.

The nonprofit's girls' program opened in 1990 and has utilized a house in Reidland for its girls' facility since the mid 1990s, according to New Pathways Executive Director Ricky Burse. The Reidland house is licensed to house up to 12 girls, but the new facility was built to house up to 14.

Burse said planning for the new 5,500 square-foot facility began about 18 months ago, and construction on the building began in June last year. New Pathways hosted an open house on May 18 to celebrate the completion of construction.

Including engineering, construction, furnishings and other expenses, the project cost about $750,000, roughly $500,000 of which Burse said came from donations made by individuals and churches in the community. Other funding came from grants, foundations and reserves New Pathways had set aside for the project.

New Pathways temporarily houses youth between the ages of 10 and 18 who've been removed from their homes for various reasons, which can include abuse and neglect, mental health issues, behavioral problems or substance abuse.

The residents are provided with around the clock supervision; basic needs including food, shelter and clothing; individual and group counseling; education and recreation. Burse said when the girls at New Pathways move to the new facility, they will receive the same level of services they get at Reidland and will see the same staff.

"We're committed to helping the kids who come to us," Burse said. "Our mission statement says we want to minister to the physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of at-risk youth in order to help them have a sense of hope, competency, belonging and responsibility. So, you know, the quality of care that we'll provide will be the same."

But the executive director said the new facility, which was built by Riley Architect Services in Mayfield, will provide several improvements over the Reidland facility.

That house is about 25 miles from the main campus, but the new facility is much closer. Closer proximity means the girls will have access to some of the offerings at the boys' campus, which has a gymnasium and a lake where residents can hike and fish.

Currently, Burse said, food for the girls is stored at the boys' campus and delivered to the Reidland house. The house has a kitchen, but it's very small - less than half the size of the kitchen at the new girls' campus. In addition to allowing food to be kept and prepared on site, Jeannie Cain - program manager for the girls' program - said the new kitchen will allow New Pathways staff the opportunity to teach the girls cooking and other life skills.

Cain said moving to the new location will also allow the girls' program to expand other hands-on activities - such as continuing and expanding its art therapy program and planting a garden on the property - that she said can help build the girls' self-esteem while they learn new skills and try new things.

"They'll be able to get their hands in the middle of something, and so it'll help us help them be able to process things," Cain said. "And through that process, that's what gives them power."

The biggest difference, Burse said, is that the new facility has an on-site school. Currently, the girls at New Pathways attend school in McCracken County, but the boys have an on-site school staffed by Graves County teachers. Burse said on-site schooling allows for more individualized education and allows kids who are behind to make up their coursework.

"That's going to really be a positive thing for the girls in terms of encouraging, and hope and promise for them that they can get their diploma. No matter how far behind they are, we can help them catch up," Burse said.

Burse said the girls who will soon be living at the new facility recently did some chores there to help prepare for when they move in. Burse and Cain each said the girls have "taken ownership" of it and are excited to move.

Already fully furnished and ready for their arrival, Burse said the girls can move into the facility as soon as the state conducts its last inspection of the building and gives final approval. The executive director said he hopes that will happen soon, because the school year starts for New Pathways on July 1.

The girls' facility sits on a 120-acre farm that was donated by Eldon and Emma Belle Gardner, who also donated the 25 acres where the boys' campus sits. Eldon passed away in 1993 and Emma Belle passed away in 2012. Burse said Emma Belle's wish was to eventually have several girls' homes built on the property, and the name the New Pathways board chose for the girls' facility reflects that: Emma Belle's Hope.

New Pathways currently rents much of the land to a local farmer, but Burse said the nonprofit plans to eventually build a picnic pavilion, possibly develop a walking trail and maybe one day create a lake on the several acres that have been cleared for the girls' campus.

Burse said he doesn't know what else the future holds for the donated property, but Cain said the counseling, activities and on-site education Emma Belle's Hope will afford the girls at New Pathways can provide them with a brighter future.

"With all that combined, we're able to mold a successful young lady who can be more successful and productive in society," Cain said. "These are our next senators, doctors, lawyers. Just because they've made some mistakes or they're damaged doesn't mean that they can't be empowered. They can turn things around and have self esteem."

Contact Leanne Fuller, a Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8653.

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