It’s hard not to be excited for Leah Pezzarossi.
For seven years she has hoped, waited and pleaded for a new Floyd County Youth Shelter. Only to be teased on a couple of occasions, the shelter has been nothing more than a dream for Pezzarossi and her staff.
But later this month, all the anxiety and stress from working out of the dilapidated North Annex along Grant Line Road for three decades and being told to wait year after year for something new will be put to rest.
The new Open Door Youth Shelter, along Corydon Pike, should open in a couple of weeks, following a final inspection from state licensing officials. Staff, with the help of the Floyd County Highway Department, are busy moving in furniture and supplies in anticipation of the kids moving in later this month.
“I am so excited ... this is so beautiful,” said Pezzarossi, executive director of the shelter. “We have waited seven years. It’s just amazing.”
The youth shelter takes up one area of the Pine View Government Center — the area which used to be the front entrance to Pine View Elementary School — while the other side houses several county offices. That area opened to the public last week.
Old classrooms were gutted and turned into dorms, there is a gymnasium, large kitchen with a walk-in freezer and plenty of space — everything the shelter didn’t have at the North Annex. The new rooms seem to have more of a college dormitory feel, instead of an institutional look, and Pezzarossi said that is very important.
“They went so far above the bare minimum,” she said of the work Upton Pry Inc. did on the youth shelter space. “We really didn’t know what to expect. The dorms are gorgeous and they will be able to live their lives without worrying about other people who come in for services.”
The shelter can house up to 18 kids. During the year, about 700 youth benefit from other services offered at the shelter.
The shelter recently received a donation from the Indiana University Southeast volleyball team which consisted of nets, volleyballs and shirts. Pezzarossi said there was no space for that type of donation to be used at the North Annex.
Also, instead of having separate freezers sitting all over the shelter which is currently the norm, a large walk-in freezer is more than big enough to handle the large monthly donation of food each month.
The shelter is in the process of raising $400,000 to pay back the county for the interior work to turn Pine View into the new youth services bureau. On Sept. 22, the shelter will host a fundraising event which will include tours of the new facility.
Floyd County Councilwoman Dana Fendley can also now breathe a sigh of relief. Fendley — a member of the youth services board and president of the Voices For Youth group which supports the shelter — has been a strong advocate for a new facility. She said when an official grand opening was held last Saturday, Commissioner Mark Seabrook gave her a piece of the ribbon. It’s a memento she will hold onto for years to come.
“It’s wonderful. It’s going to be so nice,” she said of the shelter. “It [North Annex] is horrible. They have no space now. What makes this great is all the room they have inside and outside to play basketball and playground equipment has been set up for the kids. It couldn’t be a better location.”
Fendley said she helped stop a move several years ago to locate the shelter in the old Northside Christian Church along Grant Line Road, which has since been purchased by the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. She said she always felt a little guilty for stopping that move.
“It just didn’t seem like the right place,” she said. “The guilt has kind of motivated me all this time. It all happened for a reason I guess. This is just a perfect spot for the youth shelter.”
Fendley said the Ogle Foundation has promised $100,000 to the fundraising effort if shelter supporters come up with $300,000. The shelter is self supportive.