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The Next Door Inc.: Building brighter futures

Jan 12, 2011

Walking around the gutted, skeleton of a building, it's easy to see the excitement in Janet Hamada's eyes. "We'll have bathrooms over here," she says, pointing to an area yet to be dry-walled or plumbed. "Staff offices will be here, a kitchen there, and a dining room over there." With dusty concrete floors, no lighting and walls only just framed in, it's hard to picture what the building will look like in a few months. There's clearly a lot of work to be done, but if everything goes as planned, The Next Door Inc. will have its new headquarters ready by spring. The extensive renovation project started in the fall, but the desire and need to find a new location for The Next Door Inc. has been growing for many years. After about a decade of looking for just the right fit for a new headquarters, the Hood River nonprofit decided to purchase the 12,000-square-foot Tucker Road building long occupied by Encore Video. "I didn't get my hopes up since I'd looked at over a dozen options in my three years as executive director," Hamada said about the location. "However, it soon became clear that this was an option that was serious." With excitement and sledgehammers, NDI board members, employees and supporters bashed through old drywall that once held shelves of alphabetized new-release videos. During the groundbreaking and fund-raising party in November Hamada said, "This fulfills a long-held dream of getting all our operations under one roof." Since then the building has been stripped down to its birthday suit, and from now until its anticipated completion in a few months, contractors will piece together the new center that will be home to NDI offices, meeting rooms, academic rooms, counseling offices, conference rooms, a computer lab and more. "By being consolidated into one location, we will be much more efficient and affective in our operations. That will free up time and resources for us to devote back to the community." Combining NDI facilities will also save the agency money; about $1,400 a month, Hamada estimated, in duplicate services like power, water and time driving between current locations. "It can't be overstated how much more efficient we will be," she said. n Founded in 1971 as a home for about 10 teenage foster children, NDI has grown over the years to a nonprofit that today employs 80 people in four offices and provides services to thousands of people across seven counties in Oregon and Washington. NDI programs now include Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Columbia Gorge, Families First, New Parent Services, Nuestra Comunidad Sana, treatment services and youth and family services (see sidebar for more). "We started from pretty humble beginnings with the Klahre House," said NDI board chair Kelly Beard, who has been on the nonprofit's board for about 10 years. "From there we began to expand and along the way we partnered with other service providers in the area." Today, the Klahre House is still a primary service of NDI, and for the 20 or so youth who are enrolled in the foster care, day treatment and alternative school program, a new facility has the potential to be a life-changing opportunity. Klahre House residents spend eight hours a day, five days a week at the facility, which is currently an early 1900s house on May Street. When the program started in 1971, the house was used as a foster home for about 10 teenage boys and girls. NDI eventually bought the building, which was then named after founding Board Chair Jim Klahre. "The Klahre House served us well over the years," Beard said. "But it really wasn't designed for what we use it as. We made due with what we had; we sort of morphed it through the years, but it's still a big old farmhouse. With the new location, we have the opportunity to design and build around our needs. "It's going to be a big change for all of us. Whenever change is present there's going to be apprehension and a little fear, but for the most part there's an air of excitement and thrill." With several multi-purpose, learning and conference rooms, NDI will soon have the facility to host a variety of public activities and classes, which they have been very limited on doing in the past. "I think we all have a vision of lots of things happening here," Beard said. "The opportunity exists for the new building to be a community facility, and we would love nothing more than to make it that."

After construction is completed, staff will have their hands full moving from former locations to the new site, while trying to maintain all NDI programs. If all goes as planned, the public will see little interruption in services. Before the move, NDI is hoping to reach its capital campaign goal of $200,000, for which they have already raised $130,000 through donations. For the remaining $70,000 or so, they are hoping to get sponsors for a variety of areas in the facility. "There are a lot of naming opportunities in the new building," Hamada said. "In our nearly 40 years of operation, we only started asking the community for donations about five years ago. We're hoping to raise the remaining money before we move." For sponsor opportunities, contact Heidi Venture at 541-308-2233.

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