Springdale nonprofit Children’s Safety Center Inc. (CSC) is planning for the future.
Executive director Elizabeth Shackelford says a capital project is on the table to build a 15,200-square-foot building in Springdale south of Arvest Ballpark on Gene George Boulevard. When construction is completed, CSC will relocate from its downtown address on East Emma Avenue, where it leases space from The Jones Trust. The new building will be nearly three times the size of CSC’s existing location.
“Our plan is to be built and open by fall 2023,” Shackelford said. “If not before.”
Shackelford and other CSC officials shared the expansion news with their partner agencies on April 30, just a day after closing a $1.8 million land purchase for the new building. According to Washington County property records, CSC paid $6.20 per square foot for 6.67 acres at 3284 Gene George Blvd. Arvest Bank provided financing.
For the past two years, CSC has been in the silent phase of a $12.5 million capital campaign to support the new building. It’s broken down to $8 million for capital, $2.5 million for ongoing support (three years), and a $2 million endowment.
CSC has raised about 37% of the campaign’s goal. Springdale businessmen Rob Kimbel and Chris Thornton are co-chairing the effort.
“The board knew that after 24 years in our current location that the staff needed additional resources to continue to provide the amazing work and care the children in our community deserve,” said Thornton, an Arvest Bank executive and also the president of CSC’s board of directors. “This new project is an exciting step forward for the future of the Children’s Safety Center to continue to be the light in the darkness for the children in our community who experience sexual abuse.”
Bentonville firm BUF Studio is working on the building’s preliminary design. Besides being a much larger building, Shackelford said a new building would be intentionally designed and built to fulfill the nonprofit’s mission.
Founded in 1997, CSC is a child-friendly, family-centered organization that serves Washington County. It assists in children’s sexual and physical abuse cases by coordinating the investigation, prosecution process and treatment services to prevent further trauma to children during the process. That involves several professional teams, including law enforcement, child protective services, victim service providers, prosecutors, medical personnel, mental health professionals and community volunteers.
Shackelford, the nonprofit’s executive director since 2009, said the current space limits the amount of privacy available for sensitive conversations that must take place, and there’s not much room for training or group meetings required between law enforcement, medical professionals and others.
The new building will have meeting rooms, a conference room, therapy rooms, kitchen space and storage for donated items, a medical suite with a nurse’s area, and a community training room.
CSC, which has 13 full-time employees, has seen a 49% increase over the past eight years in children served annually. In 2020, the center provided services to 672 children, conducted 555 forensic interviews and had 1,683 therapy sessions.
“Child sexual abuse is a darkness in our community, and it is spread across race, culture and economics,” Thornton said. “It does not discriminate. Over the past few years, as the center has raised awareness by holding training across the community and Washington County elementary schools, we have seen the number of children coming to the center increase.
“The need for services is not slowing down, nor is it going away.”
CSC is an independently funded and operated nonprofit under the National Children’s Advocacy Center umbrella.