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Warwick Goodwin is usually a serious man with a serious goal, but his smile beams as he sits in an office gleaming with new furniture.
The source of his pride: the license, received earlier this month, to finally operate a residential treatment facility for troubled boys.
As officers with The House of Emmanuel, Mr. Goodwin, his brother, Marcus, and Kevin Coburn have worked for the last seven years to transform the former Spencer-Sharples School on Irwin Road in Spencer Township. One youngster already has moved in.
The office furniture, carpeting, paint, and paneling have transformed what had become a dilapidated structure when it was sold by the Toledo Public Schools to the organization for $1 in 2000.
When The House of Emmanuel took over, the building had been empty for about 20 years. It had serious water damage because of a leaky roof.
Marcus Goodwin said it is hard to imagine the former state of the building - doors had been broken off, tiles dangled from the ceiling, and litter was strewn across the floors.
About 24,000 square feet of the building, slightly more than one-third the total, has been refurbished, he said.
"We had to take out everything and essentially rebuild it,'' he said.
The facility sits on 28 acres at Angola and Irwin roads in Spencer Township and is in many ways ideal for the purpose of The House of Emmanuel, Warwick Goodwin said.
The agency was formed in 1995 by the three men who had worked for the Ohio Department of Youth Services and decided they might make a difference by dealing with young people before they had entered the juvenile justice system.
Since then, more than 500 children have been referred to the organization.
Most of them are on the brink of what could become serious criminal activity, Warwick Goodwin said, and the staff of The House of Emmanuel tries to work with both the child and parents or guardians to turn the youth's behavior in a more productive direction.
The agency is headquartered at 123 10th St. It deals both in crisis management as well as providing a place for those who have been referred to the agency to come to do homework and also receive ongoing counseling. The agency will continue to offer those services.
Many of the children are referred there by Lucas County Children Services, and Dean Sparks, executive director, said The House of Emmanuel has handled cases well.
He said there is no question about the commitment of the men who started it and that they are accomplished both in dealing with children and the adults in their lives.
Andre Jackson, another former employee of the state youth services department, is the director of the Spencer Township facility. He said the key will be working with the parents and guardians of the children.
One of the frustrations in working in a state facility for delinquents, he said, is that even when you have made some progress, the youngster will return to the same environment in which he had earlier gotten in trouble.
"Our goal will be to not only get the young man headed in the right direction, but make sure there is some support at home when he goes back,'' Mr. Jackson said.
A stay in The House of Emmanuel facility will be for nine months.
"It takes three or four months usually just to get them to listen to you, to begin to trust you. With the state, when most of the kids are going to do about six months, just when you start to connect, they start getting ready to get out,'' he said.
Some of the classrooms in the former school will be used for the same purpose, but others have been changed into dormitories with four to six beds. There are fewer beds per room and more amenities as the boys, ages 8 to 15, are projected to move through three stages in the program.
Mr. Jackson said the boys will also have increased freedom to move about the building as they progress.
The building has two day rooms, one designed for reading and another with games. Beds are made, and the group is confident that they will soon be filled with children referred to the program.
Mr. Sparks said Children Services is more inclined to keep youngsters in household settings but will not hesitate to refer children to The House of Emmanuel when the situation calls for residential treatment.
Warwick Goodwin, who is president of the group, said when he first mentioned his hope of opening a residential facility he was told that he was going to need more experience and that he needed to build a solid reputation before that could happen.
He said the obstacles the group has faced in working toward the opening have been frustrating, but they have also allowed The House of Emmanuel to demonstrate that it is committed to helping children who are in jeopardy.
Dealing with government regulations and trying to raise funds is time consuming, but he said the three men, all former University of Toledo football players, stayed focused on their mission of helping boys.
That commitment probably helped them raise about $2.5 million that was necessary to get the building ready for operation.
The group was given assistance by the county and federal governments and received several foundation grants.
Marcus Goodwin said the excitement of getting their operating license was tempered with the knowledge, "that now the real work begins.''
Contact Mike Jones at: email@example.com or 419-724-6096.