Archive for Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Program for teenagers hopes to build in county

Planners to consider permit for cottages on 40 acres

July 12, 2006

If all goes as planned, construction could begin on a home for troubled teens early next year.

Marilyn Thomas, House of Hope executive director for the Kansas City area, said the faith-based program works with teens between the ages of 12 and 18.

Tonight, the Leavenworth County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on an application for a special-use permit for House of Hope. If approved by the planning commission and later by the board of county commissioners, the facility would be built on a 40-acre tract southeast of Lansing, at the northwest corner of McIntyre and Wolcott.

Thomas said it's possible the first phase of construction on House of Hope could begin early next year.

"We need $1.5 million for the first cottage and the first haven center, which is the administration center," Thomas said.

Fund-raising efforts are under way, Thomas said.

"We'll break ground when we receive another $600,000. ... We're not borrowing money. We need to have the money in hand."

One cottage would hold eight teens, and Thomas said the first two cottages, built in two phases, likely would be for girls.

"Right now there is a greater need in the Kansas City area for girls," Thomas said.

For hurting children

Youths are referred to House of Hope by various sources -- churches, counselors, high schools, Thomas said. And their problems vary, she said.

"It (House of Hope) is for any child that is hurting," Thomas said. "If they've had trouble with drugs or alcohol or rebellion or loss, sometimes they've been sexually abused."

Or she said, it's possible the teens have run away from home.

"One out of every seven teenagers runs away each year," Thomas said. "There is great need for something such as this."

It's possible youths from throughout the Kansas City area could live at the facility, where the average stay is expected to be from eight to 15 months.

"I hope it would be a service to Leavenworth County for all who come to House of Hope because these children will be functioning members of society, instead of dysfunctioning members, and they'll contribute back," Thomas said.

More information

¢ The Leavenworth County Planning Commission hearing to consider locating a House of Hope in a rural area southeast of Lansing will be at 6:30 p.m. today in the meeting room on the second floor of Leavenworth County Courthouse, 300 Walnut, Leavenworth. ¢ More information about House of Hope is available online at

Youths who live at House of Hope continue their education, through an on-site school taught by licensed teachers, and participate in family counseling.

Because the program is faith-based, Thomas said, "There will be Christian principles and morals taught."

And, the cost for the care will be set according to a sliding scale, depending on a family's income.

"We don't plan to ever turn anybody away," Thomas said.

She said House of Hope, which began in Orlando in 1984, has a 95 percent success rate.

"That means they went through all five phases and were graduated and went on to college or developed their talents," Thomas said.

And, Thomas stressed, House of Hope is not a treatment facility.

"It is a residential facility," she said. "For instance, if a child is on drugs or alcohol, they would go to a rehabilitation facility, and afterwards they would come to our facility."

Eventually, when all phases are complete, House of Hope would include six cottages, three for girls and three for boys.

Lifelong dream

Former Leavenworth County resident Mildred Stuckey hopes to see House of Hope start up. So much so that she's offered to donate a 40-acre site if the county approves the House of Hope special-use permit.

Stuckey, who lives in a retirement center in Papillion, Neb., is 87. She was born on the proposed site. And her father, Ralph Dohrn, also was born there. The land has been in her family since the 1880s.

Twice previously, Stuckey, who lived in Leavenworth County for 80 years, has made attempts to donate her land to use as a facility to help children. However, the projects never came about.

Stuckey, the mother of two grown sons, said her desire to help children who are in need stems from her childhood.

"When I was a kid, I had an aunt who worked in an orphanage and I thought that was so neat that they helped children," Stuckey said. "I thought about it all through my life."

So when Stuckey learned about a Christian foundation in Olathe that matches potential donors to charitable organizations, she contacted them, and eventually decided to offer her property to House of Hope.

And Thomas said she was thrilled.

"We'd been hoping that we would get 10 to 20 acres with one pond," Thomas said. "This happens to be 40 acres with two ponds."

As Stuckey talks about her offer, her aunt, who worked at the Atchison orphanage, is on her mind, she said.

"I think that's just what planted the seed," Stuckey said. "But I just love children, it's just in me, that's all. I recognize the need today and I feel so sorry for these children that are batted around, in need of love and help."

Thomas agreed.

"These aren't bad children," Thomas said. "They're just hurting children."

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