SHERIDAN — Sheridan KidsLife broke ground on the construction of its new home last week. The future headquarters will be a 16,000-square-foot facility that includes activity rooms, a game room and kitchen. It will be located on West Alger Street, between the YMCA and Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library.
To mark the occasion, KidsLife, a Christian organization that serves youth in third through 12th grade, held a groundbreaking ceremony last week for the new activity center, dubbed The Klubhaus.
KidsLife executive director Ryan Koltiska gave a few opening remarks at the groundbreaking, reiterating the mission of serving kids.
The new building won’t be ready for about another year, and even then won’t be fully completed. Construction of the building’s exterior and main floor are underway and will cost about $2 million. More than half of those funds have been secured through various foundations, but more money needs to come in if KidsLife wants to begin its programs next fall. The final phase — completing the second floor and basement — will cost another $500,000 and does not have a specific end date.
“It’s more space than we need today, but hopefully in a couple years, we grow into it,” Koltiska said of The Klubhaus.
KidsLife began in 2011 as KLIFE and was part of a national organization. The group switched to a local organization and changed its name to KidsLife in May 2017. Koltiska took over as the organization’s executive director in September.
The local ownership allows for more flexibility and control regarding building design.
“It’s kind of like starting a new business,” Koltiska said. “It’s been a pretty good process and seamless in some ways, but then there are challenges.”
Koltiska said he didn’t know exactly what to expect when he took over the job last fall, but the organization’s membership has progressed faster than he thought it would.
“It’s fun to see the growth, but then with that comes growing pains, but then with that comes excitement,” Koltiska said.
The plan for a new building has been in the works for quite some time. A feasibility study on the land took place in 2013. The Mercedes K. and Chandler H. Kibbee Foundation gave the land to the YMCA in 2016, which then leased it to KidsLife for about $100 per year for 30 years.
The previous three buildings on the land were more than 100 years old and didn’t provide enough space for KidsLife programs. The Klubhaus is designed to have as much multi-purpose space as possible so different groups of kids can take part in activities at the same time.
The YMCA board of directors approved the lease and construction and KidsLife staff also went through YMCA child abuse prevention training. Moreover, YMCA executive director Liz Cassiday is working on a memorandum of understanding to outline future plans between the two entities.
Cassiday said it took about four months for a YMCA committee to finalize the lease, which includes making sure there is proper lighting and a back entrance for kids walking from the YMCA to KidsLife.
“We extended that lease to 30 years to know that that’s going to be their permanent home,” Cassiday said. “This is a real long commitment for both parties, and we wanted to make sure we started on a strong foot.”
It also works out well for the two organizations to be next to each other, allowing kids to go back and forth between the two locations if necessary.
“We want to be good neighbors,” Cassiday said. “It’s silly for them to have a youth facility right next door and not be utilizing our pool and gyms.”
Koltiska said school counselors and others around town have told KidsLife that a few groups of kids — mainly middle schoolers — are being underserved in terms of after-school activities.
“We just feel like this meets a very clear need that we didn’t make up,” Koltiska said. “Every kid goes through something, no matter your social status or your economic status. All kids go through trials and some people have support systems and some people don’t, no matter what category they fit into.”
Once the new building is open, KidsLife will have programs after school every weekday and some activities during weekends. To help with the additional programs, KidsLife will eventually have to hire more staff and have a gradual implementation of curriculum.
The new building received the Klubhaus moniker because KidsLife hopes to encourage a sense of belonging, and because of the “KL” connection.
“I want kids to feel like this is their place,” Koltiska said. “We’re not building this for adults. We’re building it for them.”
The new building won’t be completed for some time, but it’s on its way to opening doors for local youth.