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Children's Home Society of West Virginia has ribbon-cutting ceremony in Martinsburg

July 22, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — After considerable painting and wallpaper removal and a "blitz" of volunteer home improvements, the Children's Home Society of West Virginia's new permanent home in Martinsburg was celebrated Friday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house.

"We are still working on the building, and we are still working on covering the expense of the building and, hopefully, we'll be free and clear sometime in the near future ...," Deborah Barthlow, Region 3 director of the society, told a crowd of about 30 people before ribbons stretched across the front steps were cut.

 The nonprofit child-welfare organization purchased the century-old Tudor-style home at 653 Winchester Ave. from City Hospital Foundation Inc. in 2010. The property — in the triangle at the Mall Drive-Winchester Avenue intersection near Winchester Elementary School — was donated to the foundation by retired Drs. Orlando and Betty Agnir in 2006, who attended the ceremony.

 Teresa McCabe, a spokeswoman for West Virginia University Hospitals-East,  told the crowd that the foundation sold the property to the organization for an amount that was "way below the market price and (the foundation) financed it for them because we wanted them to have this property."

The new address allowed the Children's Home Society to consolidate the locations of its Martinsburg Child and Family Services and the Safe Haven Child Advocacy Center.

Incorporated in 1896 in West Virginia, the Children's Home Society of West Virginia operates multiple locations statewide. Since arriving in Martinsburg 28 years ago, the organization's emergency shelter has served over 1,800 young people, officials said Friday.

In the last six months, 32 families have provided foster care to 137 children, and permanent adoptive homes have been found for 43 children.

The Eastern Panhandle's Child Advocacy Center last year conducted 145 forensic interviews, and most of the children served were age 12 and under, according to the agency's annual report.

The organization handled cases involving 127 alleged offenders. The Child Advocacy Center handled 100 reports of sexual abuse, the report said.

Coinciding with Friday's grand opening was the organization's kickoff of a capital campaign to raise $280,000 to continue work to restore and protect the society's new home.

About $140,000 in contributions have been committed toward the goal, officials said.

Barthlow said she was particularly thankful for all the volunteers who joined in the last several months to help the organization move to the building.

In a span of 12 hours on a Saturday earlier this month, Barthlow said nearly 200 volunteers, led by Dave Hill of New Life Community Church, arrived at the property to help build a handicapped-accessible ramp and work on other projects.

"I have no idea what that day was worth (to us)," Barthlow said while giving a tour of the property.  "It was amazingly moving."

More information about the Children's Society's "Our Children, Our Community" capital campaign is on the Internet at http://www.childhswv.org/.

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