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G.I. Boys Town officials talk about past, present, future of facility

Photo copyright: Independent/Barret Stinson

This article is written by Austin Koeller. It was posted on the independent.com January 16, 2018.

In 1917, Father Edward Flanagan borrowed $90 to rent a boarding house on the corner of 25th and Dodge in Omaha. Now, more than 100 years later, Megan Andrews, senior director of program operations at Grand Island Boys Town, said Boys Town is "not just an orphanage."

Andrews spoke about the shelter's operations, its history and its future goals during a presentation to the Grand Island Noon Rotary Club Tuesday afternoon.

Sometimes, Andrews said, people tend to think the Grand Island Boys Town shelter is a detention center, which she said is not true.

"It is truly a homestyle environment," she said. "We also eat meals as a family. The family-style environment is really important. We eat together and we pray together. The kids have self-government meetings where they have make decisions as a group for themselves.

"It is a good environment for these kids to get some of the help they need."

Andrews said Grand Island Boys Town does not just take in juvenile justice kids, but also serves Grand Island families "privately." She said if a parent is struggling with their children, but do not feel law enforcement or Health and Human Services is warranted, they can call Boys Town and place children at their facility for a period of time.

"We want to serve kids where their needs are," Andrews said. "We do not believe the answer is just taking them out of their homes and putting them in our family homes or shelters. Sometimes, we can prevent that from happening if we reach them earlier."

Andrews added the Grand Island Boys Town shelter is the only Boys Town shelter in the state between Scottsbluff and Lincoln.

Andrews and Stan Kontogiannis, regional major gifts officer, also told Rotarians in attendance about its planned kitchen renovation. According to a document provided at the Rotary meeting, the kitchen renovation project consists of repairing the floor and sub-floor, cabinets, counters and labor costs.

In addition to the work required for kitchen renovation, Grand Island Boys Town also plans to replace a stove, a sterilizer, lighting, blinds and a roll-up counter door. The total fundraising goal for the project is $100,000. Kontogiannis said Boys Town has raised about $30,000 since the fundraising campaign kicked off in the second half of 2017.

"It is the original kitchen from 1991 when our facility was built. So it has been used constantly for about 27 years," Andrews said. "I did some math to figure out how many kids have been in and out and we used to serve about 300 kids per year. With all these kids, we've served over 500,000 meals.

"When you think about the wear and tear your own kitchen has with kids — for us, 12 to 18 teenagers at a time — it is past due for a remodel."

Kontogiannis asked Rotarians in attendance to donate funds to the kitchen renovation fundraising campaign. He told them the project is about more than just a floor and a kitchen.

"This is about kids. When you invest in kids today, you are saving your money and lives tomorrow," Kontogiannis said. "The physical structure is something we need to address. For 27 years, we served so many meals and so many individuals coming through the shelter."

Kontogiannis added that anyone interested in donating to Grand Island Boys Town's kitchen renovation project is encouraged to call his office at (402) 498-7979. He said the project has received donations from the Grand Island Community Foundation and TOBA Inc.

Andrews said the kitchen renovation project is expected to be completed this fall.