For the first time in its 97-year history, Boys Town has more than one location in its hometown.
The organization that provides help for troubled youths and families will officially open a South Omaha office today in a strip mall near 25th and L Streets. An office at 56th Street and Ames Avenue was opened earlier.
Boys Town has worked with clients in their own homes for a number of years in both neighborhoods, officials said.
Among other things, the South Omaha site provides a central location for parenting classes, family visitations with children who aren't living at home for various reasons, and office space for in-home family consultants, who previously worked out of their homes and cars.
The office and its programs grew out of conversations with people across the eastern part of the city, said Bob Pick, Boys Town vice president for the Nebraska/Iowa region.
“We wanted to know what people wanted,” he said. “We didn't want to assume we knew what the needs were.”
One of the more compelling needs was easier access. Having offices in eastern Omaha means families in those neighborhoods no longer will face transportation hurdles when they need Boys Town services. Many of those families don't have cars, and it's a long bus ride from their homes to west Omaha, officials said.
Pick said the move is in line with Boys Town's new strategic plan, which calls for the organization to work more closely and deeply with residents and groups within the communities it serves.
Under its previous director, the Rev. Val Peter, Boys Town expanded into 11 states while maintaining one central campus, near 132nd Street and West Dodge Road in Omaha. The current director, the Rev. Steven Boes, wants to continue work at those out-of-state sites while reaching out to communities at home, Pick said.
In South Omaha, Boys Town wants to partner with as many neighborhood groups as possible.
“We're getting a good vibe from the community,” said Rafael Santa-Maria, Boys Town community impact project manager, whose office is at the 25th and L location.
The executive director of the Latino Center of the Midlands on South 24th Street said she sees many areas in which Boys Town, her group and other agencies such as the Learning Community and Catholic Charities can collaborate.
“We've been talking with them quite a bit about perceived gaps and ongoing needs in this community,” Carolina Quezada said.
Mental health services and early intervention into troubled families are among those needs, she said.
The 6,000-square-foot South Omaha location — open today for a dedication at 2:15 p.m. — has three living-roomlike spaces where parents can have supervised visits with children who are in the juvenile probation system or in foster care.
The spaces are painted bright colors, are comfortably furnished and have boxes of toys.
That location also has a large classroom for programs such as Common Sense Parenting and office space for about 10 staff members.
The North 56th Street office, meanwhile, is not far from Girls Inc., the new NorthStar after-school center near 49th Street and Ames Avenue, and a planned Heartland Family Service facility. It has 10 staffers as well. An open house for that office will be scheduled soon.
Before the new offices opened, Boys Town was serving 2,000 people in South Omaha and 2,200 people in north Omaha, said Nick Juliano, senior director of community impact for Boys Town.
He hopes the new locations will be a hub where people can get connected with a number of services. It is, added Pick, all part of a culture change — the new Boys Town.
Pick said he now spends four days a week away from the home campus.
“It's very exciting.”