Uncertain future remains for Boll home

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 14, 2005

The young people who walk through the doors of the Dennis J. Boll Group and Shelter Home often do so unwillingly. But they may be unaware that just by putting one foot in front of the other, their future could be made a little brighter.

"For a lot of youth, this (home) is a first step and sometimes a last step toward a better life," Director Brett Looney said.

In his five years as director, Looney has seen many 12 to 18-year-olds come and go at the facility. It has a capacity of 24 - 18 males, 6 females - and usually stays at that maximum level.

Email newsletter signup

Approximately 400 are placed there every year by the juvenile court system for committing delinquent acts. Although most youth come from Lawrence County, about 80 of 400 are from neighboring areas, Looney said.

While the circumstances that bring them to the home may be negative, the staff of 25 professionals often make the difference for juveniles whose futures seem so uncertain.

"It's a tough population to deal with," Looney said. "There's certainly not a kid who comes here who says, 'I'm happy to be here.' They come in expecting the worst and find people who really care about them."

The facility's primary role is to attempt to impact behavior and prepare youth to return as productive members of society. That goal is accomplished in a variety of ways from counseling, community service, living skills and rehabilitation programs.

While its benefits are obvious, the facility's future is not so certain. Lawrence County leaders have expressed interest in purchasing the property to make way for a new 7-acre shopping/dining complex expected to produce hundreds of new jobs.

Plans are still in the discussion stages, but Looney is hopeful something can be worked out that will keep the juveniles' welfare and care in mind. He said the county commissioners have assured him that is their goal as well.

"Our main goal would be the purchase of a new facility," Looney said. "The current structure is 130 years old, so it doesn't take a brain surgeon to see that it has some problems.

"We're really excited about the possibilities, but no matter the outcome, we're committed to maintaining the quality of service we now provide."

Juvenile / Probate Court Judge David Payne agreed, saying a new facility would not only help the young people it serves, but the interests of Lawrence County as a whole by ensuring that economic development can move forward.

"This can be a win/win situation for a lot of folks," he said. "Š We're hoping this will work out for everyone."