Juvenile center opens to public

Published 10:40 pm Saturday, November 7, 2009

ELIZABETH TOWNSHIP – It opened its doors to Lawrence County juveniles this summer. Friday, it opened its doors to the public.

The Lawrence County Juvenile Center hosted an open house to show area residents its new facility on State Route 93 at the former Mended Reeds building. The county purchased the building this year for $800,000. The lion’s share of the money — $500,000 — was state money. The public pronouncement was positive.

“They’ve done an outstanding job here in converting it over,” Ellnora Smith said. “It is absolutely beautiful.”

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Others agreed.

“This is so different than what they had before,” Bilreka Ferguson said. “What they had before was old and cramped. This is what they needed.”

Even the name is new: When it was in town, the facility was known as the Dennis J. Boll Group and Shelter Home.

Director Brett Looney said the name change was needed to better reflect its services to the community.

“The group home conjured up images of an orphanage,” he said. “This center is for delinquent youth. I think the new name does a better job of describing what we do.”

If the group and shelter home did conjure up images of an orphanage, its building didn’t help matters any. The home on Ninth Street in Ironton, more than a 100 years old, was almost Dickensian in appearance.

The new facility, though old, had been renovated when it was occupied by Mended Reeds. It got some additional work when the county purchased the building and moved its juvenile center there.

Not only are juveniles housed there, they get their education there, too. The Alternative School was moved to one end of the first floor this summer as well, making the building a one-stop-of-sorts for youth in trouble.