Our Home Celebrates its 50th Anniversary
May 9, 2018
May is Preservation Month, and at ChildSavers we know that historic preservation is more about the future than the past. This May, we’re commemorating the 15 years we’ve served our community’s children out of our 50 year-old home at 200 North 22nd Street.
We call it ChildSavers’ WRVA Building because in 2003, we accepted the former radio station as a generous gift. While we had been serving our community’s children since 1924, the physical location of staff varied from Jackson Ward to Highland Park to North Church Hill and even Willow Lawn. By the early 2000’s, it was clear that we could provide more impactful services with a more efficient organizational structure under one roof.
As fate would have it, in the early 2000’s, just two blocks away, WRVA had moved out of its custom-built home at 200 North 22nd Street. When WRVA moved out, the building sat vacant for about two years. Lou Dean, former on-air personality for WRVA, said, “All of us thought the building would make an excellent restaurant because of the view.”
It was a warm, sunny afternoon when the ChildSavers, then Memorial Child Guidance Clinic, leadership team first toured the inside of the building. Linda Whitaker, Vice President, Administration and Human Resources, said, “After taking a tour through the inside of the building, my first impression was not favorable. Everything was outdated, there were holes in some of the walls, the carpet was orange and turquoise, all the walls needed to be repaired or painted, and there was carpet on the walls in a couple of the rooms that needed to be removed.”
Pam Jackson, Administrative Assistant, said, “Leadership shared the news in an All Staff meeting. I was just looking at the building and all the things they needed to do.” Lead by longtime board member and supporter, E. Carlton Wilton, Jr., and many generous community members, the vacant address of 200 North 22nd Street became vibrant again. And so the crossroads of history, art, generosity, and a brighter future for our community’s children began. Today at 200 North 22nd Street, it’s Ms. Pam that the children look for when they visit ChildSavers.
In 1968, the building was state of the art. It was designed by Philip Johnson, a famous American architect, known for his influence on Modern architecture. The poured in-place concrete demonstrates a modern identity, and the scattered rounded glass windows simulate punches made by a machine, the pinnacle of technology during mid-century. In Johnson’s speech at the dedication ceremony, he noted, “We decided on the most radical material with which to build…concrete! It also is one of the ugliest materials in the world. But just because it was ugly was not a reason not to use it! We wanted to use something typical of our day…make concrete beautiful…make the building low enough to be a good neighbor…create a landmark that could be said, ‘There is WRVA-Radio!’”
Tim Timberlake, former on-air personality and traffic reporter for WRVA, said, “The building was such a showcase, and we couldn’t actually believe we were getting to work at a place like that. Flood lights embedded into the grass lit up the tower like a beacon. It had really declined compared to the showcase that it was.”
The accompanying 75-foot square tower is designed with the same concrete and skip-stop holes and rises to the top of the Church Hill cityscape with the steeple of nearby St. John’s Church, where Patrick Henry delivered his famous Liberty of Death speech. Intentionally, the WRVA building was dedicated on Patrick Henry’s 232nd birthdate, May 29, 1968. In another interesting twist, when ChildSavers moved out of our former home at 2319 East Broad Street, it was occupied by St. John’s Church Foundation.
Adapting the radio station into a nonprofit center that provides mental health and child development services required the same values we share today – passion, integrity, impact, diversity, and relationships. Adaptive reuse is a story of resilience.
Ms. Pam said, “We worked through construction with the waiting room moving multiple times.” The construction for the renovation was intentional. Guided by Baskervill, a Richmond-based architectural firm, as much of the original historic fabric was preserved. The former traffic office became the waiting room – and then an open workspace for administrative offices. The media room was split into three private therapy rooms. Linda said, “Everything about this building was designed with the intent of helping children understand that they can be confident, happy, and successful.”
Walking through the front doors today, children are greeted by colors that are child-friendly and calming. Floor-to-ceiling panels share our mission, images of children, and the names of generous folks who have made our home and work possible. A panoramic view of the city reminds us of the whole world out there that connects us. “Entering our building is a warm embrace for all of us who work here and for those we serve,” said John Richardson-Lauve, Director of Mental Health and Lead Trauma and Resilience Educator.
Janet Burke, Director of Child Development Services, said, “Through it all, the building and those that gather together within the building have one common goal, and that is to guide our community’s children through life’s critical moments.”
Robert Bolling, Chief Executive Officer of ChildSavers said, “From this building, the radio station connected people with information, important news, and resources to help them live their lives from day-to-day. We continue this intent for children, and all those who care for and educate them – their parents, their child care providers, our staff and volunteers, and other community partners. The intentional renovation of this building was to add to it our work to guide, heal, teach, and empower.”
Call to Action
As a nonprofit, our mission is defined by the community that we guide. Remember, resilient people don’t go through life alone. That’s why you’re your generosity is so vital. If you are considering joining ChildSavers to make a difference, there is no better time than now.
By Amy Clark Garmon
Amy Garmon is a connector. A puzzle piece putter together. She enjoys short, choppy sentences and then a really, this-should-be-two-sentences long one.
Amy earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Bachelor of Arts in Women’s Studies from Virginia Commonwealth University. Her resume is filled with her favorite Richmond-area nonprofits. As our resident historian and relationship-builder, she’d love if you’d send her a note to tell her a story or say hello!