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Expansion project to benefit social, health services in Austin

Parenting Resource Center to get multi-million upgrade for more space, to better serve its clients.

New Austin Parenting Resource Center.PNG
An architect's rendering shows what the new Austin Parenting Resource Center will look like. The project, which will include space for the Austin Welcome Center, the Michael H. Seibel Family Visitation & Exchange Center and Children’s Dental Health Services, was announced Thursday, June 3, 2021. (Courtesy Austin Parenting Center)

AUSTIN — An Austin family service agency in a tight squeeze will get some relief thanks to a multimillion dollar expansion project.

Gema Alvarado-Guerrero, executive director of the Parenting Resource Center in Austin, said the organization's current home will expand into a lot next door. That lot was sold to the organization by the Austin Housing & Redevelopment Authority for $1. The project itself, she said, is funded by the Hormel Foundation.

Alvarado-Guerrer said contracts on the expansion are being finalized, and so the exact cost of the project is still being withheld.

Still, the change, she said, is much-needed in part because the organization has seen an overall 15 percent increase in the use of its services, but also because the center has so little space right now.

"We have one private office for eight people," Alvarado-Guerrero said. "If we need to have a private conversation, a lot of times we have to step outside and find a quiet place."

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There's no conference room, either. All that will change with the expansion.

Furthermore, storage space for programs such as the diaper pantry, children’s clothes closet and basic needs pantry is in the basement, which makes it hard for staff to help individuals get items they need when they come for help, she said.

"We’re going to get added storage," Alvarado-Guerrero said. "Right now if we need to get these things, we have to go to the basement. With the expansion, we’ll have a location that's accessible by the staff and we’re not interrupted."

Among the 15 programs offered by the Parenting Resource Center are the Michael H. Seibel Family Visitation and Exchange Center, where custodial and non-custodial parents can exchange children in a safe environment, and Catherwood Home Child Care; and parental education.

While the expansion will give more room for all these programs, it'll also bring under the same roof other organizations that help families in need. The Austin Welcome Center, which provides services such as language translation and job placement for new residents, will move to the newly expanded Parenting Resource Center.

"They don’t have enough office space when families come to them," she said. "They need space for larger family units as well."

Jeff Ettinger.jpg
Jeffrey Ettinger

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The Rochester-based Children’s Dental Health Services also will get a permanent space from this project. Alvarado-Guerrero said the program helps underserved children with comprehensive dental care and education. The dental program currently rents a space in Austin, but often goes into schools to do cleanings and dental health education.

"Now, they'll actually have a permanent space with a lab," she said. "It'll be the only dental office in Austin that takes Medical Assistance. Right now, families with Medical Assistance have to go to Rochester or Northfield."

Funding this expansion just makes sense, said Jeffrey M. Ettinger, chairman of The Hormel Foundation.

"A single location will allow for these organizations, who provide services to many of the same families, to coordinate services along with providing easier access and identifiable location to seek assistance for the client families," Ettinger said.

Construction on the project is expected to begin this fall with the new facility opening in August 2022.

Brian Todd is the news editor at the Post Bulletin. When not at work, he spends time with his family, roots for the Houston Astros and watches his miniature dachshund sleep, which is why that dog is more bratwurst than hotdog. Readers can reach Brian at 507-285-7715 or btodd@postbulletin.com.
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