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Social services to move to new home

by Christy Chalmers

Douglas County Social Services Director Karen Goode says she can understand why children who come into the agency’s new office sometimes prefer to wait in the lobby.

That’s where a colorful Lego play table sits, surrounded by three tiny chairs.

“We had to put some Legos back in the interview rooms so they’d come back with their parents,” said Goode. “It’s been a big hit.”

The Lego table is one of several amenities Goode, Community Health Nurse Mary Owens and their staffs will be showing off on Thursday. They will hold an open house from noon-3 p.m. at their new building, 1133 Spruce St. in Gardnerville.

The facility houses the Douglas County Social Services Department, the Community Health Nurse and the Women, Infants and Children office. The county bought the building, which was previously a medical office, in 1998. After minor remodeling that included placing windows in former exam rooms that are now used for interviews and moving some walls, the new occupants moved in May 1.

Goode said they have settled in comfortably.

“It’s a lot more positive atmosphere. It really feels a lot better,” said Goode. “We’ve heard really great comments from the clients. They say, ‘Gee, I don’t feel like I’m coming to a welfare office. I feel good coming here.’ That’s been really nice.”

Previously, the county rented 2,400 square feet on the north end of Minden for $3,213 a month. The former office was often so crowded no lobby seating was available.

The new building includes 2,800 square feet, adequate for the seven to 10 employees who work in it on any given day. Goode said the purchasing and remodeling costs totaled about $300,000.

The agencies share a common lobby with a play area for children. Molded plastic chairs dating back 30 years, by Goode’s estimate, have been replaced with new furniture. Original art borrowed from the library decorates the walls.

“It was like, ‘Wow, we can put up pictures,'” said Goode, whose pride in the new building is evident. “We just never had that feeling in the rented space. It’s like buying a house versus renting a house. You have that pride of ownership.”

Social services provides food vouchers, assistance with medical, day care, rental, utility and medical bills, referrals and other emergency services for Douglas County residents. The community health nurse provides vaccinations and basic medical care, while the Women, Infants and Children program provides resources for single parents.

Goode said 3,644 people visited social services in the 1998-99 fiscal year. Owens said about 235 people a month seek family planning and immunization services, which are the top draws for her office.

The three agencies have shared quarters for the past 10 years. The new building is expected to serve them for another 10 years, at least.

“We’ll make it last, we like it so much,” said Goode.

Breakout:

What: Social Services building open house

When: Thursday, noon- 3 p.m. at 1133 Spruce Street, Gardnerville

Information: 782-9825