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Kelly Children’s Home purchases future location, debt-free

Beaufort County is now one step closer to having a group home for local children in the foster care system, after Kelly Children’s Home founders Josh and Alexis Kelly signed closing paperwork Friday to purchase the former Word of Life Worship Center at 300 E. 10th St. in Washington. Thanks to generous contributions from the community over the course of the past 12 weeks, the nonprofit was able to purchase the building for $130,000, debt-free.

“It’s a surreal feeling,” wrote Kelly Children’s Home founder Alexis Kelly. “Many people go through life thinking ‘Is this it?’ or ‘I want to do something more’ or ‘What is my real purpose in life?’ Today, for us to be able to purchase this property in full, I fight back tears as I can proudly say that everything we went through, every bit of hard work, has brought us to this very moment. This is our purpose.”

The purchase of the building comes at a time when departments of social services across the country are facing an increased need for foster parents for a variety of reasons, ranging from opioid addiction and mental health issues among parents to problems such as child abuse and substandard housing.

Earlier this year, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Beaufort County DSS reported more than 130 children and teens in the foster care system locally, with many being cared for in facilities as far away as Raleigh, Charlotte and South Carolina. With the establishment of the Kelly Children’s Home, however, some of those children may be able to stay closer to home until they find a loving foster family.

“In an ideal world, The Kelly Children’s Home and other group homes like it, wouldn’t be needed,” Alexis Kelly said. “But for now and the foreseeable future, our communities are still suffering from significant opioid addictions, unemployment, inadequate housing, child abuse and unaddressed mental health illnesses. As a result, the kids in our communities are suffering. Our biggest goal isn’t just to provide a place locally for eastern North Carolina foster children, but to actually bring awareness to the immense need for foster parents. I highly recommend for any one interested in fostering to contact their local DSS.”

As for next steps, the nonprofit is now working with Berry Construction and WIMCO to break ground on renovations early in 2021. From start to finish, Kelly says those upgrades will take around three-to-four months, placing completion sometime in March or April. In the meantime, the Kellys will be working on details such as state licensures and other necessary steps to take in children.

Upon completion, the Kelly Children’s Home will be able to accommodate 35-40 kids, though Alexis Kelly says that number might be lower to begin with, due to licensing, regulations and COVID-19 restrictions that might linger into the spring. At minimum, the home hopes to house 15-20 children during its first year.

As for how the community can help moving forward, Alexis Kelly says the nonprofit will need help with renovations, furnishings and other monetary donations that will help make the old church into a home.

“We can’t thank enough the community, our family, local churches and businesses who have rallied with us, from fundraising to prayer circles to sending cards of encouragement,” Kelly wrote. “Because of their support, we were able to raise $130,000 in 12 weeks in the middle of a pandemic.”

One of the easiest ways to help, Kelly said, is by sharing information about the organization, its mission and the need for foster families locally. Additional details on the Kelly Children’s Home can be found at the website, www.thekellychildrenshome.org, and on Facebook @thekellychildrenshome. For more information on becoming a foster parent for a local child in need, visit co.beaufort.nc.us/departments/human-services/social-services/programs/social-work, or call Beaufort County DSS at 252-975-5500 for more information about upcoming training opportunities.