The home that has become My Friend’s House on East view Circle in Franklin has gotten plenty of facelifts over the years. But now it’s time for a complete head-to-toe makeover
With a gathering of several dozen community and business supporters on hand last Thursday for an official ground-breaking, the work to construct a new home behind the existing one is underway. If everything stays on schedule, the project will be complete in nine months.
At the ground-breaking ceremony, retired judge Jane Franks, who in 1988 played a key role in the launch of My Friend’s House — originally as an emergency shelter for troubled or at-risk boys — recalled the past 30 years and presented a challenge for the next 30.
“To me, this is really a great day,” she said, “and I’m so thankful that we have this wonderful opportunity to help the children of Williamson County. And just remember to keep on working for them.”
My Friend’s House provides a homelike environment for up to eight boys at a time. Over a year’s time, roughly 40-45 boys will find temporary sanctuary within its walls.
And soon, those walls will be a lot more sturdy.
The project, which has taken a decade to come to fruition, will replace the old home with a 5,000-square-foot abode. But this is about more than just a fresh space.
Tina Edwards, executive director of the facility, explained.
“The footprint that we have isn’t really conducive to the type of work that we do here,” she said. “There’s not a lot of line-of-sight, so you can’t always constantly keep your eyes on the residents, who need to be looked after and cared for.”
Edwards said the current house was “not built to hold eight teenage boys 24-7.” The new one, she says, will be safer and more functional.
“We’ve sort of designed their sleeping space very much like a nurses station and a hospital wing,” Edwards said. “There will be a space where the overnight staff or morning staff will be able to do their paperwork and all the administrative tasks that they need to do. There’s a line of sight directly down the hallway that the bedrooms are in and there’s a line of sight to see into the common living spaces and kitchen areas. I’m very excited about that.”
The project is expected to cost about $600,000. The board that oversees the home has raised half of that total and is hopeful that a capital campaign will cover the rest.
The boys who live at the home now may not be around when the project is finished. And that would be just fine with Edwards, who says that, ideally, no child stays at the home for longer than six months. The mission: get them back with their biological parents or pair them up with a foster family or an adoptive one.
Edwards is happy to say that more families are stepping up when it comes to considering adoption. And they’re doing so with a more realistic understanding.
“Parenting any child has its difficulties, right? Every child is different and unique, and foster kids are no different,” Edwards said.
“So there will be unique challenges and there will be struggles in fostering or adopting a child, but you have struggles and difficulties with your biological child, so it isn’t, really, a lot different. It’s just getting some training and understanding that so many of these kids come from a background of abuse, or neglect, or trauma, and they need a little extra care.
For a young resident, waiting to see how the future will unfold can be difficult, so the home’s group of 10-12 staffers keeps the boys busy and engaged.
“We try very hard to make life seem normal,” Edwards said. “The boys that live here are very aware that living in a group environment is not ‘normal,’ that living in a family unit — whatever that family unit looks like — is ‘normal.’ So we try to provide the boys with some normalcy. We take them on reward outings. “
That can mean going to the movies, the fair, to car shows or canoeing or a water park.
Edwards acknowledges that all of this requires money. She’s thankful for all those who have donated and who continue to donate, and she’s hopeful more will consider doing so.
“I can tell you, by the time you get to 12 or 13 or 17, and you’ve been in the system for seven years, you’ve had no visitors for seven years, you start to think that there is something wrong with you,” she said. “You start to think that you are unloveable and that you will always be unloved. And that is heartbreaking, and no child should ever, ever feel that way.”