For Kids Only Afterschool (FKO), the revolutionary after-school program launched by Deborah Kneeland Keegan and Connie Grayson in 1984, has found a home to call its own in town.
Keegan, executive director of the non-profit, has announced that FKO will break ground on its new location in the former Levesque family home on Jefferson Street on Monday, Nov. 25.
The news comes as the organization hosts its 35th anniversary at its annual Helping Families Fundraising Gala Friday, at which time Speaker of the House Robert A. DeLeo will be honored for his long-time support of FKO.
FKO has housed its programs at the St. John’s Episcopal Parish, the Willis School, and the E.B. Newton School, among several other locations in town.
“Between the town, the school community, and the religious community, we have been more than supported, helping us fulfill our mission, which is to support working families, to keep children safe, and to give them opportunities to love, learn, and grow.”
FKO currently has its offices at the E.B. Newton School and has spaces at the Gorman/Fort Banks for kindergarten through grade 2 students, and at a former bank in Winthrop Center for grades 3-8. More than 150 children participate in FKO afterschool programs and thousands have been served since 1984.
A decade ago, Keegan brought the idea to the FKO board of directors “of having a space to call a home of our own.”
The search for a permanent site began and two years ago, a local realtor contacted Keegan that there was an old Queen Victorian home for sale across the street from the Winthrop Police Station and Town Hall.
Through financing by Salem Five, FKO purchased the two-story home. CBC Construction, a general contractor with 34 years of experience in commercial construction including educational facilities, will build FKO’s new 10,000 square-feet site. MJT Architects is the architect for the project that has a targeted opening date of September, 2020.
Keegan says the space is ideal and FKO will retain the historical integrity of the property.
“We worked very closely with the Historical Commission and town leadership to make sure that we aligned with the intentions of Commission. Our new home is going to maintain the architectural integrity and history of the current structure.
“The steeple will stay there and the stained glass windows will look the same,” said Keegan. “We’re going to extend the home out to the back and to the side.”
Director of Development Briana Flannery said the first floor of FKO’s new site will have a library, a nutrition cafe, a teaching kitchen, a classroom, and a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) educational lab.
“Children will enter (FKO) from the back door of the building where there will be drop-off and pick-up area,” said Flannery. “We will also have an outdoor patio area.”
The second floor will have a basketball half-court gymnasium (“With a three-point line,” said Flannery, a former Winthrop and Bentley scholar athlete with a Masters degree in Organizational Leadership), a multi-purpose classroom, and a dance-yoga-theater arts studio, a sunroom, and a reflection room where a licensed clinical social worker will be able to support children.
“We expect the facility to hold 120 children at a time,” said Keegan.
The FKO executive director said the organization has received tremendous support from Council President Ronald Vecchia and Supt. of Schools Lisa Howard.
“They’ve been great partners in our mission,” said Keegan. “We want to continue to collaborate with our school system to make sure that every child’s needs are met and hope to continue our partnership at the Gorman Fort Banks School.”
Keegan, who began her career as a special education teacher and holds a master’s degree in nonprofit administration, invites local residents to attend the groundbreaking ceremony on Nov. 25 at 10 a.m.
Looking ahead to the groundbreaking, Keegan paid special tribute to Speaker DeLeo, who will speak at the ceremony.
“Speaker DeLeo has been our champion for 35 years,” lauded Keegan. “He’s has been the consistent voice who has always said that the hours between 3-8 p.m. are critical hours for children and more attention should be given to having safe and productive afterschool programs. Senator [Joseph] Boncore has also been an amazing advocate for children and families since taking office.”
FKO is licensed by the Department of Early Education and Care and is a United Way of Mass Bay affiliate agency.