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ForKids' new Landmark Center looks to break poverty cycle

The state-of-the-art facility consolidates the organization's six properties from around the region.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — Cedrick Garrett is part of the team of education specialists at ForKids' new Landmark Center for Children and Families. He works out of the five-classroom education wing, with room for 120 children for after-school programs. 

"I mean, look at this place. They just love it all. They get food custom-made for them," said Garrett, sitting behind his desk. 

That food comes from the center's Birdsong Cafe. 

"By the fall we'll be serving up to 150 meals a night per night here. Focusing a lot more on nutrition in the new building, so we have a teaching island in our new commercial kitchen, as well as lots of space for volunteers," said ForKids CEO Thaler McCormick. 

Some of the ingredients in that kitchen will come from atop the building. A rooftop garden provides solace for families, a sunset view, and fresh vegetables. 

"We've got rhubarb, kale, peas, flowers, blackberry trees. And we also wanted to teach people about growing food and vegetables, so many of our families end up in food deserts," McCormick said. 

The shelter has 135 beds for families that are experiencing homelessness. 

"Our focus with the shelter rooms was to make them much more humane. A bedroom that feels cozy and welcoming," McCormick said, noting the role of a comfortable, stress-free environment. 

The facility is based on trauma-informed design. 

"Design where it doesn't look institutional," she said, pointing to the center's colorful atmosphere and soft architecture. "When you've been homeless and you're moving around a lot, we want you to come into a place where it’s going to bring down that tension."

The building includes a call center with a regional crisis hotline, data teams, counseling services, and a warehouse for donations, all dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty.