Former foster parents plan to renovate Civil War-era orphanage i - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Former foster parents plan to renovate Civil War-era orphanage into place of stability

With more than 15,000 children in foster care in Ohio according to state officials, a Hamilton couple is working to make a difference by opening a home and community resource for foster families. (Source: WXIX) With more than 15,000 children in foster care in Ohio according to state officials, a Hamilton couple is working to make a difference by opening a home and community resource for foster families. (Source: WXIX)
HAMILTON, OH (FOX19) – -

With more than 15,000 children in foster care in Ohio according to state officials, a Hamilton couple is working to make a difference by opening a home and community resource for foster families.

The Ohio Attorney General's Office has said that about half of the children who are currently in foster care in Ohio are there because one -- or both -- of their parents are drug addicts. Knowing the statistics, Roxann and Daryl Gunnarson, who run a local non-profit called "New Oaks Community," are nearing the end of their first project.

The project, called "The Father's House," is made up of property the couple owns on D Street in Hamilton. The Gunnarsons said they took a leap of faith based on their Christian faith seven years ago and took ownership of the buildings and surrounding land.

The land has history. A mansion that sits in the center of the property was an orphanage in the 1800s for children who lost parents in the Civil War. 

The Gunnarsons said they are now renovating the mansion and other buildings into something new that will once again be focused on helping children. They told FOX19 NOW they have had the help of more than 1,000 volunteers and have received about $1 million in renovation donations.

"It's a monumental task and sometimes seems overwhelming, but to have the help is wonderful," said Roxann Gunnarson.

When all is said and done, there will be playgrounds, a garden, a media center, a wood workshop, and mentor and prayer rooms on the property. There will also be four apartments for foster families.

The Gunnarsons have been foster parents themselves, and admit that it can be tough on both the children and the parents, so they want "The Father's House" to be a place of stability.

"Every time a child moves and leaves another home, that's another scar on their heart, so we would like to stop and heal those scars so they can be successful in life," Daryl Gunnarson said. "To me, that's exciting. That's what makes it worthwhile."

Foster children who live on the property, as well as foster children who do not, will be able to join cooking classes, take music lessons or be tutored.

The Gunnarsons said it is supposed to serve as a support system for foster parents too -- as a way to encourage them to continue taking in kids in need.

"The heroin epidemic is just crazy, and it's leaving all kinds of kids without families," Daryl said.

There is still work to be done, but they anticipate the first foster family will be moving in within a couple of months, and they hope to have everything up and running by the end of 2017.

The couple said that foster families who move in to "The Father's Place" must be licensed foster parents and will have to go through an application process and pay rent to cover the cost of keeping it going.

The Gunnarsons estimate they need another $800,000 to finish the renovations.

Anyone interested in volunteering, donating or learning more about New Oaks Community or The Father's House can visit the non-profit's website.

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