Last year, a powerful tornado hit the Doylestown area, knocking down trees, power lines and causing extensive damage near Doylestown Hospital and Central Bucks West High School.
The August 4, 2020 tornado displaced cars, damaged high school bleachers and caused severe damage to the Children’s Village Early Years Center on the Doylestown Health campus.
Although no children or staff were injured, the facility was damaged beyond repair.
Earlier this month, Doylestown Health launched plans to build a new and improved facility at the site of the old one. The goal is for the new facility to be built by summer 2023.
âWe have had an incredible opportunity to create a first-class child development program,â said Jim Brexler, President and CEO of Doylestown Health.
The tornado that hit this area more than 16 months ago tore off parts of the roof of the 35-year-old building. Brexler said staff managed to get the 135 children out of the building safely.
âNot a single child was injured,â he said. “The faculty was amazing.”
Brexler said engineers came to check on the building after the tornado.
âIt literally ripped apart the stability of the structure itself,â he said.
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Daycare services stopped briefly after the tornado, but Doylestown Health was able to rent a nearby location on Ferry Road, as well as rent mobile classrooms, so services could resume.
âA week after the tornado we were back in business,â Brexler said.
Since the tornado damaged the Children’s Village, Doylestown Health has been able to hire an architect to design the new location and have obtained the necessary permits to begin construction.
While officials at Doylestown Health inaugurated the land earlier this month, construction on the new facility is expected to begin in March. Brexler said Doylestown Health has yet to secure bids for the construction.
He estimated that the project will cost between $ 16 and $ 18 million. About half of these funds have already been raised.
The temporary facilities currently provide services to approximately 190 children. Brexler said the new facility will have enough room for around 210 children.
The new building will feature 16 classrooms for five age groups, a library, educational kitchen, art studio, multi-purpose room, outdoor play area, and enhanced safety and security features.
The educational kitchen and the art studio were not in the old building.
âThey made an amazing design,â Brexler said.
The new library will also contain “Teddy Bear Come Home,” a book written by the great-grandmother of a former student to help comfort him after the storm. Proceeds from the book go to help rebuild the Children’s Village.
The student, Gianluca Ferraguti, 5, participated in the inauguration ceremony of the new location.
“He loved it, he absolutely loved it,” said his father, Stephen Ferraguti.
He and his wife Katie Ferraguti of Hatfield are happy to see things happen with school, a place that will always be special for their son.
âIt’s going to be really exciting,â said Katie Ferraguti.
The two said that Gianluca, who had been there for years, developed his love for reading there and speaks frequently about school.
âThe fact that we have a new copy of his book in the library is very exciting for him,â said Stephen Ferraguti.
The project recently received a $ 2 million grant from the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program. Doylestown Health is still accepting donations to support the project.
Those interested in donating or learning more about the project can do so by going here, https://doylestownhealthfoundation.org/childrensvillage/.
Those who wish to purchase Gianluca’s Great Grandmother’s Book can do so here, https://www.amazon.com/Teddy-Bear-Come-Venita-Duggins/dp/B08YDDV1QX.