handy-new-home-web.jpgFORT LAUDERDALE — An organization that provides services to children in need has expanded into a new, larger building that will allow it to better assist young people.

HANDY, Inc., which stands for Helping Abused, Neglected, Disadvantaged Youth, on Feb. 12 celebrated its purchase of, and move to the Lillian S. Wells Center, 501 NE 8th St. in Fort Lauderdale, with an open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The new building, according to Shanique Gayle, 18, president of HANDY’s youth advisory board, will allow more room for the staff and  children to participate in the programs.

“[Staff] numbered from four to five in each small office,’’ Gayle said. “And for us, [the children] the additional space includes meeting rooms, a place to barbecue out back and just a nicer space for everyone, really.’’

She continued, “It’s more than just a building with walls, but our home away from home. Here we get educated and are kept off the streets.”

HANDY, Inc. is a non profit founded in 1985 to meet the fundamental needs of Broward County’s foster children. The organization currently serves about 300 young people.

The new, 5,100-square-foot facility, formerly a law office, was purchased in May 2008 with a $2 million grant that HANDY received from the Lillian S. Wells Foundation, a non-profit foundation that provides grants to other non-profits.

The building sits on a half-acre lot that includes a detached garage and a one-duplex home, for which, according to Arlene Ratner, HANDY’s executive director, there are no current

The funding covered the property’s purchase and included its rehabilitation into an office, Ratner said.

“This will help us reduce our overhead quite a bit,” Ratner said.

Up to now, HANDY has operated from a 3,200-square-foot space at 101 NE 3rd Street in Fort Lauderdale, where Ratner said the agency is “paying for the lease and everything that goes with it.”

She said the lease on the Third Street property expires at the end of September.

“We will have part of the staff move in at the end of February and the first week of March,’’ she said. “The rest of the staff will move in over the summer.’’

The grant made it possible for the new Lillian S. Wells Center to become a rent- and mortgage-free facility for HANDY, Ratner explained.

She said the executive director of the Wells Foundation, Patricia Mulvaney, heard that HANDY was looking for funds to purchase a building, “as we had outgrown where we were. Pat reached out to us; we had a couple of meetings, were asked to submit a proposal and then make a presentation to her board. They did a site visit to both the old and new properties, and then decided to move on giving us the funding.” 

Kirk Brown, director of HANDY’s LIFE program (Life skills, Independent living, Foundation building and Education/Employment), said he “loves that the kids love the new building,” and said he is “excited” about the transition.

Kevin Keene, HANDY’s chairman of the board, said he felt that owning the building represented “consistency and longevity for the kids. Prior to this, our facility was leased. This gift from the Wells Foundation has made more things possible than imagined.”

Although Ratner said the purchase of the building will reduce HANDY’s overhead tremendously, the organization is not seeking to cut back its staff, benefits or services to the children in its programs.

She said receiving the grant is “a blessing,” adding that the “timing could not have been better because our lease at 101 [NE 3rd Street] is ending shortly.’’

Said Ratner: “[Lillian S. Wells Center’s] generosity is overwhelming. They are making a tremendous contribution to the children in the community.”


Photo by Elgin Jones/SFT Staff. Directors and associates of HANDY participate in the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the agency’s new building on Feb. 12. From left to right, they are: Lucy Weber, past president of HANDY; Barbara Wells of the Lillian S. Wells Foundation; Shanique Gayle, president of HANDY’s youth advisory board; Patricia Mulvaney, executive director of the Wells Foundation; Kevin Keene, chairman of HANDY’s board of directors; and Arlene Ratner, HANDY’s executive director.