FARGO — The Red River Human Services Foundation is set to move into their new south Fargo office come August, the foundation's CEO Tom Newberger recently told The Forum.
The new office — located at 4302 17th Ave. S. across the street from Lucky 13's Pub — is currently under construction at a cost of $5.6 million, building permit records show.
The new office will serve two main purposes, Newberger said: unifying the Red River Human Services Foundation's Fargo offices under one roof and providing better services to the residents they support.
The office will bring together RRHSF's Fargo-based employees, saving time on transportation between their downtown and south Fargo locations.
"We purchased the property a little over a year ago. The purpose of that is to co-locate all of our offices across Fargo," he said. "We're co-locating everyone just to create some efficiencies and to meet our specific needs."
RRHSF spent a year scouting possible locations across the city but could not find a perfect fit, Newberger said. "None of them really met the needs of the people with intellectual disabilities," he noted.
The new facility will do just that, allowing RRHSF to "meet the specific needs of the people we support," Newberger continued.
All of RRHSF's Fargo staff will work in the new three-story building. Staff include case workers, job coaches, individuals who care for residents at their homes or apartments and other pre-employed staff which work in schools.
Highlights of the building's first floor are a gymnasium which will be heavily-utilized by those with intellectual disabilities as well as an activities center. The activities center will allow staff to help people accomplish "whatever their desires and dreams are," Newberger said, be it relaxing inside watching television or movies or taking part in outdoor physical activities such as camping or bicycling.
The second floor will house more programs in addition to in-office case workers who assist with day-to-day tasks such as writing checks, making appointments or paying bills. The third floor will be home to accounting, human resources and information technology staff.
Another key feature of the new building will be larger meeting rooms, which Newberger said will be an upgrade over their existing spaces. "Right now our conference rooms are so small, we don't even really have room for meetings, but now we will," he said.
In total, the Red River Human Services Foundation supports 565 residents in both Fargo and Wahpeton, Newberger said. The foundation provides "lifetime care," he explained, assisting residents with intellectual disabilities from birth through death.
The COVID-19 pandemic has required RRHSF to take a judicious approach with both their employees and the people they serve. "We have been very cautious compared to most businesses, but we support people that have essential needs and have medically fragile environments that they live in," Newberger said.
While Newberger said the foundation did have to deal with some COVID-19 cases, case numbers have been "very low" compared to other providers in North Dakota.
The organization has also dealt with a staffing crunch, as have other businesses in the city. RRHSF currently employs roughly 300, which Newberger said is down about 40 employees from usual levels. "Compared to other providers we are sitting quite well," he said. "Other providers are having to bring in the National Guard to run their programs."
As the pandemic begins to wane in the United States, Newberger expressed optimism that the Red River Human Services Foundation will be able to relax some of its limitations in time for their new facility to open.
For Newberger, who has worked with the foundation for over 35 years, the new facility is not only a way to offer improved services, but is also a testament to the progress RRHSF has made in recent decades.
"It's going to be just a pure dream satisfier for so many people," Newberger said.