Teen Challenge doubling down

LIVINGSTON – Teen Challenge of the Upper Cumberland is expanding. The residential recovery program recently broke ground -ceremoniously at least – on a new dormitory construction project that will more than double the number of beds on its 45-acre Livingston campus.

While the cost of the project is estimated at around half a million dollars, several area construction firms are donating or discounting their services. Long-term, leaders hope to quadruple the number of beds on site in an effort to help those in need.

Teen Challenge, a long-term (12 month) faith-based addiction recovery program for women, currently operates an 11-bed facility on Rickman Road, but leaders say there’s an increasing need for more space. A new 3,800-square-foot dorm will house 16 additional women and four staff members. The project was announced last summer; ground broke in March, but a timeline for completion has not yet been announced.

“The demand is so great,” Pastor Tim McLauchlin, Teen Challenge of the Upper Cumberland’s executive director, said. “We’ve got 14 on a waiting list right now, and we’re just trying to help as many adult females as we can that are struggling with alcohol and drug addiction.”

Of the more than 230 Teen Challenge centers across the United States, Livingston has one of the smallest bed capacities, Intake Director Chelsea Hughes wrote in a recent blog post. Of those 230, only about 80 — or 35 percent — are female only, like Livingston.

Thousands across the state – and outside Tennessee’s borders – could benefit from its programs, she said. Teen Challenge got its start in the Upper Cumberland in 2009 and purchased its current site in 2012. It also offers placement services for men at other facilities, a non-residential addiction recovery program and drug abuse prevention.

“We so desperately need more housing facilities on the Livingston campus,” Hughes said. “We have an extremely high volume of calls and emails (from) people needing help.”

Cookeville-based J&S Construction worked alongside Teen Challenge during the design process; J&S donated all architectural and construction documents, the company said in a newsletter. Additionally, McLauchlin said W&O Construction, an Overton County firm, Stone Heating & Cooling and others contributed. W&O is overseeing the project, and Teen Challenge has reached out to subcontractors who may also be interested in donating or discounting labor.

“Retail – if you were going to go out and build this – is about $500,000-$550,000,” McLauchlin said. “Obviously, since we’re a nonprofit, everything we can get donated keeps cost down, and we’ve got most of the funds, but we’ve still got to function every day and keep the existing ministry going while we’re building this one.”

Long term, McLauchlin would like to have 50-60 beds total on site. A strategic plan for the property first calls for cafeteria building to accommodate that capacity. Then another dormitory. He said they’ll continue working with women. In the future, he’d like options for those who are pregnant or with young children. That’s another “great need,” he said. There’s only four Teen Challenge programs in the United States that will take pregnant women or women with small children, McLauchlin said.