Last year, an powerful tornado touched down in the Doylestown area, toppling trees, power lines and causing widespread damage near Doylestown Hospital and Central Bucks West High School.
The Aug. 4, 2020, tornado moved cars, damaged bleachers at the high school, and caused serious damage to the Children’s Village early child care education center on the Doylestown Health campus.
While no children or staff were injured, the facility was damaged beyond repair.
Earlier this month, Doylestown Health broke ground on the project to build a new and improved facility where the old one once stood. The goal is that the new facility will be built by summer 2023.
“We have had an incredible opportunity to build a first-class child development program,” Doylestown Health President and CEO Jim Brexler said.
The tornado that struck that area over 16 months ago ripped parts of the 35-year-old building’s roof off. Brexler said the staff were able to get all 135 children out of the building to safety.
“Not a single child was hurt,” he said. “The faculty were amazing.”
Brexler said engineers came in to check the building after the tornado.
“It literally tore the stability of the structure itself,” he said.
Tornado hits Doylestown:Isaias: EF2 tornado hit Doylestown
Day care services stopped briefly after the tornado, however Doylestown Health was able to lease a nearby location on Ferry Road, as well as rent mobile classrooms, so services could resume.
“One week after the tornado we were back in business,” Brexler said.
In the time since the tornado damaged Children’s Village, Doylestown Health was able to hire an architect to design the new location and has secured the necessary permits to begin construction.
While Doylestown Health officials broke ground on the location earlier this month, construction on the new facility is expected to begin sometime in March. Brexler said Doylestown Health still has to get bids for construction.
He estimated that the project will cost between $16 million and $18 million. About half of those funds have already been raised.
The temporary facilities currently provide services for about 190 children. Brexler said the new facility will have enough room for about 210 children.
The new building will have 16 classrooms for five age groups, a library, a teaching kitchen, an art studio, a multipurpose room, an outdoor play space and enhanced safety and security features.
The teaching kitchen and art studio were not in the old building.
“They’ve done an incredible design,” Brexler said.
The new library will also hold “Teddy Bear Come Home,” a book written by a former student’s great grandmother to help comfort him after the storm. Proceeds from the book go to helping rebuild Children’s Village.
The student, Gianluca Ferraguti, 5, participated in the groundbreaking ceremony for 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 moving with the school, a location that will always be special to their son.
“It’s going to be really exciting,” Katie Ferraguti said.
The two said Gianluca, who had gone there for years, developed his love for reading there, and frequently talks about the school.
“The fact that we’re going to have a new copy of his book in the library is extra exciting for him,” Stephen Ferraguti said.
The project recently received a $2 million grant from Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program. Doylestown Health is still accepting donations to support the project..
Those interested in donating or learning more on the project may do so by going here, https://doylestownhealthfoundation.org/childrensvillage/.
Those who wish to purchase the book by Gianluca’s great grandmother can do so here, https://www.amazon.com/Teddy-Bear-Come-Venita-Duggins/dp/B08YDDV1QX.