The entrance to Face to Face. (Photo by Meredith Bernstein)

by Meredith Bernstein

Face to Face is one of those nonprofits that seems to do it all. It offers dining, childcare, health, legal and social services to locals in the Germantown and surrounding areas. A few years ago, Face to Face asked the question, “What more can we do?”

While Face to Face had a wide range of incredible services to offer, it could not maximize them due to the original design of its St. Vincent Church building.

“The building did not reflect the hospitality that we wanted,” said Mary Kay Meeks-Hank, Face to Face executive director. “Instead of having the building dictate how we do our services, we wanted to shift the building to fit our programmatic needs.”

In November 2015, the nonprofit organization started a capital campaign to make renovations to its space. It got some leverage from Jim McGuire and the McGuire Foundation, who donated a generous $1 million toward the cause.

“[The McGuire Foundation] challenged us to get another million dollars from our advisory board and former board members,” Meeks-Hank said. “We met their challenge, and then got one million from the Rainier Institute. We turned to our longtime supporters, individuals and foundations to raise the final $2 million. In total, we raised $5 million. It was incredible!”

When construction began in May 2017, Face to Face made the intentional decision to continue operations at First United Methodist Church of Germantown.

“We had to move our dining space, but we also had to move social, legal, and health services,” Meeks-Hank said. “We made it happen. It wasn’t anything like it is now, but we did it because we didn’t want to close.”

While services were temporarily relocated, Face to Face underwent construction to improve its adult, dining room and basement services. Above all else, renovations called for strong, interconnected programs.

“We changed how our model of collaborative services work,” Meeks-Hank said. “We designed a common waiting room for health, social and legal services so our guests could be served through a holistic approach. Now, all three of the services are open Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. It’s really changed the game because they’re all right there.

“The dining hall was another huge renovation. We got rid of our long tables and changed them to round ones to encourage better conversation because it’s so much more than a place to eat. It’s a community space. When I started here, we were open Saturdays and Sundays only. Now we’re open five days a week, and we have breakfast four of those days.”

The final project was the basement. After serving as storage space for 35 years, Meeks-Hank was excited to turn the basement into a learning program for children.

“We had to take a leap and think about renovating that space and our programmatic approach to children,” Meeks-Hank said. “We’ve always had children’s programs after school and throughout the summer, but we weren’t seeing a change in the families. We weren’t seeing families able to escape poverty. The dream at Face to Face is to work with the families and provide support, encouragement and friendship all the way through.”

The change has already transformed the Germantown community, providing support to every guest who enters the Price Street building. Volunteers, workers and guests are astonished when they see the building’s physical change, but they come to learn that the biggest change is in the community’s people.

“It took a while for our clients to get used to this,” Meeks-Hank said. “We had to remind them that this was all about them. It was about giving people dignity and beauty. When people walk in, they feel welcomed. They see themselves as beautiful and happy people in the mural. People feel like they can ask for what they deserve as human beings. That’s all they’re getting here – what they deserve, nothing more. That’s so beautiful to me.”

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