SANTA ROSA -- Social Advocates for Youth announced that Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa has offered the Warrack Hospital campus as a donation, a development that would allow the nonprofit to increase its capacity nearly five-fold while adding a number of new services.

Should the nonprofit -- better known as SAY -- finalize critical details of the proposal, it would then begin to raise funds from grants, government sources and community donations to establish a "Youth Opportunity Center." It would aim to provide youth in Sonoma County with a host of services ranging from counseling, employment and job skills training, transitional housing for former foster children, emergency shelter and other community programs.

It's too soon to say exactly how much money will need to be raised, pending the completion of cost estimates for renovations by Santa Rosa-based Wright Contracting, said Matt Martin, executive director of SAY. Additionally, the nonprofit is currently evaluating any potential increase to its operating budget, which in 2011 was $3.2 million, to support new programs.

“We are honored (Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa) wants to support SAY’s efforts to reach more of Sonoma County’s youth and children in crisis with our services and programs," Mr. Martin said in announcing the planned donation, adding that it "would be a great start in bringing our dream of establishing a center where, for generations to come, teens and vulnerable 18-24 year-old ( can heal, grow, and find hope into reality."

The Warrack campus opened in 1960 as a 69-bed acute-care facility. Sutter Health acquired the hospital, located at Hoen Avenue and Summerfield Road, back in 2001 but de-licensed it in 2006, ending acute care operations "due to lack of community need."

The campus since then has been used for a number of other services, including its workforce health offices and certain labs, but Sutter has long been looking for a better fit for the building. Only 25 percent of the campus was occupied.

"We learned of SAY’s vision to create a Sonoma County Youth Opportunity Center and knew this was the right fit and best use for the building’s unique configuration," Mike Purvis, chief administration officer of Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa, said in a statement.  "(Sutter) offered to donate the building to SAY to preserve the location’s community service legacy."

If the plans go forward, SAY would relocate from its existing 11,000-square-foot offices on Airway Drive in Santa Rosa to the Warrack Campus, where it would occupy roughly 52,000 square feet. Two programs run by SAY, the Dr. James E. Coffee House Teen Shelter and Tamayo Village, would remain in their current locations. The nonprofit anticipates completing its investigation of the building in early 2013.  Upon successful completion of that inspection, Sutter intends on remaining and would lease the east wing of the hospital back from SAY.

The nonprofit would also likely boost staffing levels, but an immediate number is not yet known, Mr. Martin said. 

In August, SAY’s Board of Directors  entered into a 180-day due diligence period with Sutter to investigate the condition of the building and identify all costs associated with remodeling the interior.

“SAY is evaluating our capacity to operate current programs while expanding into the Warrack Campus with the Youth Opportunity Center and including other nonprofits that provide complimentary services to children and youth," said John Meislahn, SAY board president. SAY anticipates completing its investigation of the building in early 2013.

According to SAY, several local Sonoma County building industry leaders have donated their time to assist SAY in evaluating the facility, including Mark Davis of Wright Contracting, Jim Henderson Architect, Project Development Manager Bert Bangsberg, Don Watanabe, former Burbank Housing project manager, Steve Worthen of Interiors Inc., civil engineer Leroy Carlenzoli and Zyromski-Konicek.

SAY was founded in 1971 and provides a variety of services including low-cost counseling, job training, educational support, emergency services, transitional housing and youth employment to former foster children and children age 5-24 and their families. It has 54 full-time employees and about 250 volunteers. About 78 percent of its operating budget comes from grants and another 18 percent from donations.

The Youth Opportunity Center could have significant impact on those in crisis, should the plans come to fruition, officials said.

"If we can come together, raise the funds needed and make this dream of a Youth Oppurtunity Center happen, we will change the future for hundreds of Sonoma County youth every year," said Bill Friedman, SAY honorary board member.