Despite being more than 140 years old, the structure housing Girls Inc. of Johnson County is looking sharp these days.

Weathered and stripped white paint has been replaced with a stylish and inviting gray exterior. Rotted out columns and boards on the porch have been replaced. Gingerbread brackets suitable for a mid-1870s Victorian home have been added along the roofline.

After years of work and more than $100,000, a project to update the outside of the Girls Inc. building is complete. The project has helped stabilize the historic structure, allowing organization leaders to focus their attention on renovating and improving the interior space.

“It’s very encouraging to see the project get to this point,” said Sonya Ware-Meguiar, executive director for Girls Inc. of Johnson County. “I’ve been surprised by how many people have driven by and seen the work. When I’m out in the community, people keep saying that it looks great.”

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Girls Inc. of Johnson County started its capital improvements project in 2014. Nearly every part of their building needed improvements, and the plan was to stretch the construction over three or four years.

Contractors converted the house’s downstairs bathroom to be handicap-accessible, and the attic was adapted into a storage room.

But that was only a precursor to the work that needed done on the exterior.

Projects included fresh paint on the entire house, replacing the roof over the porch and installing new storm doors and windows. A wheelchair ramp and new rear steps were also completed.

The finished project end up costing $103,000, and Girls Inc. would not have reached this point without the support of the community, Ware-Meguiar said.

Over the past three years, 32 individuals, businesses or foundations have provided funding for the work. Those donors were honored during a ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday.

The Franklin Development Corp. provided a $50,000 matching grant for the work, nearly doubling the $53,000 that Girls Inc. had raised themselves.

“I’ve been very pleasantly pleased with how generous our individual donors have been to support us, as well as our long-term grantors and community partners,” Ware-Meguiar said. “They all saw that we basically needed to raise two budgets — our operating budget and that matching amount for the exterior.”

The completion of the exterior project is cause for celebration, but Girls Inc. officials also realize that more work remains on the interior of the house.

One project is to clean up the existing basement, installing a ceiling and adding seating and storage so Girls Inc. can use it for some of its programming.

An additional toilet will be put into the first-floor bathroom, and another toilet and stalls installed on the second floor. A new secure entry has been planned for the west side of the building.

Redoing the drywall, ceiling, lighting and flooring of the “Big Room,” the large entryway where Girls Inc. hosts many of its activities, is also on the list.

“Right now, it’s a hodge-podge of things we’ve had to do, like where the ceiling caved in and we had to quickly repair it. You can tell it was done quickly. So redoing all of that is something we want to do,” Ware-Meguiar said.

Probably the most challenging aspect will be the renovation of the kitchen, Ware-Meguiar said. The whole space is slated to be gutted, with new appliances, flooring and reworked plumbing allowing for a dishwasher and garbage disposal.

A large island counter with cabinets will serve as a work station for the organization’s cooking classes that are popular with all age groups, Ware-Meguiar said.

“It will be transformed into a teaching kitchen,” she said. “Girls can sit around it on bar stools while they learn about nutrition and wellness.”

Officials have re-started the process of reaching out to donors for help starting this next phase of the project. Ware-Meguiar is also looking into grants that could help with different aspects of it.

Costs are estimated to be about $200,000, Ware-Meguiar said.

“We’ve said from the start that this was going to be a multi-year project, so we knew that it might be 2018, 2019 or even 2020 before it was done,” she said.

At a glance

Girls Inc. of Johnson County

Exterior improvements made

  • Renovated attic for storage space
  • Painting the entire exterior
  • New roof over the porch
  • New storm windows and storm door
  • New electrical wiring and system on the front porch
  • Timed lights installed
  • Rotted columns repaired and replaced
  • Accent brackets along roofline replaced
  • New handicap-accessible ramp
  • New rear steps

Total cost: $103,000

What’s next in the project:

  • Basement clean-up and renovation
  • Additional toilet added to first-floor bathroom
  • Toilet and partitions installed in second-floor bathroom
  • Electrical improvements made to second floor and administrative offices relocated
  • New secure entry on the west side of building
  • Tear down and renovation of kitchen to creating a teaching space
  • New pantry off of kitchen
  • Restoration and repair of the ceiling, drywall and floors of main program room

Estimated cost: Close to $200,000

How to help: Donations can be made at the organization’s website,

Author photo
Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2727.