By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Southborough – The New England Center for Children (NECC) on Route 9 in Southborough is expanding and renovating after raising $10.9 million with a capital campaign. A new three-story, 30,000-square-foot addition will be added to the existing building and named the Autism Institute. There, NECC will conduct training and research to further benefit autism educators and affected families internationally.
On June 26, a ceremonial groundbreaking for the Autism Institute featured speakers including former Gov. Michael Dukakis, a NECC board member and capital campaign co-chair. He encouraged guests to celebrate NECC’s ongoing advancements.
“What NECC does and will be doing is remarkable,” he said. “This is an investment in the kind of research, in the kind of study, and in the kind of investigation, which we hope will tell us more and help us to learn more and give us new pathways to dealing with these kinds of conditions.”
Dukakis noted the impact NECC has on families affected by autism worldwide.
“NECC is international because the problem is international,” he said. “This is an equal opportunity condition. It affects families and kids all over the world.”
This is only the second capital campaign in NECC’s 40-year history. The first raised $5.5 million in 2008 when NECC built and opened the Michael S. Dukakis Aquatic Center.
Also attending the groundbreaking was Kitty Dukakis, a NECC board of advisors member.
Serving as the other current capital campaign co-chair is John Kim, president of New York Life. He spoke from the perspective of a NECC student’s parent.
“In many respects this groundbreaking ceremony ushers the next phase in NECC’s history with a focus both on global reach and to maintain the model campus here in Southborough,” he said. “The Autism Institute will also free up much needed space in the front building for our next project, the NECC Student Center.”
After the Autism Institute is constructed, renovations will be made to approximately 10,000 square feet of the existing building and become the Student Center. The renovation will provide additional space for art and music rooms, a library, a computer lab and more.
“We know how important music and art are to our kids,” Kim said. “While the Autism Institute will allow NECC to reach its goal of service to even more children across the globe, the new Student Center will allow NECC to meet its goal of better serving our students right here in this great town of Southborough. As a parent of an NECC student myself, I can’t wait to see how the new Student Center will allow for an even more enriching future for every child on this campus.”
Vincent Strully Jr, NECC CEO and founder, spoke about the nonprofit center’s continuing evolution. He noted that NECC started on the grounds of the Taunton State Hospital in 1975 with six children. During the first term of the Dukakis administration, NECC received $30,000 seed money from the Department of Mental Health. Now, NECC serves over 3,000 children through its various programs.
“It’s come a long way,” Strully said. “With the help of this new Autism Institute and Student Center we will be able to do much more in the way of conducting research. We know that we can teach kids with autism – and we get better at it every year. We want to bring that capability to as many people and kids as possible everywhere in the world. With this building we will have the capacity to do things we truly never imagined.”
For more information about NECC, visit necc.org
Photos/Ed Karvoski, Jr.