Guests mingle in the foyer of the new Children’s Advocacy Center of Denton County during Thursday’s grand opening of the Serve Denton Center.

Hundreds of people gathered Thursday for the grand opening of the 48,000-square-foot Serve Denton Center and its three new facilities, including the Children’s Advocacy Center, a food center and a health services center.

The facility, located at 306 N. Loop 288, is the second largest of its kind in the state of Texas and serves to consolidate resource centers for those in need.

Several local leaders, including state Rep. Lynn Stucky, R-Denton, and Denton Mayor Chris Watts spoke to the crowd before a ribbon-cutting ceremony. During his speech, Watts spoke about his childhood and said he benefited from services similar to the ones the Serve Denton Center will provide.

“My family would have been one of the families to be served by this facility,” Watts said. “It gives me great honor and humbleness to be able to stand here and share these thoughts I have about celebrating this event, because of the impact it will make on families in our community of Denton.”

Food Center

Guests tour the new Denton Community Food Center during Thursday's grand opening of the new Serve Denton Center in Denton.

Watts said he is in his current position thanks in part to charitable organizations such as Serve Denton.

“I thank you on behalf of the little boy 45 to 50 years ago, who was helped by the same shared values we all have here today,” Watts said. “These services gave [my] brothers and parents a chance to try to better their lives.”

After the speeches, each facility held a ribbon cutting and opened their doors so attendees could tour and see the state-of-the-art features and resources each organization will provide the community.

The Children’s Advocacy Center, which serves children and families who are victims of child abuse and sexual assault, features several observation and forensic rooms to assist law enforcement with investigations. Additionally it houses eight therapy rooms specifically designed for different age groups.

“No family wants to come to our office,” said Kristen Howell, chief executive officer of the Children’s Advocacy Center for Denton County. “Doing so means that your child has been hurt. I can tell you that if something like this happened to my kiddo, this is exactly the place that I would want to come.”

The new facility will triple the capacity of the Children’s Advocacy Center, according to Howell.

While the Children’s Advocacy Center and Health Services Center are open to the public, the new Denton Community Food Center is scheduled to open in January or February of 2020.

The food center is currently located at 109 W. Sycamore St. and the new location is its eighth in 40 years. Previous locations ranged from gas stations to the basement of the Denton County Courthouse on the Square, but the new facility is the first that was purposefully built to be a food center. The 10,000-square-foot building is more than three times the size of the Sycamore facility, chairman Tom Newell said.

Newell had to pause and collect himself a number of times while speaking to the crowd before expressing gratitude for the volunteers, donors and the Denton community.

“I can’t step away from here without telling you what I told my wife this last night,” Newell said. “Short of the day I married her, this is the second best day of my life.”

JESSE BRACKEEN can be reached via Twitter at @BrackeenJesse.

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