United Way of Kern County hosts visitors at new downtown digs

·2 min read

Jun. 30—New life has come to an old newsroom with United Way of Kern County's recent move to the historic former home of The Bakersfield Californian.

The local charitable organization celebrated its relocation from southwest Bakersfield by hosting an open house Wednesday that included a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by city officials and business leaders.

Now occupying a large portion of the third floor of 1707 Eye St. — areas that until 2018 housed the newspaper's copy desk, sports department and photo staff — United Way has carried out a series of renovations intended to present a welcoming face to a community it serves in variety of ways.

"The key word that we heard (Wednesday) was, 'Wow,'" Marketing Manager Gabriel Adame said.

Kern's arm of the United Way had operated for 22 years out of a smaller space near Stockdale Highway and California. But with its lease set to expire, Adame said, leadership saw an opportunity to provide more room for its growing staff, which now numbers more than 20.

The organization wanted its new home to be east of Highway 99 so as to be more accessible to people it works with, such as clients looking for free assistance filing taxes.

Other functions accommodated in the new digs including reception, executive leadership, accounting, grant-writing, educational outreach and marketing. There's also a multipurpose room and a large conference room for board meetings and other gatherings.

Different departments within the organization were given freedom to make design changes, Adame said. Some took that as an opportunity to paint colorful designs on walls, while others like the Information Technology department transformed what had been a dull former editorial office into a decidedly comfortable workspace with large monitors, purple lighting and plants.

"Each department has its own character," Adame said. "We all wanted to give it our own kind of flavor."

Portions of the third floor not being leased by the United Way are occupied by Bakersfield-based fintech company Healthcare Finance Direct LLC.

A few details remain just as the newspaper operation left them when it moved to Pegasus Drive in Oildale. Still standing in front of the third floor's elevator entrance is an etched-glass copy of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

"We love it. Absolutely love it," Adame said of the space. "We're so happy with how it's turning out."