A substantial gift has brought Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri (CCCNMO) a step closer to opening a hub of charity and mercy in the heart of the Capital City.
The SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital Foundation on Oct. 6 presented a $120,533 gift to help Catholic Charities create a centralized access point for health and nutrition services in the former Shikles Community Center.
Catholic Charities bought the center, originally built to be a chapel and gymnasium for the former La Salette Seminary, from the Jefferson City Housing Authority this January.
The agency plans to renovate the building and expand it into a food pantry and health clinic for people in need, as well as administrative offices.
Of the foundation’s gift, $50,000 came from the hospital to support its community health improvement partnership with Catholic Charities. The other $70,533 came from SSM Health Community Health Improvement Project grants.
CCCNMO is the charitable services arm of the Jefferson City diocese.
“Thank you to everybody at SSM!” said CCCNMO Executive Director Dan Lester during a brief check presentation ceremony at the agency’s future home. “We’re thrilled to be able to continue to do our community outreach and then incorporate those services into this new home in 2021.”
He noted that Catholic Charities is committed to eliminating barriers to quality health and nutrition services for people who are most in need.
He pointed out that in the past six months, in partnership with several other agencies, Catholic Charities has launched a Senior Food Box Program and facilitated two sessions of the “Walk With Ease” exercise program.
It will soon begin a Nutrition Counseling series at the LINC Recreation and Wellness Center on the Lincoln University campus.
“Our ongoing partnership with SSM Health will allow us to expand these community-based efforts, as well as enhance our services once we have moved into our new headquarters in 2021,” he said.
SSM Health Regional President Michael Baumgartner said the hospital is happy to assist.
“We’re pleased to be able to provide this community health improvement grant to help create and staff the health and nutrition services program that will address the priority health and social issues in our community,” he said.
“It certainly aligns with our mission of community health improvement, as well as caring for folks outside the walls of the hospital,” stated SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital Foundation Executive Director Beverly Stafford.
She noted that SSM St. Mary’s has a long history of forming local partnerships to promote community health.
“But we’ve actually been able to fund even bigger and greater things this year than we’ve been able to do in the past,” she said.
The hospital identified this opportunity through a community health needs assessment.
“Through that assessment, we look at a priority intervention areas within the community,” she said. “And lo and behold, we found that right in the middle part of Jefferson City, we have a community that needs assistance — whether it is around food insecurity or transportation or basic health services.”
She noted that “health” means vastly more than what takes place in a hospital or doctor’s office.
“It includes food security, access to basic screening and basic health services, and referral to those services,” she said. “It could be tied to access to transportation for people to get the services they need.”
That’s why having a centrally located site for basic health services is important, she said.
Mrs. Stafford is convinced that God is present and at work in all of this.
“Truly, this is revealing the healing presence of God, which is the mission of SSM Health,” she said. “So the idea that that’s what we strive to do every day inside the walls of the hospital, we can also do beyond those walls — it’s just divine!”
Hearing and doing
Mr. Lester noted that charitable services are an essential part of the Church’s mission.
“We know this is right because it’s what Jesus teaches us by word and example,” he said.
“I keep coming back to Matthew 25: ‘I was hungry and you fed Me. I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink. Sick and you cared for Me, homeless and you gave Me a home, naked and you gave Me something to wear,’” Mr. Lester stated.
“I see all those things coming into focus, right here and right now,” he said.
He said having an integrated hub for services “makes it so much easier for people who are struggling, for our neighbors who are in need, to be able to come and have so many of their needs met in one place.”
He pointed out that the building was originally constructed for a holy purpose.
“It was built for sending men out into the world to share the Good News,” he said. “We might not be preaching from a pulpit, but when we give a box of healthy food to a senior citizen who needs it, we’re proclaiming the Good News to them.”
He cited a section of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s encyclical letter “God Is Love” (“Deus Caritas Est”), in which he speaks of the Church’s charitable ministries growing up alongside her preaching and sacramental work from the earliest days.
“Love for widows and orphans, prisoners and the sick and needy of every kind is as essential to her as the ministry of the sacraments and preaching of the Gospel,” Pope Benedict stated in Section 22.
Mr. Lester asked: “If everything that’s contained in the Word of God is telling us to go out and serve and we’re not doing that, are we really hearing what the Word has to say?”
It shall be opened
SSM Health is a Catholic, not-for-profit health system serving the comprehensive health needs of communities across the Midwest.
It includes SSM St. Mary’s Hospital‒Jefferson City and SSM St. Mary’s Hospital‒Audrain in Mexico.
Affiliated with the Jefferson City diocese and part of a national network of Catholic Charities agencies, CCCNMO provides a range of programs and services to people in need in to a 38-county service area in the diocese.
Help is given regardless of faith, culture or situation.
The “Open Hearts, Open Doors: A New Home for Catholic Charities” campaign was recently launched to transform the former Shikles Center into a premier health and social services center.
Plans call for the inclusion of a client choice food pantry, universal exam rooms for healthcare providers to utilize for screenings and other basic health services, classroom space for various programs, and the inclusion of Catholic Charities current services, including disaster recovery, housing and financial counseling, and immigration services.
Renovation is set to begin this fall and to be completed next year.
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