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  • Youth & Education Assistant
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Bishop invites community to help transform Shikles

This story originally appeared on the Jefferson City News Tribune website. READ THE FULL STORY ONLINE.

Bishop W. Shawn McKnight, of the Diocese of Jefferson City, said Friday it will take an estimated $4 million to complete the renovation of Shikles Auditorium into a space for a food pantry and other services to be offered by Catholic Charities, and he invited the community to continue to pitch in.

The SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital Foundation on Friday presented McKnight with a $200,000 ceremonial check for the project at the Shikles building, 1200 Linden Drive.

Beverly Stafford, St. Mary’s Hospital Foundation’s director, said the foundation considers the donation a “programmatic seed grant,” like other such awards that have paid for cardiac and surgical services at the hospital.

Stafford said the $200,000 check is one of the larger programmatic seed grant checks written, adding, “This one is an important one for the community as a whole, not just the hospital.”

Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri wants to use the space — a two-story building with a mezzanine floor between — to offer a food pantry, medical exam rooms, education spaces and offices.

Catholic Charities closed on the purchase of the Shikles building Jan. 10. The property had been leased by the Jefferson City Housing Authority to the Jefferson City Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department, which had in turn leased it to local dinner theater group Capital City Productions. However, the Housing Authority determined the property was not helping fulfill its mission of providing housing or fighting blight.

McKnight said it’s an “important venture for our community” to cooperate on fulfilling the dream of having a resource center within walking distance of people who may need those resources.

He invited people in the community to gift their time and money to help finish the project.

Dan Lester, executive director of Catholic Charities, said it may be a year before the facility is up and running, and the permitting process with Jefferson City government is ongoing.

The basketball gym on the ground floor of the Shikles building is planned to become a food pantry that people can push shopping carts through to pick out what they want. Displayed architectural plans for that floor also showed areas for children, a prep kitchen, a walk-in freezer and cooler, and a warehouse.

An orange-painted, tightly winding spiral staircase connects the ground floor with a mezzanine level — which is planned to house offices and a conference space that will overlook the food pantry. Lester said they plan to keep the spiral staircase. The building also has an elevator and other stairs.

The second floor, where people currently enter the building, is planned to house a study area in the large space that currently faces the former stage. Lester said classroom space could house health education classes from SSM providers, community-based classes — such as on home buying 101 or mental health first aid — and perhaps in the future, after-school programming for older students.

A chapel will be placed in what is currently the backstage area.

Four medical exam rooms health care providers can use are planned to be adjacent to the study area, in what’s currently a hallway.

A planned addition to the east side of the building will provide space for offices for immigration and disaster relief services, Lester said.

He said there will be a new parking lot to the north of the building and a new entrance from Edmonds Street to divert traffic from the Housing Authority’s space.

Lester said the Shikles building was constructed in the 1950s and last upgraded maybe about 1983. He expects to basically gut the building down to its studs during the renovation.

Renewable energy options, such as solar, are also being explored, he said. The elevator currently draws its power from a neighboring apartment building.

In terms of the food pantry, Lester said there are other pantries in the community, and Catholic Charities only wants to add to those offerings to meet community needs.

He said, for example, having a pantry at the Shikles building on Linden Drive could free up the mobile food pantry of the Food Pantry for Central and Northeast Missouri that parks the first Saturday of each month at the Little Explorers Discovery Center nearby on Myrtle Avenue.