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Shikles Auditorium to become hub for recovery efforts

This story originally appeared in the Jefferson City News Tribune. READ THE FULL STORY ONLINE: News Tribune Website

For now, Shikles Auditorium serves as a clearinghouse for donated furniture, appliances, electronics and other products people still recovering from Mid-Missouri’s May 2019 tornado need.

Volunteers will soon move those items to another location — the clearinghouse’s fourth, said Dan Lester, executive director of Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri.

The nonprofit is preparing to empty the building before it is retrofitted so it may serve as a center providing food, health care, housing counseling and other services.

“Basically, all of the concerns that this (pandemic) has brought about are things that a center like this can help with,” Lester said. “Having a service center that would have food, health care, the ability to help folks with their basic needs — rent, mortgage, utilities — all in one place, that would be so valuable right now.”

The Jefferson City Housing Authority announced in August the nonprofit — a social services agency that provides a range of programs and services to those in need in 38 counties regardless of faith, culture or situation — would buy the property. The auditorium had been leased to Jefferson City Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department, which in turn leased it to local dinner theater group Capital City Productions. However, the Housing Authority determined the property was not helping fulfill its missions of providing housing or fighting blight.

Its location in the midst of low-income housing makes it an ideal location, where Catholic Charities can provide multiple services.

In part because of its experience conducting long-term recovery case management, disaster recovery leaders chose the nonprofit to provide those services for tornado victims.

“This can be a real hub for the community (as it goes through) long-term recovery,” Lester said. “One of my visions or hopes for this place would be — depending on how long that process takes — if we’re up and running when that vaccine is ready, and we know it’s going to come around, we would love this to be a place where people could come and get a vaccine.”

If Catholic Charities’ clients who visit the building are still struggling in other parts of their lives, they might stop in the housing office and speak with a counselor or go downstairs and pick up a box of food in the pantry, he said.

Use of the building as a pantry was a must for the nonprofit when it considered buying the structure.

Catholic Charities is now partnering with the Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri to distribute Commodity Supplemental Food Program to distribute “Senior Boxes.” The boxes are filled with food for low-income people who are 60 and older. Boxes are distributed monthly, Lester said.

The organization began distributions this month and gave out 20 of the boxes, each weighing about 30 pounds.

“That was so cool and exciting to see that big truck from the Food Bank pull up here the very first day and unload that pallet of boxes,” Lester said. “And to know that we were going to be able to distribute those right here to our neighbors — it felt really good. This is what we intended this (building) for.”

For information about the Senior Boxes or to apply, visit and click on Food and Nutrition Services, or call Catholic Charities at 573-635-7719.

Catholic Charities hopes to begin the bidding process for renovations to the building in June, Lester said.

“Bishop (Shawn) McKnight and everyone at Catholic Charities is dedicated to having a transparent process,” Lester said. “So we will be as open about what that process looks like as possible and trying to draw in as many different areas of the community as we can to get involved. Our hope is to have a pretty quick turnaround.”