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SSM Health donates to Catholic Charities community health efforts

This story originally appeared in the Jefferson City News Tribune. Read the full story online: News Tribune Website

Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri on Tuesday accepted a donation for ongoing work to transform the Shikles Center in Jefferson City into an outreach and food distribution center.

SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital Foundation presented a check for $120,533 to Catholic Charities Executive Director Dan Lester to support the project and the nonprofit’s work.

The funds are a combination of $50,000 from the hospital to support the community health improvement partnership with Catholic Charities and $70,533 from SSM Health Community Health Improvement Project Grants.

St. Mary’s Hospital Foundation Director Beverly Stafford said they awarded Catholic Charities the grant because of what the organization plans to offer the community from the new center.

“With their commitment to opening a health and nutrition services project here — and bringing the services out to folks who needed it most — it aligned nicely with our mission,” Stafford said.

Lester said the funds will be a big benefit to a project with an estimated $4 million price tag.

However, the project itself isn’t the only funding need Catholic Charities has.

“Funding for staffing to facilitate programs can always be one of the most challenging pieces of funding to acquire,” he said. “It’s easy for folks to see if their money goes to a box that goes directly to someone, but it can be more challenging to see all that goes on behind the scenes to get that box to that person. This support from SSM allows us to continue to fund the community outreach we’re already doing, and then it will also allow us to grow as we have this new space.”

Progress on the Shikles project can be looked at in two ways, Lester said — services provided and renovation of the building.

Renovation on the building on Linden Drive may begin by early November, he said. The project went out for bid, and a contract is being negotiated with a local general contractor.

Catholic Charities is also in the process of applying for a grant that can’t be received if construction has already begun, Lester said, so they are waiting to see if they receive those funds.

“We should have a decision from them in the next couple of weeks, and so our hope is that, at the latest, in early November we’ll have construction folks on site doing work,” Lester said.

The anticipated timeline is to continue work over the winter and complete the project within nine to 10 months, leading to a summer 2021 completion.

Plans for the building include an addition with a lower-level warehouse and Catholic Charities administration offices on the upper floor.

The existing building will have a client-choice food pantry in the basement. Client-choice food pantries are set up more like a grocery store, allowing clients to chose what food they want.

Some offices will be located on a small mezzanine level. The main floor will have a small chapel, a large community classroom space for events and classes, and four universal-use rooms.

Those four rooms can be used as exam rooms, like might be seen at a health clinic, to offer basic health care like wellness exams or flu shots.

Although renovation work hasn’t started, Catholic Charities is already using the building for some services.

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

Lester said they started the program in May with about 20 seniors, and this month they will distribute more than 130 boxes, with more than 100 of the recipients living near the new facility.

The organization hopes to start including nurses in the distribution of the boxes, to easily offer a monthly wellness check-up.

Lester said the location of the Shikles building is perfect for providing for the community. The Jefferson City Housing Authority, which provides low-income housing, is down the road, with many of its low-income housing units nearby.

“This is such a great location for any type of social services because it’s right here in the heart of the Housing Authority,” he said. “It’ll be great to have some services on this side of the highway as well — and just make it easy for folks who live right around here to be able to come over and get the help they may need. It’s going to be really impactful.”

Catholic Charities is also implementing nutritional counseling courses and the Walk With Ease program, created by the Arthritis Foundation to help seniors get moving.

Judith Mutamba, director of health and nutrition services for Catholic Charities, said the Walk With Ease program is a partnership with the University of Missouri Extension, Lincoln University and the Boone County Health Department. Participants walk on their own, but there are weekly Zoom sessions to bring the group together.

To get involved in the Walk With Ease program or Senior Boxes, visit and click on “Food and Nutrition Services,” or call Catholic Charities at 573-635-7719.TopicsBeverly StaffordCatholic CharitiesCentralDan LesterJefferson CityNorthern MissouriShikles CenterSSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital Foundation