The Salina based Catholic Charities of Northern Kansas organization will be moving to a new, much larger facility.
According to the agency, thanks to the generous donation of an anonymous supporter, a property at 1500 S. Ninth has been purchased and will undergo renovation to house Catholic Charities, the social services agency of the Catholic Diocese of Salina.
Michelle Martin, executive director of Catholic Charities, said the agency had been searching for a larger property for several years.
Catholic Charities’ current location, at 425 W. Iron, is a former medical clinic acquired by the diocese in 1959. The diocese initially planned to renovate that facility to enhance its efficiency but determined it would not be cost-effective.
“We did an analysis of the building, and it proved too expensive to retrofit. Given the age of our current location, extensive remodeling would be required to bring the entire facility up to current building codes and deal with environmental issues, so we started looking at other options,” she said.
In the meantime, a longtime supporter of Catholic Charities offered to purchase a property for the agency. The donor requested anonymity.
“The donor of this project was so deeply grateful for the many years of support shown to him by the Salina community. It was important to him to give back in a way that will help the area for a long time to come,” said Eric Frank, director of development for Catholic Charities. “What an impact this will make, and it’s just an incredible, heartfelt thing to do.”
Martin said the new location will be much more visible to the community and easier to access for clients, as many walk or use the City Go public transportation.
Catholic Charities provides an array of services focusing on adoption, pregnancy, financial assistance, counseling, immigration and predatory lending. Services are offered to anyone in need, regardless of faith belief. The agency’s coverage area is the same as the makeup of the Diocese of Salina, which includes 31 counties from Manhattan west to Goodland and north to the Nebraska line. It has satellite offices in Hays and Manhattan.
Martin said she hopes that renovations to the building can begin in April and expects the project to take several months. The building most recently served as a warehouse for Acoustic Sounds’ operations and before that was the location for Tractor Supply and, originally, Dillon’s Food Store.
“Renovations to the building in the past have kept it in good condition, and we are going to try to reuse as much as possible and make only changes as needed for efficient operations,” she said.
She also wants to incorporate solar energy.
“We’d like to be able to generate what we need to operate. We want to be as green as we can,” she said.
The building, with about 18,000 square feet, is about twice as large as the current Catholic Charities offices, Martin said. The current location does not have enough land for expansion and has limited parking.
“We’re not just building for now but for what Catholic Charities might become in the future. This gives us the opportunity to expand our programs, and for the diocese, there’s enough room to build another building if ever needed in the future,” she said.
Catholic Charities’ mission has changed over the years, based on the needs in the community, she said, and the building’s size and flexibility will allow the agency to adapt as programs and services change over time.
Founded in 1959, Catholic Charities initially focused on providing care for orphans. Catholic orphanages had been in operation in Clyde and later in Abilene from the early 1900s until then.
St. Joseph Children’s Home occupied the West Iron building until it was closed in 1991. Catholic Charities’ offices, which had been located a block north, moved into the building in 1994.
“Our mission over the years has evolved with the needs of the community.” Martin said. “Services are open to all individuals, not just Catholics.”
The new location will allow the agency to do its job better, she said.
“We can serve people more efficiently, we can hold donated items until a need is matched, and we can enhance our confidentiality, security and respectful treatment of clients,” she said.
Frank, the agency’s director of development, said that while the donation of this property is greatly appreciated, it will not reduce the need for financial assistance from other supporters. The agency operates primarily on donations and is supported by Catholics through an annual appeal.
With the more visible location, Frank said he expects the agency will be busier than ever. “We anticipate the demand for our services will increase with our improved visibility, so we’re going to need more help from our supporters,” he said.