ROGERS — The Samaritan Community Center opened a 40,000-square-foot building and farm in the city’s southeast on Wednesday.
The Fellowship Bible Church provided 9 acres for the project at the corner of South Eighth Street and West Laurel Avenue, according to Debbie Rambo, the center’s executive director.
The new facility will replace the nonprofit’s building at 1211 W. Hudson Road. It will house dental and mental health services, food storage and provide a hub for local organizations to meet with the centre’s clients.
The Hudson Road facility is a modernized poultry building, according to center board member Rick Thomason.
“It served its purpose well. It worked very well, but it’s time for us to be able to grow and do more,” Thomason said.
The center’s Springdale facility will continue operations, public relations manager Shaylan Dillon said.
Seeing more needs in the community during the coronavirus pandemic has been a catalyst for the project, Rambo said.
“We learned how many people who were living right on the edge, during covid, kind of slipped, and we saw that there was an even greater need for our service than we ever imagined. So we decided to go ahead,” she said. .
In short, the facility and the farm will help the center help more people, she said.
COST AND TIME
The project will take 12 to 14 months, according to Rambo. The organization has already raised more than 75% of the project’s $16.6 million cost, she said.
“We have a very strong donor base. On average, 750 to 800 people will write us a check because they believe in what we do,” Rambo said.
The organization has raised more than $13 million since the campaign began in August.
“This fundraising campaign, over 300 people have already donated or pledged to donate,” Rambo said. “These gifts range from a little old lady who gave me a $5 bill while walking through Fellowship on a Sunday morning to a family who made a $5 million grant to kick off our campaign.”
The Mabee Foundation in Tulsa, Okla., provided another $2.8 million challenge grant, she said.
The center is still accepting donations. Each dollar will be matched by a dollar donation due to the grant.
“We hope that raising this $2.8 million in matching money will finish us off and bring us home,” she said.
COOPERATIVE CARE CENTER
“There are so many great organizations doing things, but they’re kind of fractured and across the community. It creates barriers for people to be successful,” Rambo said.
The cooperative care center will be a space in the middle of the building designed to bring the community together, she said.
“This will allow other nonprofits to come into our building once or twice a month so that our customers, when they walk in, can see six or eight different providers 30 feet apart. , save time on work, save money on childcare and save transportation,” she said. “I hope removing these barriers will really improve their chances of success. “
Offices and classrooms will be made available to partner community organizations, Rambo said.
“We already have around 20 people ready to join us in this process, and our goal is to have around 60 when we’re done,” she said.
DENTAL CLINIC, ADVICE
The new facility will triple the nonprofit group’s ability to serve customers who need dental care, from a two-room dental space to a six-room dental space, according to dentist Jill Self-Pike.
More than 930 patients received free dental care from the center’s dental clinic last year, according to the organization’s website.
The center has two hired dentists and may hire another once the new facility opens, Self-Pike said. The organization also has volunteer dentists who help pull teeth, she said.
“Of course it always depends on funding and if we can hire another dentist once the building is open and the number of volunteers, but I really think we’ll probably triple it,” she said. “Hopefully at some point we will hire a second hygienist.”
Volunteers have been helping pull clients’ teeth since 2006, Self-Pike said.
The center started a dental restoration program eight years ago.
“We do pretty much everything a typical private practice would do besides crowns, bridges, implants and things like that,” she said. “We do extractions, fillings. We have a denture referral program where we partner with another office and refer patients to them who need dentures. It’s a huge service that is always needed. “
The center will also open a mental health counseling center in the new building that can accommodate up to eight counselors at any one time, according to Rambo.
“We’ve seen, especially through covid, that there’s an extreme need for this kind of service, and there just aren’t a lot of people providing it to low-income families,” Rambo said. .
Dental and mental health services will be paid for by Medicaid or provided on a charitable basis, she said.
The new garden is at least five times larger than the center’s current 0.3-acre garden, according to Megan Thomas, garden coordinator. The land will be on 4 acres of dedicated agricultural space.
Thomas said the current garden grows seasonal vegetables, fruits and flowers.
“We average about 15,000 pounds of produce per year on this little acre, so we’re looking at a lot more,” Thomas said. “Everything we grow, we serve it in our kitchen at Rogers or Springdale, or we distribute it in our pantry. So everything is consumed by our customers or our volunteers.”
In addition to providing more food, proceeds from flower sales will help support the center’s programs, she said.
“We started selling bouquets last year,” she said. “We’re trying to focus on selling things that aren’t going to stray from what we do for our customers, because that’s our first priority.”
The center farm also uses sustainable and organic farming practices, Thomas said.
“I call it a market garden. It’s not a full-scale farm where they use all these machines and they spray and they use tractors. We have a tractor, but we use it to move the mulch and the compost and stuff like that, but we don’t plow,” she said.
More than 88,000 meals were served last year at the Samaritan Cafe at the Rogers and Springdale facilities, according to the center’s website.
At the Samaritans market, 96,690 people were supplied with food during the year, according to the site.