The Center for Human Services at the Ewing Vocational Center hosted a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday afternoon in a capital campaign that will feature interior and exterior renovations totaling $400,000, with some funds provided through grant money.
According to an earlier Democrat article, CHS received $250,000, with the approval of the Missouri Department of Economic Development, for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to assist with the renovation project. Susan Mergen, development director for the Children’s Therapy Center, said the Community Development Block Grant was obtained through the City of Sedalia. The Ewing Vocational Center houses the Cooperative Workshop Inc., that provides jobs for men and women with disabilities.
“Our partnerships are invaluable, they’re just incredible,” Mergen said of Sedalia.
Ed Watkins, growth consultant for the project, said CHS needs only $24,000 to begin the renovations. Both Center for Human Services CEO Ann Graff and Mergen said they hope to begin renovations within three to four weeks.
The organization is looking for qualified contributors to donate the additional funds through the Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP), which will give the contributor a tax credit. Depending on the individual’s tax bracket, a $1,000 contribution breaks down to an estimated cost of $140 when the contributor is credited with federal and state tax deductions.
“This project has been a couple years in the making,” Graff said. “We applied for it twice and didn’t get it the first year, but now we are approved.”
She said they acquired the 55,000 square-foot Ewing building in 1986 and it hasn’t had any major renovations since that time.
“This is going to give us a whole new look and a whole new face lift,” Graff said. “There’s a lot of work being done in the interior of the building also; we are doing most of that work ourselves. Septagon (Construction Co.) is doing all the exterior.”
Part of the interior work has been completed. When finished there will be new flooring, new paint, and new doors and door frames.
“The whole back part of the building is being renovated,” she said. “This is a great opportunity for us.”
Exterior construction will include a totally new front for the building — siding will be replaced, entrances will be replaced, windows will be replaced and all exterior doors will be new. New landscaping will be added as well. On the building’s east side, a new client entrance awning will be added.
“There’s new lighting in the interior work areas that Septagon will put in also,” Graff added. “That’s all done with the Community Development Block Grant money and then donated dollars will pay for landscaping. Our signage (will be) donated in NAP credits and then the work that we’re doing ourselves is also being funded through that.
“This was a great opportunity for the city and us,” Graff said. “… The opportunity to take grant funds through the Community Development Block Grant and pair them with the NAP credits that we were able to get, along with private donations; we’re going to be able to do a really nice renovation to the Ewing building. We’ve partnered with Robert Rollings Architects and then also Septagon Construction. We’re going to start seeing some activity here in about a month and by the end of January we should be all done.”
“One other thing to note here today, that is very significant, how many projects start working on a project and are only $24,000 away from paying it in its entirety?” Watkins said. “That’s an incredible accomplishment.”
CHS Board Chairman Mike Moser said they are a “growing organization.” The center covers more than 30 counties and serves thousands of disabled people.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve done anything to upgrade,” he said. “It will be a more attractive workplace; we’ll have up-to-date-facilities in it. We operate in about 35 counties now, so it’s grown considerably since it started around 1960. I remember Roger Garlich saying our filing system was a shoe box. They didn’t know whether they’d have a dollar to pay who they did business with, and it’s grown now into about a $20 million a year business.”
Moser, Graff, Mergen and Watkins added that the center is facing several challenges due to federal legislation that is being introduced along with federal and state budget changes.
“There are challenges,” Moser added.
“There’s lots of changes in the federal rules and in the Medicaid rules,” Graff noted. “We just don’t know what’s coming.”
“That’s the thing we’re looking at here, is how can we grow the organization where it’s not as dependant,” Watkins added. “We’re looking at how we can grow in the 35 counties, and the other thing has been a real reliance on Sedalia and then the county.”
Watkins is anticipating CHS will receive assistance from the other counties it provides services to in the future.
“We’re going to try and grow in those areas,” he said. “This is one of the most remarkable organizations in the state of Missouri. This is one of those little gold mines here, that I think more could be said about it.”
For more information on donating and using the NAP tax credit, contact Mergen at 826-4400 ext. 368.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 826-1000 ext. 1481 [email protected]