ROGERS -- Samaritan Community Center broke ground Wednesday on a 40,000-square-foot building and farm in the southeast area of the city.
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 organization's building at 1211 W. Hudson Road. It will house dental and mental health services and food storage in addition to providing a hub for local organizations to meet with the center's clients.
The Hudson Road facility is a retrofitted poultry building, according to Rick Thomason, a center board member.
"It has served its purpose well. It has done great, but it's time for us to be able to expand and do more," Thomason said.
The center's Springdale facility will continue operations, said Shaylan Dillon, public relations manager.
Seeing more needs in the community during the coronavirus pandemic was a catalyst for the project, Rambo said.
"We learned how many people who live right on the edge, during covid, kind of went off the edge, and saw there was even greater need for our service than we ever even imagined. So we decided, let's move forward," she said.
In short, the facility and farm will help the center help more people, she said.
COST AND TIMELINE
The project will take 12 to 14 months, according to Rambo. The organization has already raised over 75% of the project's $16.6 million cost, she said.
"We have a really strong donor base. On an average year, 750 to 800 people will write a check to us because they believe in what we're doing," Rambo said.
The organization has raised more than $13 million since beginning the campaign in August.
"This capital campaign we've had over 300 people already give or make a commitment to give," Rambo said. "Those gifts have ranged from a little, old lady who gave me a $5 bill walking through Fellowship one Sunday morning to a family that made a $5 million challenge grant to start off our campaign."
The Mabee Foundation in Tulsa, Okla., provided another challenge grant of $2.8 million, she said.
The center is still accepting donations. Each dollar will be matched by a dollar donation due to the grant.
"We're hoping that raising that matching $2.8 million will finish us and get us home," she said.
COOPERATIVE CARE CENTER
"There are so many great organizations doing things, but they're kind of fractured and throughout the whole community. It creates barriers to people's success," Rambo said.
The cooperative care center will be a space in the middle of the building designed to bring the community together, she said.
"That will provide a place for other nonprofits to come into our building once or twice a month so that our clients, when they come in, can see six or eight different providers 30 feet apart, save time off from work, save money on babysitting and save transportation," she said. "Hopefully, taking those barriers out of the way will really improve their opportunities for success."
Office and classroom space will be available to partnering community organizations, Rambo said.
"We already have about 20 lined up to join us in this process, and our goal is to have about 60 when we're done," she said.
DENTAL CLINIC, COUNSELING
The new facility will triple the nonprofit group's capacity to serve clients who need dental care, moving from a two-room to a six-room dental space, according to dentist Jill Self-Pike.
Over 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 opens and the amount of volunteers, but I really think we'll probably triple it," she said. "Hopefully, at some point, we'll hire a second hygienist."
Volunteers have helped pull client teeth since 2006, Self-Pike said.
The center began a restorative dental program eight years ago.
"We do pretty much everything that a typical private practice would do besides crown, bridge, implants and things like that," she said. "We do extractions, fillings. We have a denture referral program where we partner with another office and we refer patients who need dentures to them. That's a huge service that's always needed."
The center will also open a mental health counseling center at the new building with room for as many as eight counselors at any given time, according to Rambo.
"We found, especially through covid, that there's an extreme need for that kind of service, and there's just not a lot of people that provide it to low-income families," Rambo said.
Both dental and mental health services will be paid for through Medicaid or will be provided in a charitable manner, 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 plot will be on 4 acres of dedicated farm space.
Thomas said the current garden grows seasonal vegetables, fruits and flowers.
"We grow an average of about 15,000 pounds of produce a year on that small acre, so we're looking at a lot more," Thomas said. "Everything we grow we serve in our kitchen in Rogers or in Springdale, or we give it out in our pantry. So everything is consumed by our clients or our volunteers."
In addition to supplying more food, revenue from flower sales will help sustain the center's programs, she said.
"We started last year selling bouquets," she said. "We're trying to focus on selling things that aren't going to pull away from what we're doing for our clients, because that's our first priority."
The center's farm also uses sustainable and organic farming practices, Thomas said.
"I call it a market garden. It's not a big-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 mulch and compost and stuff like that, but we don't till," she said.
Over 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 Samaritan Market, 96,690 people were supplied with food during the year, according to the site.