Catholic Charities of Oklahoma City is moving forward with plans to build a new headquarters along Classen Boulevard following a fund drive launched Thursday night.
Patrick Raglow, executive director of Catholic Charities, said the campaign’s name, “Crossbeams,” represents the organization’s position at the crossroads of church and community, the literal representation of structural support, and the crossbeams of the cross of Christ, which will be a visible element in the building’s design.
Raglow said the organization considered a renovation to its current home at 1501 N Classen Blvd., a 60-year-old building that previously housed an insurance company. An analysis showed renovation would cost at least $3.5 million and the building’s layout and design still would not be a good fit for the organization’s operations.
“In recent years, the need for Catholic Charities’ services has continued to grow, while our operations have become increasingly challenged due to space constraints and a building that doesn’t fit current requirements for people with disabilities,” Raglow said. “As we looked at several solutions, it became clear the most cost-effective option for the future would be to create a space that will not only fit our needs for today, but also permit future expansion for a growing community.”
Campaign start ‘quiet’
The campaign launch Thursday followed a “quiet campaign” that started in February and secured pledges totaling $6.4 million. The campaign seeks to bring the figure up to $9.5 million. The campaign is led by Co-chairman Judy Love, who along with husband Tom founded Love’s Country Stores, and Bob Ross, president of the Inasmuch Foundation.
Raglow hopes the campaign can be completed and construction can start later this year. The campaign includes an endowment for the building’s upkeep.
Catholic Charities last year served more than 19,000 people at its offices throughout the western half of Oklahoma that is part of the Oklahoma City Catholic Archdiocese. Raglow said about 13,000 of those 19,000 were served at the Oklahoma City office.
About 90 percent of the more than 19,000 people assisted by Catholic Charities were not Catholic.
“As a non-Roman Catholic on the board, I know first-hand that the good works of Catholic Charities affect all of the people in our state,” said philanthropist and supporter Jim Everest.
“Whether it be homeless women or those seeking help from any number of disasters, Catholic Charities is there for them without even asking their religious preference.”
To further emphasize the open nature of the organization’s services, Raglow said a chapel to be built at the new headquarters will be funded separately, through the Catholic Archdiocese, and will not involve funds solicited from the public. The chapel, dedicated to the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, will be open to all visitors.
Mass Architects was chosen to design the headquarters after the charity’s 17-member board weighed pitches from five firms.
“They took a look at Oklahoma City photographs from the 1930s, looking at the architecture, and then presented to us, along with work they are doing elsewhere,” Raglow said. “They designed something that harkens back to 1930s and bookends the Midtown area of the city. It goes back to that 1930s architecture; it embraces the street, a wide sidewalk for walking, awnings over windows, and on the south face it uses a painted on logo as they did in the 1930s.”
The 33,608-square-foot building includes a 5,000-square-foot warehouse on the first floor intended to accommodate growth of future operations. The parking lot is being designed with electrical and wireless Internet to accommodate immunization clinics and other outdoor events.
A second floor 3,794-square-foot conference room will be named in honor of the Chickasaw Nation, a campaign contributor. Naming rights also will be considered for other parts of the building, Raglow said.
Safety concerns of the 58 employees who work at the headquarters, 53 of whom are women, also are addressed.
“Sometimes they do late hour services,” Raglow said. “There is some concern because we don’t have a central access, so access control was a concern. So in the new building, we will have a central access and that enhances the ability to serve the clients in the neighborhood.”
The new headquarters will have northbound and southbound stops for Embark bus routes along Classen. Staying on Classen, Raglow said, was important with a large share of its clients living in the six zip codes surrounding the headquarters.
In addition to refugee assistance, the organization provides counseling, family support, emergency assistance, transitional housing and homeless services.
The building is intended to act as a beacon to the community that help is available inside its doors. A cross structure on the northwest corner of the new building will be created with LED lighting.
“It takes advantage of the northwest curve of Classen, so it will be visible from the south and north,” Raglow said. “We think it will act like a lantern for those seeking assistance. It’s an expression of our faith that we are in the service business.”
The current headquarters of Catholic Charities of Oklahoma City at 1501 N Classen won’t stay vacant for long. A donor requested the building be sold to another non-profit agency, The Education and Employment Ministry (TEEM), which is currently located at 14 NE 13.