Council of Churches of the Ozarks Inc. was founded more than 50 years ago, and nonprofit officials today say the organization is challenged by a lack of brand awareness for its programs and services.
That’s one aspect CCO is seeking to address through a transformational announcement involving a former SRC Holdings Corp. building and a multimillion-dollar capital campaign.
An Oct. 19 news conference at the building, 3055 E. Division St., simultaneously served as the official launch for Levell Up, a $6.2 million capital campaign named in honor of the late Rev. Dorsey Levell, who founded CCO and served as its CEO for 30 years.
"The benefit to our neighbors in need will be immediate," said CEO Jaimie Trussell. "We are going to 'Levell Up’ to serve our community."
Trussell said CCO is slated to close on the purchase of the 57,000-square-foot building on Nov. 1 for "under market value." She declined to disclose financial terms.
CCO plans to renovate the Division Street building to suit its needs, she said, noting construction should start next month and that the building increases the nonprofit's warehouse space by five times. It also will allow for the installation of new freezers, a must for the organization’s food pantry after its primary freezer system failed earlier this year.
Ross Construction Group LLC is serving as general contractor for the project designed by Paragon Architecture LLC, Trussell said, noting the target for relocating into the building is a year out.
Speaking at the news conference, SRC CEO Jack Stack said Trussell's persistence and passion in developing CCO's future led the business to get involved as a partner in the project.
"She knew exactly what she wanted. She constantly referred to this facility. There was nothing that was really going to stop her," Stack said. "It's going to spill over in terms of how this thing is going to develop."
While the news conference represented the official debut of the Levell Up campaign, the nonprofit already is well on its way toward the $6.2 million goal. With $2.4 million to go, Trussell said the campaign has been supported by estate gifts and a first for the nonprofit: six-figure gifts from living donors.
Levell Up is co-chaired by CCO board member Jim Anderson and banker Bob Hammerschmidt.
CCO, which Trussell calls a "best-kept secret," currently operates at Chestnut Expressway and Glenstone Avenue and various other properties citywide. It’s moving all of its programs to the former SRC building.
Trussell said it is CCO's desire to become better recognized as a resource for the community. Last year, the organization served 26,000 families, but with operations spread out, she said it can be difficult to serve them efficiently.
"For those families, we have to do better," she said. “Unfortunately, lots of Springfield has no idea of all the great work that we do. Depending on how you encounter the Council of Churches, you may have a really different idea about all the things we do, but you’ve never had the benefit of seeing all that we do. We’re excited for the opportunity to change that.”
Just over a year into her role as CEO, Trussell said she has been impressed by the depth and scope of the programs the nonprofit offers. The nonprofit founded in 1969 started with 13 churches in support and now has 70 member organizations. CCO has nine core outreach services, including the Ambassadors for Children foster care outreach, Crosslines food pantry, Connections home repair service and Safe to Sleep women’s shelter. Donations last year rose to $1.3 million from $946,892 in 2019, and the nonprofit this year has a $6.2 million operating budget. A possible name change may be on the horizon to further boost its brand, Trussell hinted, but she said that’s a long-term goal beyond the current capital campaign.
In addition to seasoned business veterans like Anderson and Hammerschmidt working on the capital campaign, CCO brought on former Mercy executive Jay Guffey as interim chief operating officer.
“This capital campaign is truly transformative, for the Council of Churches, for our region and for the thousands of families served by the council’s various and diverse ministry projects and programs,” Anderson said at the news conference.
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