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NO MORE DEBT: Council of Churches of the Ozarks CEO Jaimie Trussell leads a celebration of the first year in the organization’s new building. 
Karen Craigo | SBJ 
NO MORE DEBT: Council of Churches of the Ozarks CEO Jaimie Trussell leads a celebration of the first year in the organization’s new building. 

Council of Churches pays off building debt at one-year mark 

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Council of Churches of the Ozarks Inc. marked its first anniversary occupying its East Division Street building, named the Dorsey Levell Ministry Center, with a ceremonial burning of its mortgage note yesterday. 

The organization opened its $8.2 million, 57,000-square-foot headquarters at 3055 E. Division St. on Feb. 6, 2023, after launching a multimillion-dollar capital campaign, called Levell Up, in 2021.  

After the campaign was completed and $1 million in Greene County American Rescue Plan Act dollars were factored in, CCO was left having to finance the remaining $400,000. A foundation and two donors stepped up in recent weeks to pay the remainder of the balance. 

Jaimie Trussell, president and CEO of the organization, spoke to over 100 attendees at yesterday’s party, and the veteran fundraiser said she didn’t like having to pursue financing. 

“Now, if you guys know, I’m a little competitive, and there are some other charities in town that have been able to pay off their beautiful facilities, and it hurt me just a little that we fundraised like crazy and still had to finance just a little chunk at the end,” she said. “It wasn’t a little chunk to me – it was a big, painful chunk.” 

Trussell said in the week before the party, some “miracles” happened. First, an unnamed foundation that she applied to several months back came through with unexpected funding. Also, an anonymous donor offered to match, dollar for dollar, any donations made toward the debt. And then a check came through from another anonymous donor, and the three sources together were enough to pay off the loan. 

Trussell said it is traditional to blow out candles on a birthday, but on the one-year birthday of the CCO building, she instead set fire to the mortgage note as guests applauded. 

In an interview after her remarks, Trussell declined to name the foundation, saying announcements could not be made until June, and she added that the two individual anonymous donors were in the room for the celebration. 

Before buying the former SRC Holdings Corp. building that now houses CCO, the organization’s operations were housed in five buildings. Wes Buchholz, CCO’s vice president of programs, noted some savings have been realized by bringing all parts of the organization under one roof. 

“In going from five properties to one, we no longer have several utility bills, thankfully. We also don’t have multiple contracts for things like phones, and trash, and copiers, and internet,” he said. “As a result, today we’re spending about half of what we spent before on those types of expenses.” 

Trussell compared the new building to a car. 

“I like to say we traded in five clunky automobiles that were older and bought this beautiful Subaru – fuel efficient, sturdy, reliable, not flashy. Practical,” she said. 

In the most recently completed fiscal year, Trussell said CCO served 20% more people than it had the year before, and in 2024 it is on track to serve 50% more. The nonprofit's 2024 operating budget is $8.8 million, according to Springfield Business Journal list research. 

“For you and me, that’s a double-take at the checkout counter, but for the families we serve, and for our bottom line, that’s a change in how we feed our families,” she said. 

In a December SBJ article, Trussell described a plan to rebrand CCO, including a new name. She said yesterday that plan is on hold. 

“With the economic downturn, we are really kind of pushing pause on anything so risky,” she said. “When we were looking at underperforming donations and increasing costs, we just couldn’t do it, but it’s still on our radar.” 

She said the current name does not accurately reflect the organization. 

“We’re not a council of churches,” Trussell said. “We are a collaboration, with a lot of churchgoers, and we are a great place, but that isn’t immediately clear by our name, so we need to do something there – we’re just not 100% sure what that’s going to look like.” 

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