This month marked a milestone for the Council of Churches of the Ozarks Inc. as the nonprofit began operations in a single building for the first time in its over 50-year history.
The organization’s new $8.2 million headquarters at 3055 E. Division St. opened to clients Feb. 6, signaling the culmination of work that started in 2021 when the 57,000-square-foot building purchase and multimillion-dollar capital campaign were announced. With the help of volunteers, including from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Springfield, the nonprofit was in moving mode for nearly three weeks leading up to opening day, said CEO Jaimie Trussell.
“We’re so excited, it’s just a whole new thing,” she said.
While CCO’s 40 employees and its programs are operating out of the building, Trussell said plenty of finishing touches, such as decorating and landscaping, will be tackled in the coming weeks. Part of that work is in her office, she said, as numerous framed photos rest on the floor awaiting a final destination.
The nonprofit founded in 1969 has nine core outreach services, including the Ambassadors for Children foster care outreach, Crosslines food pantry and Safe to Sleep women’s shelter. Trussell, who became CCO’s leader in 2020, said the organization serves over 80,000 people annually and has an $8.9 million operating budget in 2023. However, operations have previously been spread among five facilities in town, making it difficult to serve clients efficiently, she said.
“We would have a budget for social media in every program, as well as internet and phones and cleaning companies,” Trussell said of the duplicated services. “The pandemic gave us a great baseline to relook at everything.
“In efficiency ways, (the new headquarters) is just going to be unbelievable.”
Making an investment
Officials say the nonprofit in 2021 purchased the Division Street building for “under market value” from SRC Holdings Corp., declining to disclose financial terms, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.
Rising construction costs increased the headquarters project total, but CCO’s capital campaign, named Levell Up – in honor of the late Rev. Dorsey Levell, who founded the nonprofit and served for 30 years as its CEO – has raised $8.1 million, Trussell said. The remainder of the project is being paid out of the nonprofit’s maintenance fund, she added.
“We have no mortgage on this building. This will be completely debt-free when we are fully up and running, which is pretty exciting,” Trussell said. “It has been a successful campaign.”
Ross Construction Group LLC served as general contractor for the project designed by Paragon Architecture LLC, according to past reporting.
The headquarters is called the Dorsey Levell Ministry Center. It has two entrances, one intended for those seeking assistance from programs, with the other providing access to administrative offices and a meeting space, dubbed The Chapel. Ambassadors for Children operates its Kids’ Closet Boutique out of the building, providing new clothing for youth in foster care. The children also have access to their choice of hygiene products, books and backpacks.
“We want children in care to know they are worth it,” Trussell said, adding the boutique also has a prom closet for youth to select new and gently used formal wear, such as evening gowns, suits, jewelry and shoes.
Crosslines takes up a large portion of the building’s backside, including its food pantry and adjacent 24,000-square-foot warehouse. New freezers in the warehouse, which Trussell said replaced aging ones in the food pantry’s former building at 615 S. Glenstone Ave., help the new facility increase its warehouse space by five times.
On the move
Trussell said CCO sold its old Crosslines building to Pinnacle Sign Group Inc. for an undisclosed amount. Pinnacle President and CEO Darren Pearce said the purchase is an expansion for the company, which intends to maintain its facility at 505 N. Glenstone Ave. He said renovation plans for the South Glenstone building are in progress.
Court Appointed Special Advocates of Southwest Missouri purchased CCO’s main office building at 627 N. Glenstone Ave. and the One Stop for Early Childhood facility at 1710 E. Chestnut Expressway. CASA recruits and trains volunteers to advocate for the best interest of children in foster care.
CASA Executive Director Laura Farmer said the purchase price for the two buildings was roughly $1.1 million. She said an adjacent parking lot is being renovated to add a playground and half-size basketball court.
“They will be connected eventually, once our construction project gets done,” she said of the buildings, which will be used for CASA’s headquarters and a clubhouse for children in foster care to have a safe space for activities with volunteers and family members.
Farmer said Esterly, Schneider & Associates Inc. is serving as the architect for renovations by general contractor Springfield Builders Inc. The nonprofit plans to move into the headquarters building by month’s end, while work on the CASA Clubhouse is expected to last through late March, she said.
“It will be the first activity center for children in foster care in the state of Missouri,” she said, noting the facility will have a full kitchen for meals and cooking classes. “It really allows us to provide innovative services to our children and youth in foster care as well as fill gaps that currently exist in our community.”
Through its capital campaign, the organization raised almost $3.7 million, surpassing its $2.7 million goal, Farmer said. The total goes toward the buildings’ purchase and construction, as well as a furnishings and maintenance fund.
CASA currently operates in leased space at the National Avenue Office Park but has no additional room to add desks and equipment for its 14-member staff. The nonprofit has been on the grow in recent years, as Farmer noted it only had five employees when she started with it in 2017.
“We have a lot of staff sharing a very small space. We really wanted to find a permanent location for our organization that has served our community for over 30 years,” she said. “When we were made aware that Council of Churches was going to be moving, we felt like that would be a great home for the services that we provide.”
Although CCO’s Levell Up also surpassed its original $6.2 million goal, Trussell said it has become a three-phase campaign. The building acquisition was phase one, followed by its renovation for a second phase. The third phase is intended for construction of a homeless shelter. No site has been secured and details are still being determined, but Trussell said she wants to raise another $2.5 million for the project.
“I’d like to say we’re at the 20th mile of a 26-mile marathon,” she said.
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