Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Catholic Charities’ new administrative complex ‘will allow us to better respond to the Gospel call to serve the least among us’

Story and photo by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff

(From the April 9, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)

Although exterior work continues, Catholic Charities Spokane has gathered programs and administration under one roof at 12 E. 5th Ave. (IR photo)

After more than 40 years, Friday, March 13, was the last day that Catholic Charities Spokane could call “home base” its first-floor offices at 1023 W. Riverside Ave.

The diocesan offices of the Bishop, the Vicar General, Education, the Inland Register, the Marriage Tribunal, Jail and Prison Ministries, the Business Office, Fiscal Services, and the Computer Department are all still located in the diocese’s Pastoral Center (Chancery Building) at that address. Catholic Charities, however, is now almost entirely moved into a newly remodeled, 22,350-square-foot building at 12 E. 5th Ave., southeast corner of Division St. and 5th Ave.

A week after the move was mostly completed, visitors found construction crews still working on the exterior of the new Catholic Charities building, but staff were getting settled in their new offices. Parking was still something of a challenge, as parking lot spaces were all but taken up by construction company vehicles of various sorts. The sounds of power tools still punctuated the sunny late winter morning.

Discussions in a “what if” and “maybe” mode went on for years about a move for Catholic Charities. But it was only following the resolution of the diocesan bankruptcy and the sale of the diocesan Pastoral Center that discussions began in earnest. With the valuable assistance of volunteer building and major gifts committees, the search was on.

“It was truly a bittersweet moment when we learned that the Chancery would be sold,” said Catholic Charities Executive Director Dr. Rob McCann. “However it presented us with an opportunity to move all of our programs into one location, providing ‘one-stop shopping’ and large overhead cost savings for the agency. There is a great deal of history and fond memories for us in the Chancery, and we can only hope that we will feel as at home in our new space.”

Dr. McCann emphasized that the new location will give a significant boost to what Catholic Charities is about as a specifically Catholic group of service agencies. “At Catholic Charities,” he said, “we exist for one very fundamental reason: we believe that every human person is made in the image and likeness of God, and as such, deserves respect, dignity and compassion. Our new location will allow us to better respond to the Gospel call to serve the least among us and increase or visibility for, advocacy for, and solidarity with the poor. Our mission to meet the face of Christ and serve that face with Christ’s own unconditional love is central to the work that will be done from this new location for many decades to come.”

“We wanted to economize as much as possible,” said Gene DiRe, Catholic Charities Associate Director of Programs, “so we were looking for a building to remodel rather than putting up a brand new building. Rob McCann headed up the whole process. We looked at different sites – in fact, I think we had as many as five we looked at in locations all over Spokane, within the city limits. One of them was the old ESD 101 building on Indiana. Then this one here came up,” a former medical clinic used by several physicians in private practice.

One of the big advantages to the location of the new building is that it puts Catholic Charities very close to three of its own agencies. “The two top reasons we chose this building,” said DiRe, “were, first, its easy access to St. Anne Children and Family Center, just across the street, and St. Margaret Shelter, which is just a block behind us, and the House of Charity, which is just two and-a-half blocks north of us.”

The second big plus of the new location was “its accessibility for the public because of its central location,” said DiRe. “We’re right on a bus line, we’re just two blocks from the city core, and the freeway exit is right here, too.”

The shell of the old building needed no major modifications, although the interior needed to be torn out and rebuilt almost completely. One major modification was walling in what had been an underground parking garage, for storage and potential added office space. In effect, this gave Catholic Charities a two-story building with a third, habitable, basement level.

All of the Catholic Charities client service programs that were based in the city of Spokane are now located in the new building, with the exception of the House of Charity, St. Margaret Shelter, and St. Anne Children and Family Center. This includes the counseling and mental health programs, the respect life program – Childbirth and Parenting Alone (CAPA) – the Volunteer Chore Services program, the Catholic Housing Communities program, the Parish Social Ministry Office, the Christmas Bureau, the Immigration and Refugee Services Program, and the Emergency Assistance Voucher program, in addition to Charities’ administrative offices.

Catholic Charities also partners with a number of other service organizations in the Spokane area, including Transitions, which has a bakery vocational training program for women. In the lobby of the new building there will be a Transitions bakery and coffee beverages retail outlet where anyone may purchase baked goods produced by the women in the program, plus a latté, espresso, or plain ol’ cuppa joe.

One notable feature of the new Catholic Charities center is an area that includes both interior and exterior spaces. This area will be named the Donna Hanson Memorial Space, and it will include artwork by local artist Ken Spiering. Funds for this space were donated privately.

All construction work, including exterior painting and landscaping, should be completed by early April. An open house, to which the public will be invited, will be scheduled for sometime in late May. Exact dates and times to be announced.

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