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Community services building dedicated

Catholic priest blesses the project, staff and clients

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Women seeking to escape domestic violence and men looking to overcome addiction are two of the populations that got a proverbial hug from the Salt Lake community on Thursday, as the new Catholic Community Services buildings were dedicated and blessed.

Bishop John Wester of the Diocese of Salt Lake sprinkled holy water around the new facilities at 745 E. 300 South before offering his final blessing on the former Bryner Clinic building, saying it is fitting that a place that has long been dedicated to healing the body will now be used to heal the soul.

"Whenever we bless a physical space, the church means to bless those who use the space," he said, invoking God's blessing on the staff and clients at one of Utah's busiest social service providers. "May the love of Mary for her beloved son, Jesus, always be extended to the clients of Catholic Community Services."

Each year, the agency provides more than 400,000 services to people living in poverty, the elderly, refugees and those struggling to become self-reliant, including women and children seeking temporary shelter when they leave violent partners through its Marillac House program.

The new building consolidates several services that were formerly scattered throughout the community, and also includes space to house the 39-bed St. Mary's Home for men seeking substance abuse treatment, as well as refugee resettlement and immigration offices. CCS helps several hundred refugees get a new start in the Salt Lake area each year, and its immigration program provides more than 19,000 services annually to immigrants.

The project was initiated under the leadership of former Utah Bishop George Niederauer, who now serves as archbishop of San Francisco.

Funding for the $3.3 million renovation of the former medical clinic came from several major foundations and businesses, as well as from individual donors, according to community advocate Pamela Atkinson, who spearheaded the search for donors along with Dominic Albo. When she was first approached about the fund raising, Atkinson said she was somewhat hesitant because she's asked for money for so many projects in the past.

But the fact that Intermountain Healthcare had donated the building, along with CCS's reputation for "incredible outcomes," its careful use of funding and the chance to work with Albo made the endeavor appealing, she said. "People who have given to CCS over the years opened their checkbooks, and when we got a 'no' we went back," she said.

"One time after about 15 phone calls and a couple of visits, we got quite adamant about things that had been said and promises that were made. But we were very happy with the outcome." Donors gave anywhere from $20 to $450,000 toward renovating the 22,000-square-foot facilities.

Maggie St. Claire, executive director of CCS, thanked IHC, the donors and the staff for their support and pointed to quiet acts of dedicated kindness, caring and service that combined to make the new facility a reality. She noted one Utah County man involved in pouring concrete awoke one night at 4:30 a.m., concerned that rain would damage the curing cement. He immediately drove to the site and covered the pour to protect it from the weather.

Clients of the various CCS programs who were reluctant to move from the security of their former surroundings "have come and thanked us for the first new pillow they've ever had in their lives," she said. One client was so afraid of moving that he left the old treatment facility the day before the move. Fellow clients went looking for him, found his bike and left a sign on it that said, "Come home."

Lauding the work that never stops, she said the "character of the (new) space comes from the people who use and care about it."

E-mail: carrie@desnews.com