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Son honors mother's legacy of service with $4M gift to help homeless women

Contribution will be used to help build 1 of 4 new resource centers in Salt Lake City

HOLLADAY — Standing outside the Catholic church where his mother Geraldine E. King attended Mass daily until she could no longer drive, Pat King reflected on her devout faith.

"There wasn't any problem my mother thought she couldn't pray her way out of," King said Thursday.

A single mother to seven children, Geraldine King had to figure out how to make ends meet. But when others needed help, she didn't shy away, whether it was a neighbor kid who needed a place to stay or stepping up to raise four of her sister's children.

"She always found a way," he said.

She placed a high priority on charitable giving, too. After she passed away in April, King started to receive her mail. About a third of it was from nonprofit organizations or other charities she had contributed to over the years.

Pat King, too, is a regular and generous contributor to a number of nonprofit organizations, primarily human service organizations.

Over the past two years, he has closely followed efforts among state and local governments to transform Utah's system of providing housing and services to people experiencing homelessness.

He wanted to help and in doing so, he found a way to honor his late mother. He, through his charitable foundation, will contribute $4 million toward one of four new homeless resource centers to be established in Salt Lake City.

The location of the resource center — to be named for King's mother — has not yet been determined, but the facility will serve women experiencing homelessness.

King said his mother would "be overwhelmed" by the idea of a resource center bearing her name. "She would love the fact we're helping people, but the recognition to her she wouldn't necessarily need," he said.

Although Geraldine King had some help from family as she raised her children, she received public assistance for a couple of years.

But she "fought her way out of it" through job training to become a laboratory tech for the Veterans Administration. She eventually transferred to Oregon but returned to Utah later in life.

"She had that help and it's nice to give back in spades what she was able to get. That's my motivation is to give back," said King, former president of Alta Industries, a steel fabrication firm.

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said King's gift sets the stage for the next phase in the process of reforming homeless services. "It's really a critical time to step forward," McAdams said.

King's donation "will be the first donation we think will send us in a good direction as we start to appeal to the public to raise some funds to help what we're trying to do to help the homeless," he said.

But the broad initiative will require the ongoing support of the Utah Legislature, federal sources and private giving.

Earlier this year, government, nonprofit and private sector partners announced the creation of the Field of Interest Fund to provide grants to Utah homeless service providers.

The private contribution fund is held by the Community Foundation of Utah, a nonprofit, philanthropic organization. The purpose of the fund is to award grants to homeless services providers based on programs and service outcomes adopted by Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County study groups in 2015.

King, who was aware of that effort and ongoing work by Salt Lake County's Collective Impact Steering Committee as well as Salt Lake City's Homeless Services Site Evaluation Commission, was introduced to McAdams and Shaleane Gee, director of special projects and partnerships for Salt Lake County.

Because he wanted to honor his mother and make an impact, he offered a significant gift.

The next step will be to hire an architect and start planning for the center, McAdams said. Groundbreaking is expected to occur in 2017 and the resource center could be ready for use as early as 2018.

While county officials are profoundly grateful for King's gift, they have respected his low-key approach to his very generous gift, Gee said.

King said he is grateful he is able to help but he wants the focus to be on his mother's generosity and service to others.

She taught her children to be frugal but to give back when they were in a position to do so. Like his mother, King prizes helping people get back on their feet and reaching their potential.

"I know the arts and symphony are important, but that's not where I concentrate" giving, he said.