Lisa DeJaco Crutcher, the agency’s chief executive officer, said the new facility will save Catholic Charities money in the long run and enable its staff to better serve people in need.
Most of the agency’s staff currently works at two campuses — at 2911 S. Fourth St. and on the campus of the old St. Anthony Church in the 2200 block of West Market Street.
The two campuses are located about 5 miles and 15 minutes apart. The facilities are aging, lack accessibility and are needlessly costing the agency nearly $200,000 a year, said DeJaco Crutcher.
The planned 31,000-square-foot headquarters — which will be topped off with solar panels — would bring nearly all of the staff to South Fourth Street, with the exception of staff from Sister Visitor Center, which will continue serving people in West Louisville.
“We are estimating we will save $130,000 a year on repairs and maintenance and at least 20 percent on utility costs,” said DeJaco Crutcher. And “at a very conservative estimate, we are spending $32,000 per year — nearly a thousand hours of staff time — going between the two campuses.”
“We are not stewarding our funds well,” she said. “I can do a lot with $180,000 a year. That’s a lot of good that we are not able to do.”
Catholic Charities has traditionally occupied re-purposed buildings — old gyms, a convent, schools and even the old St. Anthony Church itself, which stores clothing and home goods for people in need.
Using such space was a frugal attempt to focus resources on direct assistance, said DeJaco Crutcher, noting that it worked for decades, despite inefficiencies. But that formula isn’t working anymore.
“At some point, the balance goes the other way,” she said. “Your frugality starts cutting into your work.”
She noted that the sprawling St. Anthony campus — with the church, offices and a gym — is under utilized and expensive to heat and cool.
The Fourth Street building has 10 holes in the roof at last check, with buckets collecting rain water. Replacing the Spanish tile roof would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Last winter, the temperature inside the offices at the Fourth Street location reached 39 degrees, she said. Employees and clients routinely wear coats and gloves all day indoors. Some employees have fingerless gloves so they can type. All the while, an outdated heating system is attempting to warm the space.
The 175-square-foot nursery, which typically hosts five to seven children and two childcare providers at a time, is too small for children to play, sometimes.
It’s common for new volunteers, often older adults, to decide not to return for fear of tripping, said Julie Cole, the charity’s childcare worker. “They see the milieu and they never come back.”
The charity hopes to expand programs for mothers and grandparents who raise their grandchildren, but there’s not enough space for additional childcare. The new building will provide a larger nursery and direct access to an outdoor play area.
In the agency’s legal services program, a recent client was temporarily trapped on the building’s third floor. The disabled client used the wheelchair lift to enter the building and then the lift stopped working. The elevator was already out of order that day. That’s not unusual, said Rebecca Sim, who directs legal services.
“A client may have to wait a month for an appointment but we may have to take them to Starbucks or Subway” nearby instead of agency offices, she said.
That situation puts confidentiality at risk and may make the client hesitant to share important information, Sim added.
A matter of dignity
Overall, the new headquarters will reduce the agency’s square-footage, but all of the space will be useable. And the conditions will be safe for staff and clients, said DeJaco Crutcher.
“To me, it’s about the dignity of the people — both the people we are serving and the staff,” she said. “It’s a matter of respecting the dignity of the people who are doing important work of our church — for little money. The least we can do is give them an office to work where they don’t have to keep a coat on all day.”
“Given all of the structural deficits we’re experiencing, it would be better overall to build a new building,” said DeJaco Crutcher, noting that the agency conducted a study to reach that conclusion. With renovation of current space, “you’d still have a 100-year-old building that isn’t designed for the work we’re doing.”
The new building will provide large meeting areas for Catholic Charities’ 80-plus staff members, as well as offices for each person — currently offices have two or three people sharing space, some are even sharing a desk.
The building’s design, created by JRA Architects, aims to match the historical nature of the current property by using historical details, such as faux Spanish tile on the roof to match the roof of the adjacent Holy Name Church.
The roof will also have solar panels and the windows will have triple panes for greater efficiency.
“It will be as green as we can get it,” DeJaco Crutcher added.
Catholic Charities has launched a capital campaign and hopes to raise the $7.5 million through donations. The price tag includes the eventual razing of current buildings on Fourth Street, construction and furnishing the new building.
Plans for the St. Anthony campus have not been announced.
DeJaco Crutcher said she hopes to begin the project this fall and to complete it by 2021.