The latest construction project at St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center in Rochester truly has tested the faith of its leaders, said Executive Director Sister Christine Wagner.
The neighborhood center, which is sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph, offers free or low-cost health-care services from volunteer medical, mental, dental and eye health-care professionals; adult literacy and GED tutoring; social services advocacy; legal and financial counseling; help in arranging for patients to receive free prescriptions; and a communal telephone.
To meet a dramatic increase in demand in 2008, center officials purchased a neighboring building and in August of that year began a construction project to connect and renovate the two buildings.
“We started a $1 million campaign for facility and program expansion, and when we did that, the prospect of raising $1 million was quite good,” Sister Wagner said. “We started construction, and then the economy tanked.”
All of a sudden, the center was receiving fewer donations and yet serving even more people in need — a 38-percent increase over the past year, she said.
Rather than postpone the project, the center’s staff decided to continue and trust that the money would come in later. Sister Wagner said the center is still about $300,000 shy of the $1 million mark.
“But we have a beautiful building,” she noted.
The center, which opened in 1993 and had previously expanded in 2001, will host an open house Nov. 22 to show off the building and its 3,000-square-foot addition. Sister Wagner said the addition has allowed the center to treat patients more quickly and efficiently.
The expansion featured installation of a third dental chair; moving administrative services out of a cramped space; moving counseling services and eye exams to a larger area; adding parking for staff and volunteers; and moving a small kitchen to a larger space where it can be used to host monthly informational breakfasts about the center.
Crews also installed a vegetable garden named for late volunteer Dr. Marvin Goldstein, a neurologist. Produce grown in the garden is given away in the waiting room along with donated bread from an area bakery.
The center’s goal, whether it is providing bread or checkups, is to meet patients’ medical and mental health-care needs in a single location, Sister Wagner said. The center is able to accomplish this goal since the volunteer providers work collaboratively rather than competing for insurance-reimbursement dollars, she noted.
“Care needs to be coordinated, and everyone needs to be talking with each other, and that includes the patient,” she said.
Volunteer dentist Carl Montione said patients get high-quality care at the center. Montione, an Irondequoit resident and St. Margaret Mary Parishioner, said he began volunteering there after having taken 13 dental mission trips to South America.
“I think it’s the most wonderful place in the world,” Montione said of the center. “It’s clean, neat, there are wonderful people here and they are getting wonderful service.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: To contribute to the capital campaign, make checks payable to St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center, 417 South Ave., Rochester, NY 14620. For details, visit www.sjncenter.org, or call 585-325-5260.