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Expansion plan

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By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — Urban Ministries of Wake County is planning a campaign to raise $5 million for a new facility that would nearly double its space and let it expand its staff and expand and intergrate its services.

Sparking the campaign, which likely will kick off publicly late this year or early in 2006, was a pledge several years ago by WakeMed to give $1 million for the new facility plus three years of funding for a physician and physician extender to help staff Urban Ministries’ free Open Door Clinic.

The 24-year-old nonprofit operates its clinic and a crisis intervention program in a 13,000-square-foot former warehouse it owns on Semart Drive near Logan Trading Company off Peace Street.

It also operates its Helen Wright Center for Women in the former Ark Shelter near the Amtrak station on West Cabarrus Street downtown.

Urban Ministries expects soon to complete the sale of the Semart Drive facility to Trammell Crow, which is developing the mixed-use Seaboard Station in the area and has agreed to let the nonprofit remain in its current quarters rent-free until December 2006.

Soon after the sale is completed, Urban Ministries plans to buy a site of more than four acres on Hammond Road near Rush Street south of downtown.

Cherry Huffman Architects will design the group’s new 25,000-square-foot facility, and OBS Landscape Architects has donated its services for preliminary site planning.

The new facility will house the group’s crisis-intervention program and free clinic on its upper level, with its food pantry and demonstration kitchen to teach good health and nutrition on its lower level.

The women’s shelter will remain on Cabarrus Street.

Based on a feasibility study last year by Philanthropic Advisory Group, a Raleigh consulting firm that is serving as campaign counsel, Urban Ministries will solicit funds from individuals, foundations and corporations, says Nancy Sumner, director of development.

Formed and supported by local religious congregations, Urban Ministries last year provided assistance to more than 25,000 Wake County residents facing hunger, homelessness or a lack of health care.

Crisis-intervention services include a food pantry, financial assistance, case-management, shower facilities for homeless and indigent clients, and referrals to other human-service agencies, while the shelter provides a place to stay and other services for homeless women such as case management.

The free clinic provides comprehensive medical care and full pharmacy services to uninsured and low-income people.

But even with a full-time staff of roughly 20 people, and more than 800 volunteers, the group says, its current facility limits its ability to deliver services in a county in which 75,000 people live below the poverty level of $18,000 in annual income for a two-person family, more than 100,000 people are uninsured and more than 70,000 people do not have enough food.

With the new facility, Urban Ministries aims to increase the number of patients served by its clinic each year to 11,500 from 3,800, integrate its crisis intervention and clinic services, and add preventive health services, plus wellness and nutritional programs.

A key goal of the capital campaign, Sumner says, will be to “educate people about what we’re all about.”

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