Grand alliance makes dream a reality

by Joe Bollig
joe@theleaven.org

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — It’s not like they ordered the weather, but the bright sun was a perfect match for the sunny optimism expressed at Donnelly College here on Sept. 12.

“What a great day to be in Kansas City, Kansas!” exclaimed George Breidenthal, a ’69 Donnelly graduate, college trustee, and co-chairman of the transformations campaign, in his remarks.

A spirit of warming optimism was shared by all speakers at the groundbreaking and wall raising ceremony for the new $1.5 million Community Event Center, scheduled for completion in spring 2013.

The partnership of college, community, church and government entities that joined to make this project possible was an answer to the naysayers, said Joe Reardon, mayor and CEO of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas.

“These moments in time, like the groundbreaking here, they aren’t accidents,” said Reardon. “They don’t come just in a period of time when all of a sudden it happens. It comes . . . from the very intentional work and commitment that’s been made to this community over time. It’s an amazing story. It wasn’t very long ago, and some are still around, that there were a lot of doubters.”

The 3,296-square-foot Community Event Center will be built on the foundation of the old Providence Hospital laundry building, located on the north side of the main tower. It was most recently used as a child care center by El Centro, Inc. The college moved to the former hospital in 1982.

“For those of you who have driven by the place and noticed that it hadn’t changed much in the last 30 years, well, some things are about to change, and behind me you can see the start of that,” said Richard J. Flanigan, chairman-elect of the board of trustees.

The new facility will have a 200-person capacity, a catering kitchen, a circle drive with visitor drop-off, restrooms and a meeting space, as well as an outdoor courtyard. The center is meant to serve both the college and the community, which has a shortage of public meeting and venue space. Usage is expected to be 60 percent public programming and 40 percent campus events.

Construction of the Community Event Center is phase one of a larger, long-term plan to improve the Donnelly campus.

“Four years ago, this was just a dream,” said Donnelly College president Steve LaNasa in his remarks. “It was essentially dreamers sitting around a table, thinking about what would be impactful and what would further our mission to concentrate and to wrap students with love, and to help promote the community toward the future.”

What emerged was a convergence of efforts by many Donnelly partners in the community, he said.

Funding for the new event center came from multiple sources, including donations from DST Systems, Inc.; J.E. Dunn Construction Co.; Steven Riedel; and an anonymous donor.

Still more funding came from $200,000 of Community Service Tax Credits from the Kansas Department of Commerce, and a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development/Hispanic Serving Institutions Assisting Communities program grant of $342,272.

During the event, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann announced that the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas has made a 10-year commitment to give $200,000 annually for scholarships, and a 10-year commitment of $200,000 per annum for a capital campaign for improvements at Donnelly, part of which will go toward a chapel.

“The need is great,” said Bill Dunn Jr., executive vice president of J.E. Dunn Construction Co., trustee, and co-chair of the Donnelly transformations program.

“It impacts not just Donnelly and Kansas City, Kan., but the whole Kansas City metropolitan area and beyond,” he continued. “Donnelly students represent the world — our future, and the future of the world. And we are all committed to making sure they have the opportunities and tools to be successful.”

Archbishop Naumann was assisted in blessing the site by Father John Melnick, SSA, director of campus ministries and religious studies.

After the blessing, several dignitaries helped raise a short section of framework that will become a wall of the new event center.

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