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Center for Nonprofits Fills Up in Second Year

By: 7 August 2010 2 Comments

Since St. Mary’s Hospital opened in the 1950s, the building in the heart of Rogers was where people went for medical help.

Now, the Center for Nonprofits at St. Mary’s expanded the services offered to the people of Rogers and northwest Arkansas. The building hasn’t changed much from the outside. But, step inside the former hospital along West Walnut Street near downtown Rogers, and it’s clear the Center for Nonprofits at St. Mary’s gave the building new life.

Tenants range from the Benton County Health Department to agencies dealing with domestic violence, autism and helping students earn their general education diplomas.

The entrance to the Center for Nonprofits at St. Mary’s in Rogers, Ark. The former hospital building houses numerous nonprofit agencies under one roof.

While nonprofit centers are a relatively new in Arkansas, they’re been around a long time in other places. Paun Ngo of the national Nonprofit Center Network knows of at least one that opened in New York in the 1960s. His organization has 200 member centers, but he knows there are many more out there.

The Family Resource Center opened in the former Jones Truck Line shop in Springdale in 1996. Dozens of community service agencies have called the center home. With the addition of the Rogers campus – the former St. Mary’s Hospital the Family Resource Center became the Center for Non Profits at JTL.

Nationally, about one quarter of the non-profit centers are operated by a foundation like the Harvey & Bernice Jones Trust, Ngo said. Some offer space rent-free. Others charge the market rate for space, Ngo explained, and nonprofits pay that market rate because they need budget line items for planning purposes.

Even if a nonprofit center is as expensive as other office space, it may provide extra amenities that tenants value, like meeting rooms or the chance to share services, Ngo said.

Some centers accept a few for-profit organizations to lower the cost for the nonprofits, Ngo said.

Other centers organize around a theme. The Youth Opportunity Center in Nashville, Tenn., houses 10 agencies that serve youth ranging from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee to Nashville Prevention Partnership. In one building, young people find counseling, health services, college information, jobs and transitional housing.

The Oasis Center began with a place for youth to just drop in when they needed or wanted to  in 1969.

The Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits, in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, doesn’t offer physical space for members; instead, that center offers training and consulting services to member organizations.

The Family Resource Center in Findlay, Ohio, houses 16 agencies and is run by the Community Foundation of Findlay Hancock County. It opened in a former grocery store in 2006 and expanded twice since, according to the Karen Smith of the community foundation. Many original tenants still are there, she said.

The community foundation provides the phone system and computer network to reduce costs for its tenants. The agencies also share conference rooms, a work room and equipment, kitchen, reception and custodial services, restrooms, mechanical and storage facilities, parking and security.

The Center for Nonprofits opened in Rogers, Ark., in June 2009. Later, the lobby was dedicated to well known community volunteer Virginia Mocivnik and a new coffee shop will to open there.

The coffee shop will serve breakfast and lunch this fall, with dishes prepared by students from the NorthWest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville. Instructor Nick Jones hopes to recruit a small paid staff from the student body, so the coffee shop remains open all year, even when students aren’t in class. In addition, some students will complete internships at the coffee shop. Others will use it as a lab, creating and marketing their own recipes.

“We’ll try to focus on locally grown food,” Jones said.

The Culinary Arts department used the kitchens and dining room at the center since the fall 2009 semester began. They catered events in the dining room. It’s a program that’s growing, Jones said. Enrollment is up 18 percent for fall 2010.

The community college’s Adult Education program is moving in this month on the other end of the first floor of the Center for Nonprofits. There will be nine classrooms, including a computer lab and some testing space, as well as office space for 11 full-time employees and 21 part-time instructors. The classes include GED classes for adults who want to earn their high school diplomas, English as a Second Language classes and citizenship classes.

Last year, the program served more than 3,300 adults with classes running from 8:30 am until 8:30 p.m., Adult Education Director Ben Aldama said.

“They’ve created a learning center for us, a great environment,” he said of the nonprofit center in Rogers.

Aldama also is excited about proximity to other agencies in the center, including the Community Clinic which operates in the former emergency room. The Community Clinic will provide low cost health care to some of his students.

“We already have good relationships with those agencies, but we’ll build even better partnerships,” he said.

The Benton County Health Department will move onto the second floor by this fall.

The Health Department will offer are immunization clinics for infants, children and adults; communicable disease management; and family planning clinics, said Loy Bailey, health department local office administrator. His office also administers the Women, Infants and Children supplemental food program and offers cancer screenings.

Smaller agencies, like the Ozark Natural Science Center and the Northwest Arkansas Autism Support Group, rent smaller offices at the center.

Some office space still is available, said Randy Parker, the Center for Nonprofits marketing director. Tenants can use some furniture that is in storage, he said.

2 Comments »

  • Audrey Lechliter said:

    Long time viewer / 1st time poster. Really enjoy reading the blog, keep up the excellent work. Will most definitely start posting more in the future.

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