The Mabee Foundation recently awarded $950,000 to Methodist Family Health for construction of the $4.26 million Mike Millar Spiritual Life Center.
The 7,047-SF building will replace a 66-year-old, 6,351-SF chapel that was torn down last year because it was deemed a hazard. Construction of the new center will take place where the old chapel was, on the organization’s oldest campus, the Methodist Children’s Home in Little Rock.
The grant hinges on the Methodist Family Health Foundation raising the nearly $4.26 million, a total that includes the $950,000, by Oct. 13. As of earlier this week, it had $711,000 left to raise, Carolyn McCone told Arkansas Business.
“[The chapel had] been updated and updated to the point where it was just not, you know, feasible to continue to do that. And so at that point we've looked into what we needed, and it was more than just a chapel,” she said. “It's going to be a beautiful facility that people will come back to. They will have a place to go for direction, and a welcome center, along with the chapel and our offices for our admin staff, and it is just going to be a great facility and kind of a multipurpose center.”
McCone added that the new center will make a good first impression. “Some of these kids, this is their absolute first experience for worship and a relationship with God, and it is so important for us to have the opportunity to do this and to share a Bible with them and just have this opportunity in a place that really offers a spiritual environment.”
Community meetings, such as meetings of the Oak Forest Neighborhood Association, could also meet at the center when it opens. Once the pandemic ends, the facility could host vacation bible school, church groups, music groups and even CPR training for the organization’s staff, McCone said.
The center will have six offices and include a landscaped labyrinth for meditation. The labyrinth was not in the original plans, but a donor stepped forward to fund it, McCone said.
She also said Methodist Family Health is seeking a $1 million donation for naming rights to the chapel.
The organization conducted a feasibility study and started raising funds for the project in January 2019. Construction is expected to begin in January 2022 and to take about 18 months, McCone said. The land has been cleared for it.
On the grant, she said, “We asked them for $500,000 and, the day we got the letter, I about fainted.”
Methodist Family Health started as an orphanage in 1899. It now runs a behavioral hospital in Maumelle, two residential treatment centers in Little Rock and northeast Arkansas, therapeutic group homes for foster children and a grief center for children.
It also offers school-based and outpatient therapy services and a program for mothers who have a dual diagnosis of a mental health and substance abuse issues and children up to 12 years old. Mothers come into the intensive three-month program after they detox, and, when they complete it, they can move their families into the organization’s transitional home.
McCone said that before the pandemic, Methodist Family Health was quickly adding to the number of families it serves. She expects that trend to continue when the pandemic ends.
But COVID-19 wasn’t all bad news. McCone said it necessitated the use of telehealth, which allowed the organization to serve families it might not have reached before. The pandemic also helped reduce the stigma attached to mental health services, McCone said, because more people under additional stress might come to understand the need for those services.