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Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church launches capital campaign to re-develop KETV property for pantry, clinic

A midtown Omaha church is launching a $5 million fundraising campaign aimed at a proposed project that includes constructing a free health clinic and commons area with space for a food pantry.

The project will help Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church better fulfill its mission, said pastor Jeffery Alvestad.

“Jesus talked a lot of feeding the poor and healing the sick,” he said.

Kountze’s first step will be tearing down KETV’s building, which is adjacent to the church. Alvestad said the 2,000-member church paid $2.2 million for the station property and the sale will close early next year. The church covered the purchase through its endowment fund, he said.

KETV has been renovating the historic Burlington Station at 10th and Pacific Streets and plans to move its operations there.

The church and KETV sit back-to-back between 26th and 27th Streets, with Kountze facing Farnam Street and the station facing Douglas Street.

The church’s plans call for two 5,000-square-foot buildings: a single-story health clinic and a two-story Kountze Commons. The commons would include space for a food pantry and small cafe and also will be used for church events, such as meetings, receptions and youth activities.

The new buildings would be connected to the church by an enclosed walkway that will look out onto green space that is part of the project. Reconfigured and repaved parking areas are also part of the project.

The church, which has been at its site for nearly 110 years, hopes to break ground on the projects in early spring 2016 with construction taking about eight months, Alvestad said.

The plans are another example of projects making midtown a resurgent area.

The church already runs a pantry and free clinic in its existing building, but it does not have dedicated space for them, he said. Demand has continued to grow for the clinic and the pantry and more room is needed, Alvestad said.

Kountze opened its clinic five years ago and serves 30 to 40 patients per week by appointment. The pantry began 35 yeas ago and last year served an average of 376 people per week.

Alvestad said the pledge phase of the fundraising campaign, called “In the City for Good,” will conclude Nov. 22. He said he is optimistic that the full $5 million will be raised if the campaign receives support from not just the congregation but the community as well.

Once the fundraising is completed, the congregation will make a formal decision on whether to move ahead with the full project, he said. Congregation members have already expressed strong support for the project, he said.

Said Bob Fonda, a longtime member: “People are very energized. (It’s) an opportunity to increase our mission.”

Contact the writer: 402-444-1122, michael.oconnor@owh.com

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