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May Dugan Center undergoes major expansion

Posted at 7:25 AM, Oct 13, 2022

CLEVELAND — The May Dugan Center is a nonprofit on Cleveland's west side offering several wrap-around services. They provide six core programs including:

  • Food distribution
  • Education resources
  • Mom's First program
  • Seniors on the Move
  • Trauma Recovery Center
  • Behavioral Health Services

The building itself has been around since 1975 but has been in drastic need of repairs. Now upgrades are on the way for the aging facility.

“It’s been a long time coming here for this project,” said executive director Rick Kemm.

Kemm has been the executive director of the May Dugan Center for the last 15 years. The pandemic shined a light on the center’s food distribution services, but they’ve also seen an increase in mental health services. The refresh to the building will allow them to continue meeting the community’s needs for years to come.

“Our HVAC system is very antiquated, it’s the original. It breaks down,” Kemm said. “In the summertime, we don’t have air conditioning, in the wintertime, we didn’t have heat, so we were using portable heaters.”

The community hub in Ohio City is about to undergo a $7.4 million transformation to reconfigure the space and modernize the facility. The center generated support from 21 local foundations to help raise funding for the improvements.

“Our clinicians will who do mental health counseling and substance abuse disorder, or behavioral health, they’re going to have state-of-the-art offices and conference rooms,” Kemm said. “Our food distribution program is going to have a brand-new pantry which is going to be three times the size that we currently have.”

During the pandemic, the May Dugan Center became the largest food pantry in the Cleveland Food Bank’s six-county jurisdiction, serving more than 15,000 people in 2021. On Wednesday, cars were lined up for blocks hours ahead of the distribution event that served more than 600 families.

“I have to come generally once a month. But it helps with the things that are the most expensive. Your milk and your meat,” said Fibrio Arocho.

The May Dugan Center doesn’t charge for any of its services, working with residents who live at or below the poverty line to help enrich their lives and advance themselves in their communities. The improvements will be completed over the next 14 months in two phases to meet the community’s needs for the next 50 years.

“People know where to come for help. They can walk here, it’s easy access,” Kemm said. “There’s bus lines on Lorain and Detroit. So it’s critical for us to maintain our presence here in on this corner here in Ohio City.”