The History of the Samaritan Center

By: Marylyn DeFeo



1987: The Samaritan Center grew out of the work of Marylyn DeFeo’s role as a Social concerns Commissioner at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. Through her work in the parish, she realized that there was a need for a central faith based social service agency, and approached Bishop Michael F. McAuliffe with the idea. Marylyn was told that a social service agency would be impractical because of the size and diversity of the diocese. She was told that if she truly felt that the community had a need for more social services, she should start work on it herself.

The Social Concerns Committees from the Cathedral of St. Joseph, St. Peter, Immaculate Conception, St. Martins and St. Stanislaus gathered together, and plans were formed to have an interfaith social service agency that would be based at Immaculate Conception, as none of the other churches had room. Central United Church of Christ, First Presbyterian and Our Savior Lutheran also agreed to join in this effort. By-laws were written, an Advisory Board was formed, the name of Samaritan Center was established, and the agency was officially in business on July 8, 1987.

The Samaritan Center’s first home was an empty classroom in the Pleus Building at I.C. St. Peter’s Holy Name Society provided the lumber and time needed to divide the room in half. One part became a combination interview area, office, waiting room and clothing rack for donated free clothes and bedding. A bookcase with only two shelves held the food that was donated. In October a used refrigerator/freezer was donated by C&H Bar, allowing frozen foods to be stored and distributed. Nick Raithel’s restaurant donated chicken backs and necks and ham and ham bones to the cause. The Human Development Office helped by giving the USDA butter and cheese that remained after their monthly distribution. At this point, the Samaritan Center was serving only fifteen families, and the entire volunteer work force was made up of only fifteen people.

Funds came from “Quarter Sunday” collections. All participating Catholic churches had a monthly collection for the Samaritan Center. Each church was assigned a Sunday so that Center funds would remain constant.  Even now, participating churches still hold the same monthly collections. St. Martins holds the first week’s collection, St. Josephs the second, St. Peters the third, IC and St. Stanislaus the fourth. Protestant churches are set by their benevolence committees

The following letter to the editor was sent by one of our clients in the second year of operation. “To the editor: Samaritan Center in Jefferson City: when we were down, and we could have been out of our home, you were there. When we needed food, diapers, clothing or rent, you were also there and helped us out. For Christmas you bought presents for my children. You also bought for me. The only Christmas I received was from you. You are always kind, and considerate of my feelings. Never a mean look always a bright smile. Which made me feel good! You have helped people with food, Christmas, electric bills, prescriptions rent and other things. I know now God is working through you. Today I was coldly faced with the fact I could not pay my rent. So I went to you, and the center was closed. I was standing outside next to the merry-go-round. I fell harshly on the wooden planks crying uncontrollable. I sat there wondering what to do next. Who would I turn to? There was no one else. One of the Fathers happened to be looking out of one of the windows and came outside where I still was sitting crying. He took me inside and comforted me. The he called you. We talked then you helped. You paid my rent. When I needed you, you wee there. Thanks for helping those in need and especially thanks for helping me. God Bless You ! Name Withheld By Request.”

Our Annual report, which was given on June 30, 1989, listed Expenses of $55,288.67 and Receipts of $55,747.87. We served 2,756 families and a total of 8,647 people.

In 1990, we applied for the first time to the Missouri State Employees Charitable Campaign and received $1,749.65. We were rich.

In July of 1991 our Year End report was as follows - Receipts were: $82,132.24, Expenses $82,086.71. We saw 4,468 families, 16,020 people and provided 144,180 meals. We moved into our new home in the basement of Incarnate Word convent, a location that was better organized, more spacious, and better suited to our needs. It was decided that there was a need to create a brochure to tell our story to the community. Marylyn DeFeo received the Missouri Association of Social Welfare Award for Outstanding Service at their yearly meeting.

July 1992 Year End Report Receipts totaled $121,607.85, with Expenses standing at $120,791.25. We financially assisted 1,076 households, and gave 4815 families food. We helped 13,937 people total, with 125,433 meals. Community Christian Church, Grace Episcopal, St. Paul’s Lutheran, St. Andrew, Assumption, and St. Margaret all joined our ranks. Bee Rackers, the Co-Director, was forced resigned because of illness.

July 1993 Year End Report - Receipts $111,426.59, Expenses $105,796.25.
In addition to the regular work of the Center, we were very busy meeting the needs of those victimized by the flood. The Director reported that large volumes of donated food and cleaning supplies were received from the Food Bank and other sources. During this time we addressed the unique problems caused by the flooding in central Missouri. Extra funding during this trying time came from many different places. Bill Case and Exchange Bank, in coordination with KRCG-TV, gave us $50,000 that they generated from a video produced by KRCG-TV. Bishop McAuliffe gave over $50,000 in flood relief funds to the Center to help those in Chamois , Morrison, Wainright, Sandy Hook, Marion, Jamestown, Cedar City, and any others who came forward in need. We especially thank Mike Kehoe Ford and Riley Chevrolet for loaning trucks to deliver food and supplies to Chamois area. We took food in by boat on two occasions to families whose homes were surrounded by water. Carroll-Rhema gave a beef that was processed into hamburger for these families. Many families were provided with assistance in sand removal after the waters receded. Many hot water heaters, washers, dryers, refrigerators and ranges were purchased at this time as well. Seed money was provided to those in need of fall planting, and the Samaritan Center became an active member of the Unmet Needs Committee that was formed with all the other social service agencies during the flood.

In October of 1994 the USDA inspector gave the Samaritan Center a 100% rating. He informed us that we were now the 17th largest food pantry in the state of MO. Christmas adoptions took place in October. Anyone interested in adopting should contact the Center.

In January 1995 we hired Mr. Ron McClure as Operations manager of the Center. Funding was now available more readily to the Center. In April of 1995 a Letter Carriers Food Drive was held city wide. The food was split with JC Daycare and the Center. 40,000 pounds were collected and we also received a $2000.00 grant from the A.J. Schwartze Community Foundation. We continue to receive funds from the Stewart McKinley grant to prevent homelessness. In October we received $500.00 from Wal-Mart to purchase anything in their store. Gates and a chain link fence were installed to contain the Center.

1996 - A quilt raffle was held for the Samaritan Center, sponsored by Modern Woodman of America. The raffle netted $2500.00 for the Center, and matching funds brought the grand total to $5034.00.

In January of 1997 Ron McClure informed the Board that Marylyn would have major surgery on February 4th and be out for six weeks. The Mail Carriers Food Drive was scheduled for May 10th. Marylyn and Ron attended a meeting at the Central Missouri Food Bank. We asked volunteers to “Plant a Row” for us this spring. The air conditioners that were given to us by Union Electric at this time are still with us. Letters were sent to those who are eligible for a free loaner. We gave away 400 Easter Baskets. Bill Case was asked to represent the community on our Board. The Volunteer Tenth Anniversary Dinner was held on June 8th. Modern Woodman and Union Electric helped defray the cost. We received Corporate Dollars from Union Electric to help those in danger of disconnection, and Bishop Gaydos sent a letter to us saying he would like to come for a visit. The Board presented Marylyn with a plaque for a tree stating “In recognition of Marylyn DeFeo 1st Executive Director of the Samaritan Center. Because the parish needs room for classes, the Samaritan Center is told that it will need to move.

November 13, 1997 - SAMARITAN CENTER WILL MOVE AFTER GIFT OF LAND. Thanks to Jack and Georgia Clark of Versailles the Samaritan Center was given more than 4 acres of land for their new home at 1310 East McCarty. The building committee included Bill Case, Chrm. Jim Vossen, Ken Otke, Harold Butzer, David Goller, Harold Buehler and Nelson Vincent. The Building Committee is met with the architect and made plans as to size and needs, and we planned to have the building finished sometime in 1998.

January 1998 Bill Case and Jim Vossen met with Cecil Cliburn concerning the NAP application. Together with Marylyn, they attended a workshop on pre-application. Up to $500,000 in tax credits can be awarded through this application. Each Board member was asked to bring in ten names of parishioners that would be willing to make a pledge of $1000 over the next three years. A motion was made to transfer $40,000 from savings to the building fund account for seed money, with the donor of this sum endorsing the action. On March 12th, the NAP Grant application was finalized by Jim, Bill and Marylyn.  In April Bill Case distributed the newly designed Samaritan Center Building brochures.
The community came forward to assist in the building of the Center. Ken Otke Construction took the lead in getting all the crafts involved in the construction. Otke and Coucet of St. Louis were the architects on the project. So many people gave of their time, talent and treasure that we were able to open our doors in July of 1999 debt free. In addition, Dr. and Mrs. Julian Ossman made a sizeable donation to enable us to build the medical and dental clinic that is attached to the building. We thank all the dentists, doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, medical records personnel, dental assistants, and dental hygienists that allow the clinic to run smoothly.

In 2003 we received a grant from the county of Cole that enabled us to put a legal care clinic in place. Retired attorneys, law students, and mediators all work to screen the clients before their cases are sent out to the more than forty pro bono attorneys that have agreed to do the work.

We continue to make great things happen for those in need in our community and the surrounding area. We now serve over 1,100 families each month. That’s a long way from 15 families in 1987.


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