When Andrew Carnegie decided to fund the construction of the South Toledo library building that opened in 1918, he couldn’t know that it would serve its original purpose for nearly a century.
When the library’s managers decided to relocate in 2004, they couldn’t know the building would sit vacant for more than a decade.
And when Dr. Anne Ruch decided in 2013 to convert the empty building into a faith-based health clinic, she couldn’t know the speed with which her dream would become reality. A little more than three years later, on Tuesday morning, she and six other board members stood on the steps of the former library and cut a blue ribbon to mark the completion of Compassion Health Toledo.
“[I wanted] to start a beautiful, high quality health center in a medically underserved area in Toledo — a place that had the love of God at its center and the mission of serving those most in need,” Dr. Ruch said.
The clinic will host a grand opening celebration from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday. On Monday it will begin its regular office hours, weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
ProMedica obtained the old library building from Lucas County Land Bank with the support of the Rudolph Libbe Group, which also served as design and construction contractor.
A 3,000 square-foot first-floor renovation created six exam rooms, a procedure room, and an office, said June Remley, Rudolph Libbe Group spokesman. Local artists painted a mural in the reception area depicting diverse individuals strolling through nature.
The clinic will provide primary care, family medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, and diagnostic testing, including ultrasounds. It aims to serve about 250 patients a week. It will initially be staffed by volunteering physicians, including Spanish speakers, but the clinic expects to have 15 paid employees within two years.
Dr. Ruch first thought of starting a health clinic after a 2013 mission visit to Guatemala made her want to better serve Toledo residents without access to adequate health care.
“The richest country in the world is failing to provide decent health care to an incredibly large percentage of its population,” Dr. Ruch said. “I pray that our center will be a platform where we speak up and say loudly and clearly that receiving health care is a basic human right.”
She modeled the clinic on the Covenant Community Care in Detroit, which similarly began as a free clinic in the early 2000s and in eight years was a federally qualified agency with 20,000 patients. Like Compassion, Covenant’s approach is faith-based without imposing on patients.
“Delivery of care is for all,” said the Rev. Bob Hoey, community relations director at the clinic. “Any mention of faith is voluntary. We believe that every human being is created in the image of God and so deserves respect.”
More than 100 Toledo-area organizations and individuals donated $630,000 in funding and services to complete the project.