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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — The former nursing home building on High Street has been leased for five years to the Our Communities Deliver Foundation.
The OCD Foundation began leasing the building as of November 1.
The Colfax Health and Rehabilitation Center Board of Directors had been planning to demolish the old nursing home building this fall.
Travis Allen, the founder of the OCD Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, plans to use the former nursing home building as a headquarters for the OCD Foundation.
The 40,000 square-foot building is perfect for the OCD Foundation’s purposes to help homeless people by operating hotlines to connect people to resources and opening community life centers in big cities.
Contrary to popular rumor around Colfax, the former nursing home building will not be housing homeless people.
“We are building community centers in Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis and Madison right now. We are going to be doing that through fund raising, and this is where we are going to be handling our fundraising,” Allen said.
“We are going to start with a call center. I am extremely excited about the call center. I just hired a call center director who has 17 years of fund-raising experience. He truly will be a wonderful addition to the team,” Allen said.
“We had to have enough space to take care of our employees, have a call center and be able to run the community life centers from one location. Take care of the HR here. Take care of the payroll here. Take care of the accounting here,” Allen said.
“This was not an over-night decision. It was very calculated. Everything is falling in line just perfectly,” he said.
“We will have care managers and career advisors to help anyone in the United States right here in Colfax,” Allen said.
Over the next six months to a year, the location in Colfax will have about 200 employees, he said.
“This will be the support hub for all of the community centers,” Allen said.
Allen has a background in real estate development and regional management and was a regional sales director for Joseph A. Bank Clothiers in a five-state area.
“I know what can and cannot happen, and building 111 community centers in 11 years is not out of the realm. What better place to do it than our home county?” Allen said.
Allen and his business partner, Nik Pitzer, are both from Dunn County.
Allen was born in Menomonie and raised in Menomonie. He attended second and third grade in Colfax.
Although making the decision to demolish the old nursing was painful, the empty building was costing Colfax Health and Rehab about $60,000 annually just to maintain it.
“Our goal is met. We don’t have to borrow money to (demolish the old nursing home), and someone might really breathe some life into that old building,” said Jill Gengler, administrator at Colfax Health and Rehab.
“What a horrible decision to have to make, to take down such a big part of Colfax. The numbers tell the story better, so we’re really excited to have the opportunity,” she said.
“It was a no-lose situation for us, so why not let him give it a try … I hope he is successful, and we really want to be part of that,” Gengler said.
“The day before our board meeting when we were going to vote, to look at the bid, the final bid on taking it down and setting a date and pushing the accelerator on the demolition, he called me that morning. He said, ‘I heard you had a building, and I’d like to take a look.’ The board decided to table that decision until I had met with him — and there you have it,” Gengler said.
“We are very optimistic it will be a great thing for the community. We are happy to help out and support it,” she said.
Allen said he likes the message of “Our Communities Deliver.”
“It’s basically stating our community life centers are there to provide long-term solutions rather than just putting a Band-aid on the problem,” he said.
“Typically when people come to us, they don’t just need food or they don’t just need a job. They are usually broken in a lot of senses. They had a tragic life event, or whatever the case may be, and we don’t want to be just a referral service. We want to be able to really make a difference in America,” Allen said.
The OCD Foundation is planning to work with Apple and Microsoft to see if the companies will help out with grant money and computers.
“I need computers and desks to put people in,” Allen said.
One founding principal of the OCD Foundation is that the foundation is not willing to accept funding which places restrictions on who can be helped or how people can be helped.
“We will help anyone, anywhere, anytime, and we will not turn people away,” Allen said.
“I have a big-picture mentality. You take care of this, your crime rate goes down. You take care of that, people are able to support their children. They are not going to jail because they can’t pay child support. It’s a domino effect,” he said.
Although the unemployment rate in Dunn County is around 3 percent, Allen said he would like to “hire local” when it’s possible to do so.
“I would love to hire local. I would love to have people stop by. My phone number is 321-Travis-4. That’s my direct line. The foundation line is 1-855-donate-8. And then the support and crisis line is 401-400-0070,” Allen said.
Allen lived away from this area for 17 years and recently moved back from Orlando, Florida.
“It was comforting coming back after leaving for 17 years,” Allen said.
For the past several years, after Colfax Health and Rehab moved to the new location on the south side of town, the Community Cares Food Pantry has been operating out of the old nursing home.
The biggest concern about the demolition of the building was — what would happen to the Community Cares Food Pantry?
Organizers of the food pantry had been looking for another location, but without much success. The problem was finding a building in Colfax large enough from which to work.
The OCD Foundation is happy to have the Colfax Community Cares Food Pantry continue operating out of the building.
When Allen spoke with one of the organizers of the food pantry, he had the nagging feeling she looked familiar.
The woman said Allen looked familiar to her as well.
As it turned out, the woman was Geri Bates, who worked as the elementary school secretary for many years, so of course, Allen remembered her from when he attended elementary school in Colfax.
“I was only in Colfax for two years, but having her be part of the organization is wonderful. We are thrilled to have them here,” Allen said, noting that the food pantry’s mission fits in quite well with the OCD Foundation’s mission.
“I am happy to be bringing this to my home county. We could have easily done this in Minneapolis. But there’s something to be said for wanting to give back to our community,” he said.
The OCD Foundation is planning to open a thrift store in what once served as the dining room on the south side of the building.
On the day the Colfax Messenger visited, the OCD Foundation had already been collecting donated items to stock the thrift store.
Allen says they would be happy to accept more donated items if people have anything they would like to donate.
Allen also wants to invite people in the area to stop by the building on Thanksgiving Day, after they’ve spent time with their families or before, just to say “hello.”
“I would love for them to just come by for ten minutes,” he said.
Then, from 8 p.m. until midnight, the OCD Foundation is doing a “pre-black Friday event” in the thrift store, and then the thrift store will re-open again 5 a.m. until midnight for Black Friday.
Allen and Pitzer also have been busy decorating the building for Christmas and plan to have an open house at some point in the near future.