Switchpoint celebrates 5 years serving community, honors volunteers

ST. GEORGE — Over 15,000 people have been served by the Switchpoint Community Resource Center since it opened in St. George in September 2014. Now, five years later, staff, volunteers and residents gathered to celebrate the shelter’s accomplishments.

Carol Hollowell, Switchpoint’s executive director, speaks to a crowd gathered to celebrate Switchpoint’s fifth anniversary, St. George, Utah, Sept. 27, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

A large crowd gathered under the gazebo at Switchpoint Friday for grilled hamburgers and fresh corn while Carol Hollowell, Switchpoint’s executive director, thanked and recognized the volunteers among those gathered at the event.

“It has been a really long, but amazing five years,” she said while standing on a bench with microphone in hand. “One of the dreams that happened five-and-a-half years ago was, ‘How can we change lives?’ And that started this whole model.”

Switchpoint was conceived as more than just a homeless shelter, offering a multitude of services under a single roof aimed at helping people get back on their feet and become productive, self-reliant members of the community, where possible.

Services include educational assistance, employment assistance, parenting classes, job and family services, housing assistance, birth certificate and identification acquisition, mental health services, financial/budget assistance, a food pantry and more.

The Switchpoint Community Resource Center, St. George, Utah, Sept. 27, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The facility also helps clients create action plans to follow in order to achieve goals for self-improvement.

Since it’s opening, Switchpoint has grown to add a thrift store and a dog grooming daycare service that both provide job training for clients; it’s expanded its food pantry, created a community garden and helped spur the development of the RiverWalk Village, an affordable housing apartment complex near Mall Drive that is currently under construction.

The next big project is a substance abuse treatment center in Hildale that will host 47 beds and is currently being renovated, Hollowell told St. George News.

“This is a piece of the puzzle missing for people in Washington County on targeted adult Medicaid and expanded Medicaid,” she said. “This is huge for us, because we can now help people get treatment right away.”

The over 15,000 people who have been served through Switchpoint’s plethora of services were helped along by Switchpoint’s army of volunteers.

St. George Mayor Jon Pike, Matt Loo and Carol Hollowell celebrate after cutting the ribbon at the grand opening of SwitchPoint, St. George, Utah, Oct. 24, 2014 | File photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

“It takes us over 300 volunteers a month just to stay open. Let that sink in a moment,” Hollowell said. “That means our kitchen, and our pantry, and our thrift store and our computer labs. It takes an army.”

Since opening, Switchpoint has racked up over 270,000 volunteer hours, she said. When applying for federal grants, a volunteer hour is considered to be worth $19.21.

“So calculate the cost of that,” Hollowell said with a smile. “All those hours I’ve gotten for free. That is what’s amazing to me.”

Much of the event was spent praising and recognizing the volunteers, whom Hollowell said help change the lives of the people the community center serves.

“I don’t think people understand how critical they are to our operation,” she said. “Not only that, but I believe the relationship and the interaction that occurs with volunteers to residents is the game-changer. It’s social capital. It’s how people feel they belong in our community, by interacting with people who are in a different class than they are.”

Carol Hollowell, Switchpoint’s executive director, recognizes long-term volunteers Ian and Fred Bohman for their many years of service to Switchpoint during the community resource center’s fifth anniversary, St. George, Utah, Sept. 27, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Volunteers who had donated more than 100 service hours at Switchpoint were recognized during the event, as were a handful who’ve been with the community center since the beginning. Among them were Fred Bohman and his son Ian Bohman, both of whom helped create relationships beneficial to Switchpoint while also finding ways to recycle materials the center could reuse in some capacity.

Fred Bohman, who is also a botanist with the nickname “Dr. Dirt,” helped create Switchpoint’s community garden. Along the way he and his son found old garage doors that were converted into grow boxes for that garden.

“This all brings a tear to my eye, and I’m excited,” Ian Bohman said. “There’s always something to do here, and like Carol said, it takes an A-team, it takes us all. That’s community.”

Switchpoint originally opened under the oversight of the city of St. George, which bought the property for the center for $1.5 million. Eventually, that role went to the nonprofit group Friends of Switchpoint, though the city still maintains an active role in much of what the community resource center does.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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