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Organizers break ground on Unity House

Laura Grevas/Daily Globe Supporters of the Unity House attend a groundbreaking ceremony Monday at the site of the future mental health facility in downtown Worthington. Holding shovels are (from left): Jorge Lopez, project manager for the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership; Jerry Fiola, Dayton House board member; Rick Goodemann, executive director of SWMHP; Alderman Mike Woll; Scott Johnson, Southwestern Mental Health Center executive director; Marlene Trageser, Unity House board member; Mayor Ala...

WORTHINGTON -- If all good things are worth the wait, Unity House must be really good.

Sponsors, organizers and others broke ground Monday afternoon on the mental health facility at the intersection of Fourth Avenue and 13th Street.

The event was a long time coming -- the property was acquired in September 2005.

"We have worked very hard since the beginning," said Jorge Lopez, project director for the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership. "There were many partners, many meetings, and it's finally here. It's great to finally see the dream come true."

The project was a joint effort of SWMHP and the Southwestern Mental Health Center, and was also financed by First Farmers & Merchants, the Southwest Minnesota Adult Mental Health Consortium and SWMHP-NeighborWorks America.

"We look forward to what this project means in terms of investment in the city of Worthington ... and providing services for residents for years to come," said SWMHC Executive Director Scott Johnson.

During his remarks, Mayor Alan Oberloh emphasized the collaboration of regional groups in moving the project forward.

"It's quite a deal for the city of Worthington that they chose here," he said, referring to the 18 counties that will be served by the facility.

"We'll be able to provide services in a well-designed, functional building, and it will be wonderful to provide those services in a place that feels like home," said Marlene Trageser, Unity House board member.

Jerry Fiola also spoke on behalf of the Dayton House board, expressing gratitude for the center's cooperation. The historic home will gain a shared parking lot when the construction of the Unity House is complete.

The Unity House will be a 7,032 square-foot, 10-unit, single-story residential treatment center. It will provide short-term housing for mentally ill adults to prevent hospitalization or to aid transition back into the community after hospitalization.