- Associated Press - Monday, June 20, 2016

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - An Omaha church has begun work on turning a former television station property into a health clinic and food pantry for the poor.

Congregants at Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church held a groundbreaking Sunday at the site, which sits a few blocks west of downtown Omaha.

The church is next door to KETV’s former home, which the station occupied for more than a half-century until moving to a renovated former railroad station. The Rev. Dean Bard said the 2,000-member, 110-year-old congregation’s endowment fund and a fundraising drive are covering the cost of the $5 million project, which includes $2.2 million paid for the KETV property.

Kountze opened a weekly free clinic five years ago and serves about 55 patients a week by appointment.

“When we move from the current space to the new location, the clinic space will essentially triple in size,” said Dr. Lindsay Northam, an internist for Methodist Health System who will serve as the clinic’s medical director. “We will be able to expand our staff and offer more social resources, medical resources and financial resources.”

Church plans call for a one-story health clinic and a two-story Kountze Commons that will have space for church events, the food pantry and a small cafe. The expanded pantry will have room to add refrigerated storage, allowing it to distribute more fresh food items.

The new buildings will be connected to the church by an enclosed walkway that will look out onto green space that is part of the project.

KETV’s buildings were razed.

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