Organization provides meals for homeless, as well as housing and immigration support

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FARMINGTON — San Juan Catholic Charities is now in escrow on its building following an auction in September.

Previously, the nonprofit organization’s building was owned by the Diocese of Gallup. It was placed on the auction block this summer as part of the Diocese of Gallup’s bankruptcy proceedings.

The building, located on Broadway Avenue, was one of two properties on the auction lists that housed currently operating missions. The other one served as St. Vincent de Paul Society’s Food Bank in Winslow, Ariz.

The diocese auctioned off a total of 36 properties, which earned less than $161,000, according to The Associated Press. The auctions raised about $225,000, but $65,000 went to pay businesses that were hired to conduct the auctions.

The diocese declared bankruptcy in 2013 to deal with a series of lawsuits alleging priests and lay clergy sexually abused members of their congregations.

San Juan Catholic Charities provides meals for the homeless as well as services like housing and immigration support. While the series of apartments attached to the building were not on the auction list, executive director Debe Betts said his organization would not have been able to keep those residences — known as directional housing — open if it had not purchased the building that houses the food pantry and other support services.

Once escrow has finished, Betts is hoping to start on the repairs that the building needs.The total dollar amount of repairs the building needs is still unknown. Catholic Charities officials knew of the need repairs prior to the auction, and Betts is hoping to raise money through donations to help pay for them.

The organization sent representatives to Albuquerque during the Sept. 19 auctions to bid on the property. They purchased the building for $45,000.

"Even though we are still under the umbrella of the diocese, the title will be in our name," Betts said.

She explained that the building's deed will be under the Catholic Charities of Gallup doing business as San Juan Catholic Charities.

After learning the deed to the building was in the diocese's name during the bankruptcy proceedings, Betts began to look at the four other Catholic Charities in the diocese. All of their buildings were also deeded to the diocese.

Betts said she has been talking to Bishop James Wall about obtaining the titles after the bankruptcy proceedings have finished.

"I want to make sure that those buildings are protected," Betts said.

She said if the titles are in the name of Catholic Charities, it would also protect the diocese in case someone sues the organization.

Betts said after she learned the building had been placed on the auction list, she contacted her board members and had an emergency meeting at which it was decided "we were going to go on as usual."

But board members weren't sure if they would be able to purchase the building, and if they hadn't had the highest bid, the organization would have had to decide whether to close its doors or search for a new home.

"I really felt that God had everything in control," she said.

After learning that the building had been purchased by Catholic Charities, a group of homeless men who had pooled their money to donate $39.10 to the fund gathered in a circle and started praying in Navajo, English and Spanish to thank God, Betts recalled.

"I was so humbled and very proud of them," Betts said.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

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