The Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Roman Catholic church was built in Trinidad, CO, near the New Mexico border, in 1907 to serve Spanish and Italian immigrants who worked in the area’s coal mines.

But as the mines eventually were spent and Colorado Springs, two hours north, became the region’s focus of development, Trinidad lost jobs and population.

A serious blow came in 1998 when the Diocese of Pueblo closed Mt. Carmel. In the years that followed, the structure began to deteriorate. The roof collapsed under the weight of Colorado snowfalls and its foundation crumbled.

Mt. Carmel’s demise hit Jay Cimino particularly hard. The philanthropic president and CEO of the Phil Long Family of Dealerships had attended Mass there as a young man and traces his family roots for three generations in Trinidad.

After watching the church deteriorate for nearly a decade, Cimino and his family bought the property for $150,000 in 2007, but its new use was unclear. All Cimino knew was that the building had the potential to once again be a community focal point. 

When Cimino learned of an independent study that showed health and wellness were among the region’s greatest needs, his vision was clarified: the church would be re-born as the Mt. Carmel Health, Wellness, and Community Center to provide primary and behavioral health care to the locals.

A $12 million renovation of the former church, funded entirely by the Cimino family, began in 2009. In 2011, Cimino deeded the property to Mount Carmel of Colorado, a non-profit organization created to operate the facility. The new center officially opened in 2012.

“I have to be honest, when my dad said he wanted to open a health-care clinic, I thought he was the one who needed a doctor,” says daughter Gina Cimino, president of Mt. Carmel of Colorado. “I said, ‘Dad, we fix cars, we don’t fix people.’

“It was like learning a different language. But we looked at all the studies and saw that Las Animas County was 54th out of 57 counties in the state in health care, and over half of the residents traveled outside of the county to be treated. There were real problems there, like teenage suicides and drug use, so we felt the best use of the church was to open a health clinic.”

The facility has grown from the church’s original 7,000 sq.-ft. (650 sq.-m) to 16,000 sq.-ft. (1,486 sq.-m) today and serves 3,800 patients, some 20% of the residents of Trinidad.

Services include physical exams, injury and illness diagnosis and prescriptions. Mt. Carmel’s 29-person team counsels patients who are at risk for obesity, diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

“We also run wellness and enrichment programs at Mt. Carmel,” Gina Cimino says. “They range from Leadership 21, where we teach kids about how government works to Boot Camp for New Dads that teaches all of the important how-to’s of taking care of a new baby from a dad’s perspective.”

The Mount Carmel Center for Health and Wellness operates on a budget of $1 million per year. “We live on grants, sponsorships, and donations,” Gina Cimino says.

The dealerships’ success helps, too. “After all the bills are paid, we calculate the net profit after tax for each of our dealerships, then we pay 1% of that profit to Mt. Carmel every month,” says son Michael Cimino, vice president of the Phil Long Dealerships. “We don’t take it off the car and we don’t ask employees to participate.”

Jay Cimino and the Phil Long dealerships are no strangers to philanthropy. A team of Phil Long Ford master technicians dismantled, rebuilt, and restored 11 ’02 and ’03 Ford Crown Victoria cruisers for the Colorado Springs Police Dept., saving taxpayers more than $200,000.

Cimino created the Phil Long Community Fund, which provides grants for 501(c)3 youth-based organizations. He has partnered with the NFL’s Denver Broncos to build playgrounds throughout Colorado.

The America Red Ross named Cimino 2013 Humanitarian of the Year.

“Dad’s a huge visionary, he dreams in color,” says Michael Cimino. “He gets a vision, and he challenges that vision all the way up and down. If anyone says he can’t do something, it just gives him more power to push forward. There must be 100,000 ways to say ‘I can’t,’ but none of them are acceptable to him.”