CHC/SEK breaks ground on John Parolo Education Center

Jordan Meier
Morning Sun
Members of the John Parolo family, CHC/SEK executives and other donors breaking ground on the John Parolo Education Center Monday afternoon.

PITTSBURG, Kan. — With perhaps the largest maskless large outdoor gathering in a year — in line with recent CDC guidance — Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas broke ground Monday on the long-anticipated John Parolo Education Center.  

“This is more than just a building. It’s a mission,” said Dr. Dan Minnis, Chair of the CHC/SEK Board of Directors. “We’re building health, we’re building lives, we’re saving lives. We save lives here, that’s what we do. We’re building hope for a stronger and brighter future for all of us that call this home.”  

The center will house the family practice rural residency program that CHC/SEK is partnering on with the University of Kansas and will help educate the “next-generation healthcare professionals” from family care physicians to dentists with the hope that those that graduate will continue their careers in southeast Kansas, which is experiencing a large healthcare drought.  

“This is our opportunity to address the increasing shortage of healthcare professionals in Kansas,” Minnis said, “while also inspiring all of our children to pursue the education they so desperately deserve.”  

CHC/SEK Executive Vice President Jason Wesco said this is southeast Kansas’ opportunity to “grow our own.” 

“We can’t keep providers here, we can’t get providers here, we can’t recruit enough providers here,” Wesco said. “We have to start at grade school level and we’ve got to start growing our own providers.”  

In addition to CHC/SEK executives and community members that donated to the project, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) attended the groundbreaking.  

“This is important,” said Moran. “People will not live in a place in which they can't access healthcare. The reality is what is happening here today not only makes life better for the people who live here today but increases the chances that our kids and grandkids will find southeast Kansas home.”  

The $6 million center — an amount that was raised in just over a year solely by those in the four-state area — will be named after John Ugo Parolo who, after his death in 2019, donated $1.5 million to the project.   

“It’s a fulfillment of a dream for what I think Uncle Johnny would want to see,” one of Parolo’s nieces, Carrie Amershek said, “providing that education for our local students and keeping people here to address our healthcare needs.”  

Parolo, born in 1924, was a resident of Croweburg, Kansas and was born to first-generation Italian immigrants. Though he was frugal, Parolo apparently also invested very well — mostly in Boeing where he spent his career — which helped him amass a fortune of nearly $15 million, which has been turned into the John U. Parolo Education Trust.   

“We could not be more proud to receive the very first gift from the John U. Parolo Education Trust,” Wesco said.  

Construction will begin on the center as soon as possible — although impending bad weather and price increases in steel and wood prices have delayed matters some — and is set to be complete by July of 2022.  

“It's time to get to work,” said CHC/SEK President Krista Postai.  

Jordan Meier is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. She can be reached at jmeier@morningsun.net