Family illness made dealer an activist
Dealer Jay Cimino's favorite charity grew from personal pain.
In 1990 his elderly mother became gravely ill. Cimino visited her in the Trinidad, Colo., hospital. A doctor there, Cimino recalls, said he was helpless to cure her. Even now, more than 22 years later, recalling that moment makes his voice crack with emotion.
"It was so painful. They had no drugs to even kill the pain, and they were going to let her die," Cimino says. "That was the straw that broke the camel's back."
Cimino quickly drove his mother 120 miles north to a Colorado Springs hospital where doctors saved her life. But the incident lit a fire in Cimino. His childhood town, Trinidad, needed better health care.
So in 2005 Cimino founded the Trinidad Community Foundation to raise money for health care and education. But he needed a place for Trinidad residents to go to get that health care.
Cimino found the place in 2007 when he bought the rundown Catholic church he attended as a boy. Built by the Jesuit Fathers of Trinidad in 1907, Mt. Carmel had been vacant for more than 10 years, he says.
"The roof caved in," Cimino says. "I don't know anything about health and wellness. So I prayed a lot."
Cimino, the 77-year-old owner of Phil Long Dealerships in Colorado Springs, spent more than $10 million of his own money renovating and creating Mt. Carmel Health, Wellness and Community Center in Trinidad.
Another driving motivation for the clinic was a 2008 study showing that more than half the residents in surrounding Las Animas County went outside the county for health care, says Gina Stefanec, president of the center. Cimino wanted to provide primary care for the community and give people a place that takes same-day appointments and walk-ins, Stefanec says.
"We're an alternative to the emergency room," says Stefanec. "That's a very expensive way to get health care. But we've increased the capacity of health care."
The center, which opened May 14, 2012, has treated more than 3,500 people, Stefanec says.
The center has a chapel to rent for weddings, funerals or other occasions. In the next few months there will be regular nondenominational religious services, Stefanec says. There is a bistro restaurant with catering, and medical services are available for anyone who needs health care. The clinic is not free, but it will treat uninsured people.
"When you go to Mt. Carmel, it's sacred," Cimino says. "When you're there, you feel it. This is my favorite charity."
You can reach Jamie LaReau at firstname.lastname@example.org. -- Follow Jamie on