Chaldean foundation expands, adds special needs activities

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Guests at the Chaldean Community Foundation building expansion’s ribbon-cutting ceremony abide by social distancing procedures July 31.Photo by Patricia O’Blenes By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published

Chaldean Community Foundation Chairman Sylvester Sandiha and Bishop Francis Kalabat from the Chaldean Diocese of St. Thomas the Apostle U.S.A. cut the ribbon during the ceremony.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

STERLING HEIGHTS — A building grows from the foundation up, and so has the newly expanded building for the Chaldean Community Foundation.

Local dignitaries celebrated the opening of the Chaldean Community Foundation’s expansion July 31 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The 19,000-square-foot expansion, handled by Saroki Architecture and Jonna Construction, had an estimated price tag of $5 million, bringing the overall CCF building to around 30,000 square feet. The building now has a new lobby, a gymnasium, primary and behavioral health clinics, and an educational life skills area.

Chaldean Community Foundation President Martin Manna said he thinks the additions make the Sterling Heights headquarters “a building like no other.” Still, he said the CCF sought inspiration from other metro Detroit organizations and their buildings.

“We toured the Friendship Circle; we toured other places here in Macomb Country and took their best practices and implemented it here,” he said.

The expanded CCF building has an expansive “Main Street” area with different shops and setups that simulate everyday interactions, life skills and job skills for people with cognitive disabilities or special needs.

“We have more than 800 clients that we already see that have intellectual or developmental disabilities that we serve, and their families,” Manna said. “The other part of the expansion has to do with mental health, PTSD, anxiety and trauma. We have a full-service, behavioral health team.”

Manna said the Main Street includes a simulated bank that helps users learn financial literacy, a salon, and a café that helps learners understand inventory.

Manna explained that the expansion will give the foundation more freedom to provide recreational activities, such as having more room for art and music classes. He also expected more programs for youth and seniors.

In addition, a new 24-foot digital wall will show the history and contributions of Chaldean Americans, he said.

Manna said the foundation has raised $7.2 million of its $8 million goal. The foundation also credits major donors and grant givers, such as Wireless Vision, Wild Bill’s, Level One Bank, Supercuts, Thomas Denha’s family, the Konja family, The Children’s Foundation and the Consumers Energy Foundation.

The foundation’s main spheres of expertise include immigration services, language classes, health care, housing and skills, and more. It estimates that its current clientele is around 35,000 people, with about 20% of those being non-Chaldean.

The foundation said the coronavirus lockdown paused construction on the expansion. But the demand for the group’s services escalated around 30% since mid-March, around lockdown time, Manna explained. For instance, the foundation said it has helped over 1,300 people complete unemployment applications and helped over 2,000 more with food or other essentials — even as staff worked remotely.

Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor said he attended the ceremony and thought it went very well.

“The ceremony was well attended, and I was happy to be a part of it,” he said. “It was very well deserved that they have a place in our community. The Chaldean community is a major part of Sterling Heights. Their expansion is going to allow them to serve a lot more people, so I’m very excited for it.”

Find out more about the Chaldean Community Foundation by visiting or by calling (586) 722-7253.