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A ‘Center for Hope’

Wintersville United Methodist Church prepares to welcome public to new facility

MOVING FORWARD — The Rev. Clint Quillen, left, pastor of Wintersville United Methodist Church, and Dr. James Cottrell, a church member and campaign co-chair, stand outside the Center for Hope, the new addition to the church designed to be a catalyst for widespread community outreach. A schedule of open houses has been announced in addition to a celebration weekend of events open to the public Feb. 21-23. -- Janice Kiaski

WINTERSVILLE — When Wintersville United Methodist Church set out several years ago to consider the future, a bricks-and-mortar project was the farthest thing from anyone’s minds.

But this month, ironically, brings a happy contradiction.

The Center for Hope, a $3.6-million addition to the church designed to be a catalyst for widespread community outreach, will welcome the public to take a look and ponder the potential at hand.

A series of open houses offering tours, refreshments, networking and participation in a discussion of future community needs and ministry opportunities kicks off with the first one set for 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Saturday.

Add to that three others — from 11 a.m. to noon on Feb. 11 and from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 13 and Feb. 17. To RSVP or for information, call (740) 264-1676.

The open houses culminate with a celebration weekend on Feb. 21-23 with Friday events including the dedication celebration; Saturday events featuring a morning celebration mission and outreach, an afternoon sporting skills and drills challenges and an evening celebration revival; and Sunday events revolving around morning worship services and an evening children’s and youth rally.

“There’s a lot of inquisitiveness about it, so walk in and see what it is before we actually have a service,” Dr. Jim Cottrell said of the open houses earlier this week in a sit-down interview that also involved the Rev. Clint Quillen, the church’s longtime pastor.

“We sent out 2,000 invitations to chamber groups, dentists, physicians, the bar association, etc., those invitations went out advertising refreshments and tours and sort of a town hall meeting about why we built it and what we’re going to use it for and who’s going to be able to use it and that type of thing,” Cottrell said of the open houses.

Cottrell and his wife, Loretta, serve as campaign chairpersons along with Bob and Shirley Gribben and Russ Grimm. The committee also has included at least 30 other active members at Wintersville UMC, located at 702 Main St.

Despite open houses to showcase something, a building wasn’t the original intent for the church that has been on the same corner lot since 1868 and is more than 150 years old.

“About five years ago a couple of us retired, and Clint asked us to kind of look at the church and see where we wanted to continue to go to in the future,” Cottrell began the explanation. “We met with all the families in the church, we met with all the groups in the church, we met with groups that weren’t church groups but groups that utilized the facility, we met with other churches, and then we had a couple of weekend retreats with about 40 people to discuss where the church was going to go, and the interesting thing was we never thought about building a building,” he said.

“We didn’t want to build bricks and mortar. We wanted to help outreach ministries, but the challenge we came up with is we have a 100-year-old building,” Cottrell said. “We have no elevators to speak of, no handicap access bathrooms, no handicap access to the church and so it became obvious that a lot of these groups we talked to needed space, and that space was very difficult to find.”

The unexpected became the obvious.

“We realized we needed to build a building, and I think the coolest thing is we then kind of met with an architect who everyone in the community knew and said what do we need, and we came up with some rough drawings and a rough cost estimate, and we then met with some fundraising groups, and they go, well, looking at the demographics of the community, if you could raise $600,000 to $700,000, that would be a miracle, and we’re looking at, between buying land that we needed, we’re looking at $3.5 to $3.6 million dollars, so we went ahead with the fundraising,” Cottrell said. “I think we all felt led to do that, and we had pledges of almost $1.6 million dollars, which was an amazing thing,” he emphasized.

“The amazing part of that is, we’re told, don’t get your hopes up, because you’ll collect 60 to 70 percent of that, and we’ve collected 105 percent,” Cottrell said, “so it’s all God’s work. And then we’ve arranged financing for the rest of that and, of course, our goal from now through summer is to pay down some of that capital debt, so we don’t need all that financing we’ve been able to arrange.”

Part of the reason for the open house is to let people know the Center for Hope is for community use, “that we hope other Christian groups and faith-based groups use the facility and the community groups use the facility and that people will see that and help sponsor and donate. We’ve already had other churches step up to the plate and donate already, and that’s been really wonderful, and some of the groups that meet here have donated as well to the fundraising effort, so that’s really wonderful,” Cottrell said.

Financing for the project began in earnest with more than $1 million in pledges from church members after a Grow the Good capital campaign in the spring of 2017. The church held a ground-breaking ceremony on Oct. 21, 2018, for the addition, an occasion Quillen had described at the time as a “major step forward for the Wintersville area.”

“We were going to start last October, but because of the weather then, we never really put shovels in the ground until last March so it’s been since March,” Cottrell said of the building process. “Grae-Con has done a wonderful job,” he added.

The addition is a two-story, 12,500-square-foot structure built to the west of and attached to the existing church, located at the intersection of Fernwood Road and Main Street in Wintersville.

It features a stage and audience/activity/fellowship area that can seat more than 300 people; a new commercial style kitchen and pantry; a full-size basketball court housed in a separate multi-purpose gym and activity area; a music room; front and rear entries; and new, large handicap access restrooms. An elevator, large enough to accommodate caskets for funerals, will allow for access from the ground floor to the first floor of the church with accompanying handicap parking just outside the elevator entrance area.

“Now what we’re doing is asking the community in these town meetings at these open houses to help us determine what they would like to see it used for,” Cottrell said. “We’ve got a lot of people who say there’s no basketball league in Wintersville, there’s no pickleball league, no volleyball league, there’s no place for the (Jefferson County) Christian School to play their sports events, those type of things,” he continued. “The old building our hope is to remodel it as funds become available, and we actually can give some small dedicated spaces to these groups so they can store their materials because now they kind of bring them back and forth. We’re hoping we can say this is your locked space, and you can store materials and stuff there,” he said.

“We really do look at it as the church on Main Street. This has been the community church for almost 200 years, and our goal is to continue that legacy of being the community church and having open doors to other groups,” Cottrell said.

Anyone is welcome to attend the open houses, the two said, agreeing that the overall process has been one exciting to witness.

That included Dec. 21 at 12:21 p.m, a time of corporate prayer was designated not so much for the building’s near completion as it was about the potential ministries that would unfold, according to Quillen.

“The fun thing is how many people come up with ideas of how they want to use this space,” Cottrell said. “In and outside the church, everybody has a thought of what that building can be used for. That’s one of the things our vision is a little different than a lot of places. We’re not building rooms — we’re building multi-purpose spaces. The room may be the choir room Tuesday night, it may be for Friends (singing group) Wednesday night and maybe the Scout room on Thursday, and that’s our goal is to be able to use that space very openly rather than close the door and say this is for this group only and used two hours a week,” Cottrell continued.

“We want that building filled 10 hours a day seven days a week. In fact we’re looking to hire a full-time coordinator just to make sure. We have applied for some grants to hire a full-time coordinator and have looked at other community grants,” he said, adding that ministry grants are being pursued to implement programs.

“The key is not the building, but what the building can do for the community.”

Quillen said the church’s mission is “to connect with God, grow in faith and serve in love.”

Promoting what’s happening is as important as programming itself, the two agreed.

“One of the things we discovered in this process, most of the people we’re looking to reach out to actually use social media and Facebook and websites, so we spent a year and a lot of money completely redoing our website,” Cottrell said

The center’s name grew out of ideas kicked around, according to Quillen.

“We had about 30 names, and we talked and then, because our campaign was Grow the Good, we thought Center for Good is a good name, but we thought really from a Christ-centered perspective, hope is a better – hope in Christ, hope in life, it just kind of evolved,” Quillen said.

“I think it was pretty unanimous after everyone thought about it,” Cottrell added.

Quillen said Wintersville UMC has two worship services on Sunday and one on Wednesday. The church has 420 active contributors, he said.

“It’s been amazing,” he said, adding, “Wherever we are people say it’s great what your church is doing, and we can’t wait to see it.'”

He emphasized, however, that “We’re not looking to be in competition with anyone, but to work in conjunction with other ministries, other community groups, other churches.

Added Cottrell, “A lot of Methodist churches don’t have resources or space. Our goal is they view this as part of their space. If they want to have a youth rally, they can use our facility. As long as it’s kind of faith based and in line with our mission, we’re hoping people will use it.”

Quillen said the support is as overwhelming as it is humbling.

“When that consultant came in, and they said $6 to $700,00 and we can see 60-70 families pledge, we had right under a hundred pledge and the amount was more than double,” Quillen said of the three-year pledge which will end in May.

“Already we’ve had more come in than was pledged, and the other real exciting thing we have an opportunity for a double matching grant. If we raise $250,000 more by May, that will be doubled, and we’re a little more over a fourth of the way there now, so any new donations that weren’t originally pledged between now and the end of May, it’ll go toward a double matching grant,” Quillen noted.

“If the community helps us with a couple hundred thousand dollars, that will be $600,000 dollars,” Cottrell added.

“That’s pretty exciting. God has provided every step of the way,” Quillen said.

For information, contact the church at (740) 264-1676.

(Kiaski can be contacted atjkiaski@heraldstaronline.com.)

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