December 18, 2014

Elyria
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Spiritual building

When the congregation of the Washington Avenue Christian Church decided to fix up their church, they decided something else as well.

“While we were building God’s house, we were also building homes for those in need,” said the Rev. Janet Long.

The congregants decided during the capital improvement campaign to raise funds for the church building they worship in that they would also give 10 percent to other capital improvement projects. As a result, they donated more than $132,000 to area nonprofits over several years.

The church gave more than $38,000 to Camp Christian, a summer camp in Ohio, to help with upgrades to the buildings.

More than $37,000 was given to Habitat for Humanity to help build a home in Elyria. Not only did congregants financially support the project, but they helped with construction as well.

And they contributed more than $56,000 for capital improvements to the Cleveland Christian Home, a facility that provides homes to teens who have been abused.

Jayne Ryan Kuroiwa, development officer for the Cleveland Christian Home, said the Washington Avenue Christian Church takes its mission to the community seriously.

“We certainly were a great beneficiary of that,” Ryan Kuroiwa said. “Some things you simply cannot apply for a grant for, but we still have needs. When someone seeks you out and asks how they can give to you that will benefit the most, it really is an answer to prayers.”

The church, which made donations each year for four years, was the Cleveland Christian Home’s top congregational donor for those years.

And it supports the Christian Home in other ways as well, such as participating in the annual 5K walk at the zoo and one congregant bakes a birthday cake for each child’s birthday.

While the Washington Avenue Christian Church improvements were completed several years ago, the church only recently paid off the loan. But it was paid off early.

“It was the covenant of a miracle,” Long said about paying it off early. It didn’t surprise her, though.

“Washington Avenue has this really great heart for outreach, and it is always a priority. They try to respond to the needs of the world.”

From supporting missionaries in 100 different countries to working with seniors, youths and the mentally challenged, the congregation keeps busy. It works with the Elyria Salvation Army’s hot meal program and Neighborhood Alliance.

“The people of our church have such big hearts, and they really do care,” Long said.

The church also has a program called “From Our Doorsteps,” started by a member of the church who found an envelope containing $400. The woman was given the money after no one claimed it but felt it wasn’t really hers. She wanted to use it to help others.

By investing the money, it grew to more than $10,000. Funds are used for everything from helping to buy a dress uniform for a police officer to building a wheelchair access ramp to buying shoes for kids participating in sports.

“The more they know about the needs and how it can make a difference, they want to help,” Long said. “When people know how to give in concrete ways, they really do respond.”

The church’s membership is about 400 with a typical Sunday attendance of about 165, said Long.

“It’s such a joy serving this congregation,” she said. “It makes for a really healthy church when people give and love. It makes for a good dynamic.”

Contact Christina Jolliffe at 329-7155 or ctnews@chroniclet.com.