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Assumption Catholic Church ‘blessed’ with parish center

VICKI GERDES/TRIBUNE THE NEW PARISH CENTER AT ASSUMPTION CATHOLIC CHURCH IN CALLAWAY, built to the west of the original 1908 church building, blends seamlessly with the adjacent structure, as new siding was added to help give the appearance of one contiguous building.

It’s been 10 months in the making, start to finish, but this past Sunday, July 6, the congregation of Assumption Catholic Church in Callaway finally opened the doors of its new parish center to the public for the first time.

Building project manager Roger Winter, who is also a member of the congregation at Assumption, said that the project had its beginnings about two and a half years ago, when new flooring, carpeting and roof shingles were installed, along with getting the parking lot refinished.

“But we were still not handicapped accessible, and the bathrooms… they were one of the least desirable in the diocese,” he said.

Even though a new ramp was installed to allow handicapped parishioners to enter the sanctuary from the entryway below, the basement and its bathrooms were still not wheelchair accessible.

“Our religious classrooms and the office were in our old rectory, which was getting some mold and needed a new furnace,” Winter added.

The rectory was also constructed on three levels, making it non-accessible for handicapped parishioners.

So in January 2013, rather than investing money to improve a deteriorating building, “The trustees and the finance council got together and decided this would be a good time to do a new parish center,” Winter said.

Not only would the single-level facility include fully handicap accessible bathrooms, but it would also have a new serving kitchen, church office and multi-purpose room, as well as the main fellowship hall.

“They came to me and asked if I would be the project manager, and not knowing enough to say no, I said, ‘I can do that,’” Winter added with a smile.

Several people came forward to pledge donations toward the project, and planning began.

By March, Winter had received early estimates for the construction, and “We were way short on money,” he added.

So the project was put on hold for several months — and during that time, more donations started to pour in.

“By August, we decided we probably had enough to get started,” Winter said.

They also received word from the inspector who came to look at the old rectory that they could save some money on burning it down by allowing M State in Moorhead to use the building as a training center for student firefighters.

“He said there would be no charge for the burn permit if we let that class use it as a training center,” said Winter.

During the fourth and final training session, the students set fire to the building — but this time, instead of extinguishing the flames, they let it burn to the ground.

“The only cost to us was to dig out the foundation and haul the debris away,” Winter said. “We saved a lot of money there.”

Once the old building was removed, construction on the parish center began. “We got the earthwork, foundation, plumbing and floors in by Nov. 1,” Winter said.

By December, the shell of the building was up, including the new roof.

“A lot of things were donated,” Winter said. “The fill was donated, the foundation, rafters, sheet rocking and painting were all donated — and almost every contractor involved gave us discounts.”

Even the architect’s fees were donated, he added.

Though they had initially intended to start by just putting up the shell of the building, and “take our time to do the inside,” enough donations had been received to allow them to proceed with putting in the cabinets and doors.

“We initially didn’t have enough money for the carpet, but one person came forward and offered to pay for all the chairs and tables, which would leave enough money to pay for the carpeting,” Winter said.

Another last-minute fundraising project was implemented, allowing parishioners past and present to purchase windows and doors in the new facility to honor their loved ones.

Commemorative plaques would be placed above those windows and doors. The last-minute fundraiser gave the parish another $7,000 to be used toward the project, Winter added.

“It’s unbelievable how everything came together,” he said. “We were blessed by the people who came forward to give of their time, money and talents. I just can’t say enough about it — without that, we’d have never got this project up and completed without borrowing money.”

In fact, except for a few minor odds and ends, the entire building project was completed in time for Sunday’s dedication — “and the facility is paid for,” Winter added.

“In all my years of construction experience I’ve never worked on a project that came together that well,” he said. “I think the Lord was looking out for us.”

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454