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Grant funding helps church renovations

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CHURCH RENOVATIONS: Quality Masonry Company Employee Steve Wilson paints the exterior of St. Peter’s First Community Church Wednesday afternoon.
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PROPER PLANNING: From left are St. Peter’s First Community Church Property Team Leader Gary Yeiter, Quality Masonry Company Foreman Dave Galbraith and Church Pastor Zen Hess discussing renovation plans for the church’s exterior.

By Jennifer Peryam - jperyam@h-ponline.com

An Indiana Department of Natural Resources grant is helping make needed exterior renovations on an Etna Avenue church in Huntington.

The repairs are to help preserve St. Peter’s First Community Church that was built in 1905.

Church Pastor Zen Hess said the church applied to receive grant funding and was notified last fall they were selected to receive the award.

The church will pay $70,000 towards the project and the DNR will provide a $50,000 grant.

“I feel very excited and grateful for the grant funding,” Hess said. “I think part of the reason we were able to receive the funding is because we are a church that is so outwardly focused.”

The membership has recently done inventory of its outreach and found 95 percent of the people it serves do not attend the church on Sunday morning.

The church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has a plaque on the front exterior of the church letting those who visit know.

St. Peter’s staff applied for the funding, explaining why it’s necessary and what kind of impact the funds would have.

They were also required to provide cost estimates for the project and document the matching funds available as well as letters of support.

Quality Masonry Company Foreman Dave Galbraith and his employees are working on the project.

“We are doing exterior masonry restoration, painting, brick, wood and mortar repair work,” Galbraith said.

He said employees from Marion, Ohio, began work two weeks ago. Plans are to have the project completed the second week of June.

Galbraith has been restoring churches and federal buildings for over 30 years.

Church Property Team Leader Gary Yeiter said two years ago the church decided it needed to make improvements to the structure.

Yeiter was married in the church 47 years ago. He described the church as “home.”

“It had been several years since the church had been worked on and neglect had taken over,” Yeiter said.

He said church members are more like family than just “people” and said he wants the church to maintain its beauty for years to come.

Hess said some of the ministries the church offers is Senior Pack where over 50 meals are served every two weeks to seniors in the community. There are over 20 students who benefit from the church’s homework help for middle and high schoolers.

The church has a Samaritan Fund program where individuals can apply for assistance paying utility and medical bills and provide gas vouchers.

“This building is a place for the community to organize to make things better,” Hess said.

There are approximately 100 members who attend the church and services are at 9:30 a.m. on Sundays.