A Twin Cities church - North United Methodist - is about to see some major changes. Cushman & Wakefield /NorthMarq, a commercial real estate partnership, chose the church for its annual Give Back program. The company plans to donate $10,000 in repairs to make the church more inviting and up-to-date.
At an April neighborhood meeting where NorthMarq asked for suggestions for this year's project, a resident nominated North United Methodist because of the congregation's extensive community outreach.
"We thought it would be a wonderful way to not only help the congregation, but (also) the community groups that utilize the facility," said Steph Molloy, associate director of brokerage services for Cushman Wakefield/Northmarq and liaison for the program. "Through the Pohlad Family Foundation, we made contact with the Lowry Corridor Business Association, who helped us identify the church as a place in need of some help and renovations that we could provide."
The repairs will make the church "more welcoming," said the Rev. Linda Koelman, North pastor. "You aren't always able to fix up and repair stuff. This will make the church a more appealing place for groups to meet."
North United Methodist Church is the meeting place for many community groups, including another congregation, two Qigong exercise groups, a book club, a music school, a Girl Scout troop, political groups and more. The building is also home to a day care, licensed for up to 29 children during the workweek and serves as an evacuation center for nearby Patrick Henry High School.
'A community hub'
The church's biggest outreach ministry, however, is the clothes closet. This ministry provides free clothing, toys and children's books for those who cannot otherwise afford them. Last year, about a thousand people visited the closet, which distributed more than 20,000 items.
On the first Monday of every month, the Mobile Loaves and Fishes truck serves a free meal to clothes-closet patrons. Health professionals from the tenant congregation run medical fairs at the church on a regular basis. They plan to provide medical and dental care for clothes-closet patrons.
This extensive involvement with the community led NorthMarq to conclude that assisting North United Methodist Church would benefit many - and do the most good.
Two clients receive a meal at the Mobile Loaves and Fishes truck, which brings free meals the first Monday of each month.
"Part of Cushman & Wakefield/NorthMarq's vision is a commitment to serve the communities in which we live," said Martha Nevanen, vice president of marketing communications for the company. "In 2012, we're planning to renovate North UMC because it serves as a community hub for their area."
Anticipating extensive renovations, NorthMarq asked construction companies and materials suppliers to donate funds, labor and materials. Most updates will occur in July 2012.
Koelman is excited about the project. The upkeep of an old building is overwhelming, she said, and the small congregation often cannot make the changes they want.
One priority is to replace the church's boiler with a new, energy-efficient one. This should help lower utility bills and reduce operating costs into the future.
New flooring and shelving, as well as a new layout, will make the clothes closet more inviting and safe for patrons. Designer Jim Smart is donating his services to redesign and update the closet.
Ceiling fans in the sanctuary will probably be replaced. Removal of some old storage will give the building another meeting room, which NorthMarq will fill with new furniture.
"With the addition of a new meeting room, we can provide even more meeting space for groups," Koelman said.
In the day care, workers will cover heating pipes as a safety precaution and replace a broken sink. The kitchen and landscaping will be updated. The pastor's office and meeting and storage rooms will get new carpeting or tile.
All of these updates are pending the donation of materials and funds from the suppliers. One construction company, RJM Construction, is completing much of the heavy labor. The Pohlad Family Foundation will pay for carpeting.
Cushman and Wakefield/NorthMarq plan to hold internal clothes and toy drives to benefit the church's clothes closet. On July 18, employees will spend the entire day on site, similar to an "extreme makeover" day, helping with the updates.
"It's just absolutely amazing," Koelman said. "It's a huge boost to our congregation. I don't think it ever really hit them that what they're doing makes a difference to that many people - and somebody else cares about it."
*Yanchury is communications assistant for the Minnesota Annual (regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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