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Trinity Bible Church transforms Southside school; hosts open house Sunday

Learning, growing and playing will still occur within the walls of the old Southside Elementary School. But now, so will worship, communion, baptisms, weddings and funerals.

The old school has become the new home for Trinity Bible Church, and the congregation is giving the facility new life and a new look.

“It’s a good, solid building,” said Tim Feathers, a church elder. “It’s got a lot of life left in it.”

While renovations will continue in phases in coming years, major transformations have already occurred since the church purchased the 58-year-old building from the school district in June.

Four classrooms were converted into a modern sanctuary and the school library became a lobby and fellowship area.

Outside the building, the property was

subdivided to allow for up to six single-family homes, and one home already has been built. Playground equipment also was moved to the north side of the building to allow for a parking lot on the southeast side.

The church will use the building’s west doors on South Evarts Street as its main entrance.

Trinity Bible Church is welcoming residents to take a tour Sunday afternoon from 2-4 p.m.

Before the sale of the building was even finalized last summer, church leaders sought to be a good neighbor and considered concerns in the neighborhood about possible development.

“We wanted to preserve the character of the neighborhood and not have a negative impact,” Feathers said.

When the church subdivided the property to allow for new residences, they designated the lots for single-family homes only — not duplexes or apartment complexes, said Doug Siggins, a church elder.

“We probably could have made more money if we had gone that route, but we said, ‘No, we’ve committed to be good neighbors,’” Siggins said.

Preserving green space with trees along the southwest side of the property also was a priority.

“We need the money where those trees are,” Siggins said. “We could use the money, but for the sake of the neighborhood and the trees, we would like to do everything we possibly can to leave them intact.”

Income generated from the sale of the residential lots and the church’s last building on Clark Street funded the new church and renovations, Feathers said.

“We wanted to acquire the building, bring everything up to code, meet all the zoning requirements and do as much construction as we could on the funds we had,” Feathers said. “Our approach to this was to basically carry out this entire project without borrowing money.”

Members did much of work

Folks within the congregation have helped with a lot of the renovations, but outside professionals also were hired.

An interior designer chose colors and other aesthetic details. Early on in the project, an architect was hired to help redesign the building and decide how to best use the space for the church’s current and future needs, Feathers said.

Earl Robinson of Robinson Construction was hired as the general contractor, and he factored in what work could be completed by church members.

With a limited budget and volunteers within the church willing to help, Robinson was asked to manage the project “in a way that our church members could do as much of the work as possible so we could use the gifts, talents and skills of our people,” Feathers said.

Robinson helped navigate the project, identifying which projects could be done by volunteers and setting a timeline.

“Earl did a masterful job at that,” Feathers said. “As we went, he became very familiar with the skill level of our people.”

Over six months of renovations, volunteers pitched in to help with many projects at the church. For example, in the sanctuary woodwork was completed by Bill Heinz, rock work was done by Stephen Thomas and the electrical system was perfected by Sam Feathers.

Dorm Land, a deacon, has used his mechanical expertise to help with the boiler and other equipment in the building. Jim Vanek, another church member, has helped create plans for maintenance and upkeep.

The list could go on.

“We’ve had lots and lots of workers,” said Siggins.

While work will continue in phases, the new sanctuary is the only room built to the redesign plans so far. The sanctuary can easily seat 200 people comfortably and up to 250 if rearranged.

“We could fit 120 in the old building — we were really packed in there,” Feathers said.

Without any room to grow there, “it limited us to what we could do for ministry,” he said.

At 30,000 square feet, the new facility is about three times larger than the church’s last building. Initially, they weren’t sure how they would use all the space.

“As we started moving in, we filled up the building pretty fast,” Feathers said.

One room is dedicated to equipment for the church’s KFGR radio station broadcasting at 88.1 FM. An antenna on top of the church transmits to a tower on the McCullough Peaks.

Classrooms in the west wing are now being used for Sunday school and a nursery.

The church has a counseling center accessible by the Madison Street entrance. Eventually, church leaders hope to use the east wing of the church as the Trinity Ministry Center to serve the community and region. They also plan to make the gym available for community events. Sally Montoya used the space for her Christmas giveaway in December.

“That’s the type of stuff we want to be very available for in the future to serve the community,” Siggins said.

Built in 1956, the old Southside underwent an addition in the early 1970s and improvements to bring it up to code in 2007.

“It was in great shape,” Feathers said, adding the school district did a thorough job of winterizing it.

In recent years, several school buildings were deemed structurally unsound or unusable, and were then torn down. That list includes the old PHS auditorium/swimming pool, the old PHS gymnasium and the old Westside Elementary. The old three-story Powell High School building is slated to be demolished this year.

“Trinity Bible Church is thankful for the opportunity that God has given us to relocate our ministry to the ‘old’ Southside Elementary School,” Pastor Don Thomas said after the building was purchased last summer.

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