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Newstrack: Church renovates former Lincoln Elementary

Services held in the gym

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Background

In February 2014, the Cedar Rapids Community School District board approved the sale of the former Lincoln Elementary School building to the Sanctuary, a local non-denominational church. The school, at 912 18th Ave. SW, closed in the 1970s and had been used by Kirkwood Community College until 2011.

What’s happened since

The congregation of about 50 people has been busy renovating the 29,000-square-foot space. Community donations of time and money have helped, including 75 volunteers from Honeywell’s Intermec Technology Center who tore up musty carpet, painted walls, installed new kitchen cabinets and did other work in June 2014, the day after the church closed on the sale.

The congregation holds church services in the school’s gymnasium — they tore down one of the two basketball hoops and moved chairs onto the court. A former science lab, complete with old microscopes left behind in a cabinet, has become a media room and child-care area.

Classrooms are being transformed into dormitories for the church’s Koinonia School of Discipleship ministry.

The program, with 12 participants currently enrolled, houses students from all over the country for six to eight months as they work to overcome challenges such as drug or alcohol dependence or depression. Tuition to the school is $400 a month, which covers room, board and books.

“It’s focused on young men and women who are struggling with things,” Rev. John Hankins said.

A former elementary school turned out to be ideally suited to the program, Hankins said — along with already having a kitchen, many of the classrooms had pre-existing plumbing for boys’ and girls’ bathrooms. Hankins used that plumbing to build showers and bathrooms for the converted dormitories, which each can sleep four people.

CRST International donated cubicle partitions that separate the sleeping spaces in the dorms.

In each former classroom, new floors, paint and other updates have made the rooms habitable, but work remains to be done to get the 1910-era building up to code. The dormitories are temporarily empty until a sprinkler system can be installed.

Hankins also plans to build an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant dormitory and bathroom on the first floor. One of the reasons the school district wanted to sell the building was the potential cost of updating it to be ADA compliant.

Hankins estimated total renovations cost will be around $120,000. He said even on top of the property’s $105,000 purchase price, that’s a much better deal than constructing a new building would have been. The congregation raised funds to cover part of the purchase cost, and personal loans covered the rest.

They are raising more money for renovation costs through a GoFundMe page — gofundme.com/bqe2khz8.

Other faith-based groups are using space in the building. Recovery Church meets in the sanctuary on Friday nights, and Christian Life Church meets in an upstairs classroom on Sundays and Wednesdays. That congregation previously was meeting out of a private home but had outgrown it.

Another classroom is being used as storage for Solid Rock Church, and Christian band Nowhere Near Sunday practices in the building. The space is ample enough the various groups usually don’t even hear each other, Hankins said.

“This building gives us the capacity to make an impact,” he said. “It really is serving us well with what our vision is and what we’re trying to do.”

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