116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — A Cedar Rapids not-for-profit organization is firmly planting roots in Wellington Heights with the purchase and renovation of two buildings — but it needs the community’s help to fundraise to bring to life its vision of a flourishing Wellington Heights.
The Wellington Heights Community Church has been a “church without walls” since it began in March 2020, Pastor Keeyon Carter said. But it recently launched a Building Hope fundraising campaign to raise $305,000 to develop a physical space in its namesake neighborhood in the southeast quadrant.
So far, the group has raised about $110,000 to help cover repairs, furniture and the cost of purchasing the buildings — which Carter said will be tools to help fulfill the group’s mission of worship, reconciliation and neighborhood development.
Checks can be made payable to Wellington Heights Community Church PO box 462, Cedar Rapids, IA 52403. Online gifts can be made at www.donorbox.org/whcc.
The organization is pursuing a $180,000 renovation of the Paul Engle Center, 1600 Fourth Ave. SE. The organization purchased the historic building for $10 from the Affordable Housing Network.
The two-story, wood-framed building was built in 1909 and needs some fixing up before it is put to use. Among the repairs needed are the foundation, roof, siding and flooring on the main level.
Here, Carter said there will be space for community events and gatherings, such as not-for-profit group meetings, Wellington Heights Neighborhood Association meetings and open mic nights — plus a multipurpose room on the second level with space for child care during these events.
It also would provide a spot for Sunday church service and the Wellington Heights Neighborhood Engagement Program, a youth violence intervention initiative funded by a $40,000 grant from the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation’s Creating Safe, Equitable and Thriving Communities Fund.
Outside, neighborhood children will be able to paint picnic tables and benches behind the center and there will be a basketball hoop, Carter said.
“There’s such a light to this building,” Carter said. “When we were thinking about planting a church in Wellington Heights, we didn't want to build — we wanted to restore, and restore to its original state and resurrect that hope that it brought in the past. And so we're trying to do all we can to make this just what it used to be and even more.”
The not-for-profit church also purchased a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house at 400 16th St. SE, just across from the Paul Engle Center, for $75,000. It needs an air conditioning system, paint on the interior and exterior siding and furniture, among other things, for an estimated $50,000.
This building would provide staff offices, a kitchen for community meal preparation and additional space for community groups to gather and access resources.
Work on these buildings is expected to begin in the fall and take three months to complete, so Carter said they should be ready for use in early 2022.
“We want to open these buildings up to the neighborhood to be a safe place for the neighborhood and a safe place for teenagers and youth, especially during the weekdays,” Carter said. “ … The campaign still is going on and we would invite anybody who has a vision, who has a passion to see Wellington Heights flourish, to contribute, because we think that we will be an organization that, along with other organizations, can help make Wellington Heights take the right steps.”
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