Archway decline shocking

Good intentions remained in play over the past year at Archway Ministries, which has a church at Fourth Street and Fifth Avenue in Altoona.

But something terribly wrong was evolving at the same time — something that came to a head on Feb. 9 after city code and fire inspectors gained access to the interior of the structure, a couple weeks after city officials began receiving complaints about the building’s condition.

The result of that inspection was condemnation of the church structure that, despite its condition, had continued to be the center of Archway’s attempts to help people in need.

The condemnation doesn’t mean Archway will be ceasing operations; that would be an unwanted outcome for an entity trying to be a community asset rather than a liability. However, the condemnation requires expeditious remedial action to address the issues that the inspection identified — including electrical overloads, makeshift heating, haphazard storage of items plus an alleged “major” infestation of rodents.

Judging from an article in the Feb. 13 Mirror, the will exists within Archway to put the issues to rest quickly and appropriately. Still, the situation poses a challenge that will require additional resources — resources with knowledge and manpower capable of fixing what’s wrong, within Archway’s financial capabilities for work and materials that aren’t donated.

People of the community — those who have sought Archway’s help as well as those who haven’t, including people not familiar with Archway’s various missions — should hope that success will be the outcome.

Nevertheless, what has evolved since May is puzzling as well as troubling.

For Archway, 2017 took a bad turn early-on — in February — when the church received major water damage resulting from a frozen waterline. In the aftermath of that setback, Archway set its sights on overcoming what had occurred, and the recovery seemed well on its way in May, having benefited from volunteer labor, including some mobilized by other area churches.

Additionally, a number of businesses helped in various ways.

But what seemed like an effort headed toward a successful conclusion suffered setbacks after May, for whatever reasons, worsening to the point where Archway’s neighborhood became concerned and fearful, and that became the basis for the Feb. 9 inspection.

What the inspectors found proved shocking to the point where condemnation seemed like the only appropriate, immediate response.

Rather than accepting defeat, Archway has expressed determination to overcome what’s wrong — and, says Lou Grillo, the ministries’ pastor, offers of help have been received.

Grillo observed that perhaps the city has done Archway a favor by issuing the condemnation.

“I’m going to take the negative and turn it around,” he said.

Archway has tried to be a community asset by way of its counseling services, activities for seniors and tutoring for children, as well as through its food bank, Thanksgiving dinner and other programs and initiatives. However, those services need to be carried out in clean, safe and well-maintained surroundings.

That doesn’t describe how Archway had been operating as 2017 gave way to 2018.

Archway’s latest good intentions need to be matched by steps that guarantee that what has occurred won’t happen again.

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