Second Avenue United Methodist Church wants to be a more welcoming church and is working on some improvements to do it.
The church needs more parking, an elevator to make it handicapped-accessible and air conditioning. All the renovations are beyond the church's budget so a capital campaign was begun last fall to finance them.
But it is not the usual capital campaign. Not all the money raised is going toward the project. Instead, Second Avenue is giving away a fifth of the funds.
(Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec) Improvements to Second Avenue United Methodist Church include demolishing the three homes behind Donnie Rhodes (left) and Rick Simonis, co-directors of the 20/20 Vision Capital Campaign. The area will be made into a parking lot.
"Twenty percent of what comes in goes to our neighbors, whether that would be locally, nationally or globally," said the Rev. Matthew Lake, pastor of the church.
In six months, the church has raised $100,000 and given $20,000 to about 30 charities and nonprofit organizations. They include local recipients such as St. Vincent DePaul Inc. Food Pantry, national organizations such as the Shriners Hospital for Children and international groups such as World Vision that cares for children worldwide.
It is called the 20/20 Vision Capital Campaign not only because the church is sharing 20 percent of its funds, but because 20/20 is perfect vision.
"We want to see clearly where God wants us to go," Lake said.
Lake said each group has received at least $500.
Rick Simonis, co-director of the 20/20 Vision campaign, said members of the congregation suggest the charities. Lake said if the charity checks out as a viable one, it is added to the list.
"We are loving our neighbors and fighting hunger, poverty and injustice," Lake said.
"People hurt most in the bad times. We need to step up and be the church in the bad times," Simonis said.
Second Avenue estimates it will need $400,000 to complete its projects and hopes to accomplish them in three years, but the goal is to have everything completed by the year 2020. Lake said the church will re-evaluate its needs once the original commitment is completed.
The air conditioning is first on the list, with the parking lot to follow.
Lake said the need for air conditioning is a hospitality issue.
"It gets so hot, people are not able to concentrate," he said with the sanctuary temperature climbing to above 80 degrees on warm summer days.
The heat also is a health issue for senior citizens.
As Second Avenue was beginning its campaign, two homes the church hoped to buy came available through an estate sale. The church already owned a third home in the row.
The homes will be torn down in May to make way for a 40-vehicle parking lot. Simonis said eliminating the home next to the church opens up the space to install the elevator.
When Lake was named pastor nine years ago, Second Avenue had about 123 people attending two services. Now 325 members attend three services and come from Hollidaysburg, Tyrone and other parts of Altoona.
"We had more than 600 people for Easter," Lake said.
The numbers have made parking a problem because the church is in a residential area with limited street parking and three lots that accommodate about 40 cars.
The elevator is needed because the building is inaccessible to those who can't climb at least eight or nine steps.
Lake said the church wants to eliminate these obstacles to the structure that was built in 1929.
While some improvements have been made, the building has not undergone any major changes since the 1960s. Lake said the hope is that Second Avenue will become a life center where people can find help getting jobs and take classes on issues such as healthy eating and parenting. An updated fellowship hall would make it conducive for banquets and receptions.
Lake would like to see the gymnasium, which is now used by a volleyball league, to become a center for a basketball league.
Lake said the addition of the gym by the members who built the church in 1929 demonstrates the forward thinking they had.
"At the time, it was one of the few gyms in the city," he said. "The people had tremendous vision."
Lake would like to follow in their footsteps.
"We would like to create as many avenues to serve people and build relationships with them as we can," he said.