There was no secret about it: The folks at Great Lakes Church knew that by vocally supporting construction of a new Amherst school, they were also asking for their place of worship to be torn down.
Now the congregation has chosen unanimously — in a 67-0 vote Sunday — to buy the old Lorain Party Center on Rt. 58, about two miles north of the Amherst border in Lorain.
The decision comes after the overwhelming passage of Issue 21 on Election Night.
It not only funded building a new PK-3 school on North Lake Street, but also demolition of the former Shupe Elementary School, which Great Lakes Church has called home the past four years.
In a bid to control costs while enrollment dwindled, Amherst educators closed the old school in 2012 and leased it to the church, which had previously met on Sundays at Nord Middle School for four years.
“We knew we couldn’t be long-term at Shupe,” said pastor Karson Collins.
The building’s roof is in bad shape, as is its boiler, and there’s asbestos inside that needs taken care of. Repairs would mount to more than $1 million, ending discussions of whether Great Lakes could afford to buy Shupe, Collins said.
After talks with Amherst Schools superintendent Steven Sayers through the summer, Collins began looking in earnest for a new church building. The goal was to stay in Amherst but he searched everywhere for the right property, from Sheffield Lake to Vermilion to South Amherst.
At one point, he walked the former Golden Acres Nursing Home property, which shut down last year.
The Lorain Party Center is the best option, he told his congregation. It’s close enough to Amherst that the church won’t be pulling up its roots; located on five acres, there is space for kids to play and for the church to double the size of the Shupe footprint if needed; and the facility has a full kitchen.
Importantly in Collins’ mind, it would give more room for community outreach and service projects such as Great Lakes’ annual clothing pantry, which sees 30,000 items given away. Many of the people accepting that help were already coming from Lorain, he said.
The move could also position the church to grow significantly from its 180 weekly average in worship services.
Now it’s all a matter of procuring financing.
If all goes well, Collins said he’d like to have the keys to the party center by January. It would take roughly two months to renovate, including raising new interior walls, installing a sound system, painting, and decorating.
“I’d love to be able to move in by Easter,” Collins said.
He voiced extreme thanks to the Amherst Schools administrators for their support through the past eight years.
“We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the school district,” he said. “We just really appreciate all they’ve done, how they’ve worked with us.”
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
Jonathan Delozier | Amherst News-Times The Lorain Party Center could soon become the new home of Great Lakes Church, which voted Sunday to move out of Amherst’s Shupe Elementary School.