RACINE — For three days, a group of volunteers descended onto the grounds of the former St. Stanislaus Catholic Church on Center Street to pretty the place up a bit.
The volunteers cut grass, cleared areas that had become overgrown, removed debris, and worked on the exterior — to name just a few of the activities.
Project Restore Hope was a partnership between Journey Disaster Response Team and Gateway Global Ministries. Volunteers came from Racine and Kenosha counties.
Pastor Elias Ramsey, of Gateway Global Ministries, whose church owns the property, said, “It just shows that no matter what’s going on around us, no matter what the circumstances, we can make a difference for our community.”
A vision for the future
The director of Journey Disaster Response Team, Jeff Berard, explained there are short- and long-term goals for the property.
The most immediate goal was to clean up the property and make it nice to look at for the neighbors – especially those living across the street.
Art Blake was tending his own property when volunteers arrived on Saturday.
He has only been in the neighborhood for three months, but he has been across the street to mow grass and trim trees — just to help out a bit.
The church has not been used for many years, and the property had become overgrown. In fact, Berard noted, it was so overgrown the fence around the back perimeter was no longer visible.
Berard explained homeownership is up in the neighborhood, people are buying properties and fixing them up, and they do not want to look across the street and see disordered space.
The Journey Disaster Response Team was able to draw on its scores of volunteers, some of whom brought in heavy equipment, or dumpsters, or just elbow grease and time.
The long-term goal is to make the property – and eventually the buildings – functional for the community.
There are a number of ideas for the property, including the possibility of a playground for the neighborhood children.
The goal, of course, is to create a space where neighbors can come together safely, build relationships and receive a variety of needed resources in a market-type atmosphere.
The partnership between the Journey Disaster Response Team and Gateway Global Ministries has been ongoing for approximately a year.
Together they have been working to deliver food to the community during the pandemic at a mobile food pantry, headquartered at the church’s location at 1840 Howe Street.
The Journey Disaster Response Team has distributed 800,000 pounds of food.
“It’s a great partnership for us, and they help a community in need,” Ramsey said.
The Journey Disaster Response Team operates through the Emergency Management Team to assist during disasters and provide services that free up law enforcement and fire departments to focus on other aspects of a disaster.
When they are not responding to disasters, the volunteers respond to other volunteer opportunities, such as the rehabilitation at Saint Stanislaus Church.
Gateway Global Ministries has been in Racine for approximately 50 years and was formerly known as the Shiloh Stronghold Church.
It purchased the Center Street property in 2000.
However, the ministry experienced a burglary in 2014 in which all of the copper piping and central piping was stolen – leaving the church members unable to meet there until repairs are made.