IRONS -- Adventist Community Services in Irons has received a $15,000 grant from the Consumers Energy Foundation to support the construction of a new Community Services Center.

"The Consumers Energy Foundation is committed to ensuring all Michigan residents thrive economically. We are pleased to play a role in helping Adventist Community Services continue to serve the needs of the Lake County community," said Carolyn Bloodworth, secretary/treasurer of the Consumers Energy Foundation.

For almost 60 years, the Community Service Center in Irons has operated a store with clothing, small household appliances and a Feeding America Food pantry, free of charge to low-income families in Lake County and the surrounding area, center treasurer Nancy Przedwojewski said.

Previously housed in a building on Bass Lake Road that was built in 1898, the organization had to find a new home because the building was deteriorating beyond repair.

"It was falling down, and it was too small and too costly to be repaired," Przedwojewski said. "A generous donation of four acres of land across from Skinner Park provided us an opportunity to build a new facility and keep this missionary effort going."

"The Seventh Day Adventist Church has always had a heart for this community and the needs of low income families, but they will now be able to expand their efforts to help the community at large," she added.

The main focus of the new service center will be the free clothing store and a larger food pantry, but the addition of a large kitchen and a classroom will allow them to offer classes that everyone is encouraged to attend, Przedwojewski said.

Classes will focus on healthy living, home canning, gardening, parenting, grief recovery, tutoring and other topics. They will be offered to the general public through the Michigan State University Extension Service and the Department of Health and Human Services.

"Maintained completely by volunteer help and donations, this self-supporting ministry has blessed the area and will continue to do so into the future," Przedwojewski said. "Assistance from the local community, the Consumers Energy Foundation and private giving, as well as the many hours of in-kind donations from area contractors, has been a blessing and a vote of confidence that the community acknowledges the importance of a facility such as this."

The journey begins

The service center journey began in December of 2014, when Przedwojewski set up a GoFundMe account to elicit local donations for the construction of a new facility. According to a post on the GoFundMe page, they raised around $50,000 from family and friends of the church.

After four acres of land was donated for the project, the organization sold their former building and lot and began plans for the construction of the new facility.

Because they no longer had room to house their inventory, they liquidated the clothing items and small household appliances and moved the food pantry to a closet in the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Irons, where they have operated for the past five years, Przedwojewski said.

In addition to the donation of the four acres of land, architectural students at Andrews University drew up the plans for the structure at a discounted rate and other local contractors offered their services for a reduced cost, as well. The in-kind donations amounted to more than $39,000, she said.

In February 2018, after years of fundraising, grant writing and working with a builder, construction finally began.

The building's foundation was completed in December 2018, and a contractor began work on the walls, which would be constructed off-site and brought in by truck.

In September 2019, an anonymous donor offered to pay for a cement floor, so although the walls were ready to be put up, they decided to wait for the floor to be done.

A local cement company offered to do the floor at no cost for labor, but they had a back-log of jobs and the work would have to wait until they could get caught up.

Finally, in November, the cement floor was poured. Weather delays slowed down construction, but the walls went up this month.

"We were glad to finally get the walls up so people could see that we are making progress, and maybe be willing to make a donation," Przedwojewski said.

Generosity of a community

Przedwojewski said while the delays from the building contractor and weather have slowed the progress, it has given them time to raise the necessary funds each step of the way.

"We have kept our promise of not getting any loans," Przedwojewski said. "All the work done so far is paid for through donations and grants. The foundation, the cement work, the walls, the roof, the shingles and the porch were done with money in hand, and the grant from Consumers Energy Foundation will cover the cost of windows and a large service door."

"I am overwhelmed by the generosity of the people in this community and the contractors that have volunteered their time," she said. "The church members have continued to give throughout this entire journey. It's just amazing to me."

In addition to private donations, the organization has received two substantial grants -- one from Michigan Advanced Partners, a coalition of Seventh Day Adventist Churches in the state, for $17,500 and one from The Consumers Energy Foundation for $15,000.

The Consumers Energy Foundation is the charitable arm of Consumers Energy. They contributed more than $11 million to Michigan nonprofits in 2019.

Additional funding will be needed to complete the well and septic system, the electrical work, and finish out the inside of the building, Przedwojewski said. They hope to have the facility up and running by the end of 2020.

"We will continue raising money for each next step, and I am continuing to apply for grant funds from various foundations," she added.

Donations to the Adventist Community Services Center may be made at GoFundMe.com/ironscsc, or may be sent directly to, Irons Seventh Day Adventist Community Center, PO Box 297, Irons, MI 49644.

TO DONATE

Adventist Community Services Center

Online: GoFundMe.com/ironscsc

Mail: Irons Seventh Day Adventist Community Center, PO Box 297, Irons, MI 49644