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Macomb Township

Local church to make long-awaited renovations

Charity book sale still looking for new location, leadership

February 5, 2014

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This year, St. Peter Lutheran Church and School plans to construct a fellowship hall and ministry center in the church sanctuary, a project that has been in the works since 2005. However, these renovations also mean that the Macomb Charitable Foundation will have to find a new host site and new leaders for its Second Story Used Book Sale, which was held in that area of the church for the last eight years.

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — It won’t be long before the ministry team at St. Peter Lutheran Church and School follows through on a vision that was unveiled almost a decade ago.

Rev. Ken Wagener, lead pastor at the church — located in Macomb Township at the corner of 24 Mile and Romeo Plank roads — is eager to begin the construction of a fellowship hall and ministry center within the church’s sanctuary building. He and members of the St. Peter Build Out Committee would like to have the renovations completed by the end of summer, so they’re up and running by the time students go back to school.

“This is going to be a very large hall that can host 250 or 300 people, so we’re all really excited about finally finishing this project,” Wagener said. “It’s going to be a wonderful addition to our parish. We’re very pleased to report that we now have an architect for the project, and we thank our congregation for allowing us to move forward with it.”

On Jan. 26, the church’s Voters Assembly approved the hiring of an architect to begin the final drafting of plans for the new facilities. Ed Neiman from the Shelby Township-based firm Anderson, Eckstein and Westrick, Inc., will soon meet with the Build Out Committee to gather their final instructions for creating architectural drawings. The church will then seek permits from the township and work with local contractors to solicit bids for construction.

According to Wagener, although the Voters Assembly approved architectural fees not to exceed $23,900, no cost estimates for the overall project are available at this time.

In 2005, when St. Peter’s sanctuary was completed, the builders constructed a large, accessible room adjacent to the narthex. This room was designed as a fellowship hall, a gathering space to be used for a variety of ministry functions, including Sunday morning study, family social interaction, funeral and memorial services, luncheons and dinners, congregational potlucks, church group meetings, conferences, receptions, celebrations, fundraisers and community events. Meanwhile, on the other side of the sanctuary, the builders constructed another large space intended to serve as a ministry center featuring offices, meeting rooms and storage space for leaders from the church and school.

But because funding to perform the work was not available at the time, these spaces were left unfinished. As Wagener explained, that created frequent logistical problems whenever events were scheduled at the church.

“Without a fellowship hall, we were having to host a lot of our activities in the school gymnasium,” he said. “Unfortunately, that disrupts the whole rhythm of the school day because the kids are constantly being displaced. That’s a big reason why we can’t wait to have this fellowship hall completed. We want to continue to serve our congregation and our community, and we believe this will open a lot of new horizons for us.”

Yet, despite all the good things that the renovations will bring to St. Peter, they may also result in saying goodbye to a beloved tradition. The church sanctuary previously functioned as the home of the annual Second Story Used Book Sale, an enormous five-day fundraiser for the Macomb Charitable Foundation (MCF) that was founded in 2006 by retired school teachers Dianne and Bill Wetzel. The eighth, and possibly last, sale was held at St. Peter last October following the Wetzels’ announcement that this would be their final year spent organizing the event.

The Second Story Used Book Sale is one of the two biggest fundraisers of the year for the foundation, a volunteer-led, referral-based nonprofit group that reaches out to children in Macomb County who are homeless or living below the poverty line. According to MCF President Shelly Penzien, four months after the 2013 event wrapped up, the foundation is still looking for a new location to host the book sale, as well as new leadership to take charge.

“A few people did inquire about it,” she said, “but I don’t think they realized the huge scope of this book sale. So even though some people have offered to help, no one has volunteered to take the event over for us. None of our board members can do it themselves because it takes away from their time running the foundation.”

Another challenge has been finding a suitable new location for the book sale, as the MCF’s relationship with St. Peter was unique and not easily duplicated.

“St. Peter was not only kind enough to let us host the event there, but also to allow people to drop off book donations all year long,” Penzien said. “If we want to run this event the same way that it was run in the past, it requires a facility with its own staff — people who can be there to collect the books for us.”

Still, Penzien understands that it’s a tall order to try to find new leaders who are as passionate and dedicated to this event as the Wetzels and their team of volunteers were. She is therefore open to the idea of reinventing the Second Story Used Book Sale, or perhaps doing away with it altogether and starting a brand new fundraiser.

“Maybe this particular event has run its course and we should look for something else,” she said. “If anyone has any ideas for us, we are certainly open to them. We leave St. Peter with nothing but appreciation and gratitude for the time that we spent there. Frankly, we were amazed that they let us stay there as long as they did. They were always so generous and so accommodating to us.”

Wagener stated that the MCF has been “a tremendous partner” for St. Peter over the last several years. Even with the church sanctuary set to undergo major renovations, he would like to find a way to work with the foundation to keep the book sale alive for a ninth year and beyond.

“I have the highest respect for the MCF and everything they do for our community,” Wagener said. “So we will certainly do everything in our power to make sure this event continues to happen as it has in the past. If there’s any way that we can make it work, we will continue our partnership with the MCF.”

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