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Pontiac

February 19, 2014

Former Clutch Cargo’s nightclub returns to spiritual roots

By Elizabeth Scussel
C & G Staff Writer

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Pastor Kent Clark stands on the balcony that overlooks the main area of the church. The church is hoping to have renovations complete in time for service on Easter Sunday.
The stained glass windows in the church were recently uncovered after being boarded up for nearly 20 years while the building served as a nightclub.
 

PONTIAC — The historic building at the corner of Huron and Mill streets in downtown Pontiac is currently in the process of deconstruction to transform the former nightclub back to its original purpose — a place of worship.

The 30,000-square-foot building was erected more than a century ago as First Congregational Church. It changed hands several times, and has spent nearly 20 years as a nightclub. It was purchased by a local family last year and was subsequently donated to Grace Gospel Fellowship — the parent organization of Grace Centers of Hope.

Kent Clark, senior pastor at Grace Gospel Fellowship Church and the CEO of Grace Centers of Hope, has spent more than two decades transforming GCH into one of metro Detroit’s leading faith-based nonprofit organizations.

GCH recently launched a $2 million campaign to raise funds for renovation and restoration of the building. An answer to the call came from MCM Management Corp. The Bloomfield Hills business donated $50,000 worth of renovations to the cause.

“The work that Pastor Clark and his team at Grace Centers do is unprecedented. We are both inspired and humbled by them,” said Rob Mardigian, president of MCM Management Corp. “It is our pleasure to be part of such an amazing organization. Pastor Clark has invested heavily in the belief in the power of God and its positive impact on people¹s lives. His approach has helped homeless people reclaim their lives and realize their true potentials; there is no greater gift to our fellow man. Our hope is that others will be moved by the organization’s results and get involved.”

MCM helped out by purchasing the parking lot adjacent to the building and donating the spots to the church, as well as removing all the asbestos from inside the building, and soon it will remove the Clutch Cargo’s sign from the church tower.

Among the work already completed is the uncovering of the building’s stained glass windows. Clark explained his sentiments when the panels of plywood were peeled back to reveal the windows — which had remained boarded up for nearly 20 years.

“It was one of the most amazing days. I was so overcome with emotion when they took that first piece off the window,” he said. “It had been so dark, and just suddenly, the light came in.”

The former Clutch Cargo’s sits directly across the street from Grace Centers of Hope’s recovery and rehabilitation campus, which houses men, women and children who are homeless or suffer from addiction.

Clark explained that it was hard to witness the self-indulgence and abandon that occurred at the former nightclub while residents at the center were struggling with addiction.

“It just wasn’t right. Their door was 65 feet from our door,” he said. “Our residents are trying to get their lives back. It was hard watching the lines of people across the street to get into the club.”

GCH has been helping the homeless since 1942. Each night, the center provides a roof and beds for 150-200 men, women and children, and serves more than 100,000 meals per year.

The center is maintained with absolutely no government assistance, and the roughly $5.7 million yearly budget is supported entirely by corporate and private donors.

“What we do is not about making money. It’s about helping people get their lives back,” Clark said. “People take drugs to sedate the pain of life, and money can’t fix a drug problem. A welfare check is not the answer.

“At Grace Centers of Hope, we expect something from our residents. We want to see them become better citizens and contribute to society. We take people from homelessness to home ownership.  Our residents earn their keep — they pay rent, they work, and we ease them back into the world,” he continued. “Change has to happen from the inside out, not the outside in. We don’t want to enable. We want to help.”

When completed, the building will serve as the new home of Grace Gospel Fellowship Church, provide administrative office space for the center and serve as a foundation for the organization’s ministries. The new worship center will seat 700-800 people.

“Pontiac was collapsing. It was going straight downhill until recently,” Clark said. “The purpose and restitution of the building is another example of the positive things happening in Pontiac —neighborhoods are being restored and lives are being changed, and the church brings both of these elements together. There’s nothing but good things happening here.”

Grace Gospel Fellowship Church hopes to be open for services by Easter Sunday. To make a donation or find out more, visit www.gracecentersofhope.org.