Closed church shares assets with shelter, relief fund
While the doors of a Thunder Bay church have closed, its members have turned the closure into a window of opportunity to help others in need.
Northwood Park Church of Christ has closed after 49 years. The church’s assets are being liquidated and divided up for donation to two community initiatives — $50,000 to the Disaster Relief Fund and $200,000 to Shelter House.
“Our numbers were dwindling and after an agonizing process we thought it best to close the church and liquidated the assets,” John Whitfield, a trustee at Northwood Park Church of Christ, said in an interview on Monday.
“One of the strong feelings was we should use a significant part of this money locally to give assistance to those in the community. It was easy to settle on these two groups to receive a donation because they reflected on their activities what we had as our objective.”
While closing the church was a painful experience, Whitfield said the congregation hopes these donations will help them continue their work.
The donation came as a surprise to Shelter House, said Patty Hajdu, executive director. The shelter is always in need of donations of any kind, and this large sum will help with plans for expansion.
“We are excited about this money because we are trying to reach a very marginalized population,” she said.
“With this money, we will hold on to it until such time when we have enough capital to move forward with expansion plans.”
The plans include expanding the alcohol treatment program which has 15 beds but will need more. The shelter also wants to create a segregated youth facility that will include rental arrangements to help them develop skills and move into the housing market.
“About 25 per cent of our shelter population is young people right now,” Hajdu said. “Young people have a real hard time finding shelter in Thunder Bay. The housing market is tight right now and many landlords are not keen on renting to young people.”
The $50,000 donation to the Disaster Relief Fund is a “phenomenal” act by the congregation, said Wayne Fletcher, chairman of the disaster relief committee.
The donation will be matched by the provincial and federal governments, to assist victims of the May 28 flood.
“That $50,000 will become $150,000,” he said. “It’s one of our single largest donations to date.”
The donation couldn’t have come at a better time. The committee has until Jan. 31 to collect enough donations to qualify for the province’s two-to-one matching grants. Fletcher said he couldn’t give exact numbers, but around $1.3 million has been donated to date.
“We are coming into our final push,’’ he said.
“We have an event next week and something like this helps remind people we are still here and others will step forward,” he said.
Fletcher said the original goal was based on what it was believed the committee would need. So far the community has been generous and he has not been disappointed.
It’s also been about three months since claims by flood victims were filed.
Fletcher said all the claims should be sorted out by the end of the month so the committee will know exactly how much money is required.