By LOIS KINDLE
Nineteen years is a long time to wait. But now, after almost two decades, Calvary Lutheran Church members wait no more.
They are celebrating the recent groundbreaking of the church’s 25-acre parcel on College Avenue in Ruskin, which means their dream of having a spiritual campus will be coming to fruition.
First to be constructed is a 20,000-square-foot multipurpose building to accommodate worship, fellowship and outreach ministries for Calvary’s burgeoning membership and the community.
The church’s current sanctuary at 309 U.S. 41 N, Apollo Beach, used to seat about 350 until space for an expanded music ministry lessened seating to 300. And although the church now offers three worship services, it’s not enough for its 1,200-plus members. Parking is always a challenge.
The new multipurpose building will seat 600 and allow for additional growth, said Paula Sabo, business manager for Calvary’s Angel Attic and Community Cupboard ministries. A member for almost 39 years, she has pretty much seen it all.
“In 1998, we began looking for property and purchased the 25 acres in Ruskin in 2004,” said Sabo, who at the time was a member of the search and steering committee. “We didn’t have the money to start building back then. We put all our available funds at the time into purchasing the College Avenue property, and we still owed on the Apollo Beach property. So we started a capital fundraising campaign, which the congregation renewed every three years since.”
Since then, members have raised enough funding to help pay off the mortgage on the Apollo Beach church and property, and the balance has been earmarked for new construction. Bonds have been sold to make up the difference.
Members are “thrilled” to be moving forward, added Nan Ryan, the capital campaign’s second chairwoman.
“This has been accomplished with the great persistence of our members and friends through some tough economic times,” she said. “We’re confident that our new mission center, (multipurpose building) will be open this time next year.”
The new center will be built by The Collage Companies, a construction firm based in Lake Mary, Fla., at an estimated cost of around $4.5 million. Site preparation is already under way.
In addition to space for worship, fellowship and outreach, the center will feature a coffee bar, meeting rooms, an activities room, education wing and a nursery.
“It means the expansion of our mission and ministry for God’s glory and his Kingdom,” said the Rev. Jack Palzer, Calvary’s senior pastor since 1994. “It’s not about the building; it’s about how we can be the image of Christ in the community where God has planted us.”
“Personally, I’m so filled with joy that God’s finally deemed it the time for us to expand,” Sabo said. “So many people over the years have asked us, ‘When are you going to build?’ It’s finally here.”
Calvary Lutheran Church is celebrating its 50th anniversary in the South Shore community this year. It will host several public events in the fall to raise funds for its 35-year-old Community Cupboard food pantry. These will include Food on the Run Sept. 30 at E.G. Simmons Park, the Calvary Kids Alive festival Oct. 21 at the Apollo Beach campus and the Joyful Worship Service Nov. 19 at Lennard High School. The church is seeking sponsors for any or all of them.
For more information, call 813-645-1305.