Holy Trinity reaches out to neighborhood

By on February 8, 2012

By: BETH KACHEL Review Correspondent, Staff Writer

Children can burn off some steam by playing basketball in the new multipurpose room at Holy Trinity. (Photo by Stan Hall)Children can burn off some steam by playing basketball in the new multipurpose room at Holy Trinity. (Photo by Stan Hall)

Located around the corner from Fulton Elementary School and in the heart of downtown Ephrata, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, with the 7000-square foot expansion project now complete, stands ready to reach out to neighborhood children.

Construction began in fall 2010 and was finished this past October, adding a large multi-use building — its gleaming gym floor and half-court space just begging for a basketball or volleyball game.

Pastor Henry Herbener is excited by the possibilities.

"One of the things we know we want to work on is adding programs for neighborhood kids," he said. "We sort of mapped out some programs for neighborhood children and hope to start those now moving into the late winter, early spring. If you take the church as a center point and you go out any of the different streets from here, there are a lot of homes with a lot of kids."

Church member Winnie Gerlach heartily agrees. Gerlach co-directs Trinity’s free afterschool program with Darryll Kuhns, both retired physical education teachers. They were the first group to move into the large multi-use room and love the freedom the new space gives the kids.

"By going into the multipurpose room, we can play tag games; it’s just unbelievable," said Gerlach, describing stations set up to play football, shoot baskets and ride scooters. "We can do anything that we really want to do in there. "

The possibilities offer a vast improvement over the program’s former home in the social hall, relates Gerlach, where supporting beams scattered throughout the room forced kids to walk, not run, and waste baskets substituted basketball hoops.

After watching the year-long construction and asking, ‘How long? How long? How long?’ the kids were so anxious to be in their new home, she said. "It’s neat seeing it through the eyes of the kids. They really enjoyed being in there."

As word of mouth spreads, and with the multi-purpose room now in use, interest is growing in the Trini-Mini program offered Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 3:30 to 5:30. Skilled adult volunteers, many of whom are former educators, serve snacks, provide homework and reading help and facilitate games and crafts. And yes, it’s all free.

Pastor Henry Herbener hopes that Trini-Mini is just the beginning.

A building use task group has been charged with the task of determining programs and uses for the multi-use space, said Herbener. Ideas on the table, like open gym nights, running a basketball program for younger children and hosting free breakfasts geared toward educating children about healthy choices, have all focused on serving neighborhood children.

The expansion project also relocated the church offices and kitchen to new quarters and added a lobby area connecting the new facilities with the main sanctuary building.

Over 300 people attended Trinity’s Octoberfest Open House, held Oct. 22, 2011, which gave community members a look at the new facility in a block party atmosphere complete with free food, entertainment and balloon art. The building was subsequently dedicated on Dec. 5 and is now completely ready for use.

Sparked by an arson fire in 2006 that destroyed the former church office building, funding for the expansion began during the country’s economic freefall. Despite the challenges, Herbener says the congregation responded over and above original expectations.

In addition to insurance monies from the fire and proceeds from a bequest of the late Anne Brossman Sweigart, the congregation "raised half a million dollars on our own in the time of the great recession," he said.

A campaign to satisfy the second mortgage began in January.

"We are still in the stage of "Wow!" he said. "We can’t believe we did it; now what do we do with it? But yet, we have the ideas. It’s there — now we’ve got to do the scheduling." To that end, Herbener invites members of the community to contact him and share needs they see within the community. "We’re more than willing to give those things thought as we plan," he said.

For more information about the free Trini-Mini afterschool program or to share community outreach needs, contact Pastor Herbener at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church at 733-3134. More TRINITY, page A15

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