First Baptist still making a difference, even after its sale
Three local non-profits have received a boost to their funding, thanks to the generosity of the congregation of the former First Baptist Church in Owatonna. The members voted to close the church due to declining membership; the proceeds of the sale of the building were distributed recently. From left are Dom Korbel, executive director of Community Pathways; Amanda Starks, executive director of Rachel’s Light; Nicole Wacek, former treasurer of the church and a member of the Closing Committee; Karen Hale and Lori Arnold, members of the Moonlighters Exchange Club and the Owatonna Veterans Memorial. The donation put the memorial over the top of its original goal. Staff photo by Kay Fate
Almost exactly a year after members of the First Baptist Church in Owatonna voted to sell their building and its contents, the decision has come full circle.
Proceeds from the sale of the church have been split evenly among four non-profits, which have all received the donation.
“It was very, very, very hard on all of us, to have to close the church,” said Nicole Wacek, the former treasurer and a member of the Closing Committee of First Baptist.
The 1893 building was sold to Redemption Church of Owatonna.
When it was announced, Christian Kohs, who leads the Redemption Church congregation, said he was grateful the historic building wasn’t going to a business or corporation – instead, keeping it “committed to spreading the word of the Lord.”
Redemption is thriving in its new location, Wacek said, “so that beautiful building is still being used for God’s work.”
Still, the final details are bittersweet.
“At the time that we had to make the unfortunate decision to close, the church Council at the time came up with several non-profits,” she said. “Each of us brought forth what our passions were, and we settled on the four.”
Those benefactors are the Veterans Memorial; Community Pathways and Rachel’s Light, all in Owatonna, and Dayton Oaks, a children’s camp in Dayton, Iowa.
Each organization received $47,500.
“Words cannot express the gratitude we have for this generous donation,” said Amanda Starks, executive director of Rachel’s Light.
“When I met with Nicole, she handed me the envelope and encouraged me to open it,” she said. “My heart and mind were not ready for what I was about to see. There are not enough tears and thank-yous to truly show our appreciation.”
The mission of Rachel’s Light is to “instill faith and empower women experiencing homelessness to become self-sufficient by utilizing a strength-based approach.”
“There is no greater compliment than knowing that First Baptist stands beside us and supports our mission,” Starks said. “We are honored and feel so blessed – this only motivates us to work harder and serve more women and children.”
The donation put the Owatonna Veterans Memorial over the top of that committee’s $300,000 goal, said Lori Arnold, treasurer of the Moonlighters Exchange Club and the memorial committee.
“This is getting so exciting,” she said, calling it “an honor to be presented a check for $47,500 on behalf of the Owatonna Veterans Memorial from Nicole, representing the First Baptist Church.”
They will not stop raising funds, though.
“With rising costs of materials and unexpected expenses, we know we’ll need more,” Arnold said.
The donation will actually prompt more funding for Community Pathways, which provides multiple resources for people in need in Steele County.
“We know we can change lives here at Community Pathways, but we cannot do it alone,” said Dom Korbel, executive director. “It takes partners. It is beyond humbling to have been one of the organizations First Baptist Church chose to support as a partner with this gift opportunity.”
Not only was it important, it was timely.
“This donation is of course amazing on its own,” Korbel said, “but it also comes during March FoodShare – and will grow, based on the proportional match we receive for all donations this month.”
The organization is thankful for the church leaders “who believe so strongly in us and what we do,” he said.
The gratitude also provides comfort to the former congregation, Wacek said.
“I told the non-profits, for First Baptist, it’s our way of paying it forward, and I just hope that they do good work with it – and I know all of the organizations will,” she said.
“I hope they always remember the church down there on the corner by the courthouse,” Wacek said. “I’m so thankful that Redemption is there, because now they can have that title.
“The church by the courthouse will always be a home for anybody downtown that needs it.”