On Thursday, representatives of Carpenter United Methodist Church signed over the church’s deed to Community Enabler Developer, a local nonprofit that provides food, clothing and utility assistance to those in need. The organization has outgrown its current facilities at 1411 Gurnee Ave. and will be able to expand in its new home at the corner of F Street and Wilmer Avenue.
“We’re overjoyed with it,” said the Rev. Ken Bailey, president of the board for Community Enabler Developer. “I trust the good Lord we can just enhance what’s already being done.”
The congregation voted in February to close the church’s doors after 122 years due to declining membership. The church rolls had dwindled to about 60 or 70 members, of which only about 20 were active. Members attended the last service at the end of May.
The Rev. Sherill Clontz, district superintendent for the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church, said when individual churches close, the property typically reverts back to the parent church and is sold to fund new churches or other ministries.
“It is my desire that all of our churches, when they reach the point they have to close,” she said, “that they can continue in some way their ministry in their communities.”
She added that Community Enabler Developer began as a Methodist ministry, so there are longstanding ties to the organization.
Maudine Holloway, director of Community Enabler Developer, said there is work to be done to the buildings to accommodate the organization’s operations, but with the new space, she hopes to be able to expand programs and offerings to the community. A move-in date has yet to be established pending design work for the new facilities.
Bailey said the organization will soon be able to offer sewing and quilting classes to teach clients new skills and help them create their own clothes and other supplies.
In addition, Holloway said, the organization expects to offer arts and crafts opportunities for area children.
Holloway said she has long been interested in starting a shelter for homeless veterans.
With two houses on the church’s property, she may finally have the facilities she needs, but she’ll have to come up with the money to fund such an endeavor.
Dorothy Hanvey has been a member of Carpenter since 1935 and has served as a Sunday school teacher and played the organ and piano over the years. She said the church was still active, holding community breakfasts on Sundays and doing other work in the community.
“We kept on working,” she said. “We had a lot of things still going, but we didn’t seem to be able to reach new members.”
The decline in membership, she said, coincided with a change in the neighborhood from residential family toward commercial properties. She said she and other members were worried about what would happen to their beloved church, and it’s good to know the building will continue to serve the community.
Clontz told members of Carpenter she was thankful for their efforts. “When a lot of people saw an ending,” she said, “you saw a beginning.”
Holloway thanked church members Thursday, asking for their prayers and involvement as Community Enabler Developer continues its ministry.
“I will try to do justice,” she said, “make you proud for this opportunity.”
Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.