Pennsylvania parish breaks ground for Life Center

May 25, 2005

St. Gabriel's Episcopal Church, Douglassville, marked the start of a new $1.5 million expansion -- a Parish Life Center addition to their existing structure -- with a ground breaking ceremony in April. Bishop Paul Marshall of Bethlehem presided over the event.

The 12,400 square foot structure will accomplish several long terms goals, according to Canon Calvin C. Adams, rector, including much needed classroom space for Sunday and weekday Christian Education and day care classes. The new space will also provide additional administrative space for clergy and staff, as well as retrofit the existing classrooms and offices for ADA compliance, including the installation of an elevator.

The design and building team includes Olsen deTurck Architects of Reading and Hollenbach Construction Company of Boyertown.

A final contract of $1,520,000 with Hollenbach Construction was unanimously approved last year by the vestry. A loan of $2,132,000 was secured to finance the building project and to pay off all other loans.

"Putting up our first new building in over 40 years is very exciting stuff," said Adams. "This joins our generation with those who have been here before and who have bequeathed to us the beauty of our church buildings and the essential working space for office and classrooms."

The oldest congregation in Berks County, St. Gabriel's has undertaken several building projects throughout its almost 300 year history, including building a log church in the early 1700s, followed by an open-balcony style colonial chapel in 1801, and the imposing brown stone church in 1884.

The colonial chapel was eventually converted for use as a community center that housed a library and theatre and was used for Sunday school classes. In 1959, a parish building was constructed to provide more classroom and office space to meet the revitalized growth of the church and the expanding development of the Greater Amity Township Area.

Again faced with both opportunity and challenge of ministering to an exploding population of families, St. Gabriel's is embarking on its newest building project.

The Parish Life Center is the final piece of a three-phased plan envisioned by the Campus Master Plan Committee of St. Gabriel's. Each of these projects is bold in scope, and reflects St. Gabriel's commitment to the community and to the future.

The first phase included renovation of the church worship space, completed in September 2003.

The second phase included the realization of a 30-year-old dream to build a community housing facility for seniors. Known as the Villa at Morlatton, this privately owned 108-unit apartment building occupies land owned by St. Gabriel's. The building is now under construction and is slated to open in mid-June.

St. Gabriel's will have representation on an advisory board of the Villa, and looks forward to many opportunities for joint ministry with the residents, many of whom are church members as well as long time community residents.

Children were invited to get a hard hat and shovel to do some groundbreaking of their own as Bishop Paul, with Canon Calvin Adams at his right and Canon George Loeffler at his left, blessed the site.

The three-story Villa at Morlatton will consist of 108 living units: studio, one and two bedroom apartment units. Residents will receive weekly hotel style housekeeping and linen service, planned activities and transportation, two meals per day (lunch and dinner) in a beautiful dining room, and all utilities will be provided except telephone. Each unit will have individual unit climate control, and its own private living accommodations: sitting and sleeping area, private bathroom, and an apartment style kitchen. The building will also include a library, activity rooms, quiet sitting areas, large spacious lobby, beauty and barber shop, and a private dining room for special functions.