The fire extinguisher was on hand Sunday at Elmira’s Gale Presbyterian Church as the congregation celebrated a major milestone: the burning of their mortgage.
Through donations and serious fundraising, this year the congregation paid off nearly all of the money owed on the construction of their church building at the corner of Barnswallow Drive and Church Street.
“We are probably in equal amounts excited, but also in awe that our congregation was able to accomplish what it has,” said Kim Denstedt, the co-chair of the church’s board of managers.
The building itself cost $3.1 million, and after loans and donations from various sources, the bank mortgage came to about $800,000, said Denstedt. Only $70,000 on a non-interest bearing loan from the Presbytery of Waterloo Wellington remains to be paid off, she said.
Much of the fundraising to pay it off was done by selling the church’s volunteer-made apple pies.
Denstedt estimates volunteers made about 25,000 pies over the last 17 or 18 years, and raised more than $200,000.
Every step of every pie was done by volunteers. Apples were picked by Gale members, then pie shells had to be made, boxes folded, the pie filling had to be made, pies assembled and placed in boxes with baking instructions placed in each box.
Diane Coulman is a longtime volunteer who helped to make the pies. She says knowing the mortgage is now paid off, largely due to the pie sales, is very rewarding.
“We had to work extremely hard each year since 2005 – that makes 18 years of apple pie making,” she said. “Working together as a large group, in an assembly line fashion to produce at least 24,000 pies over the 18 years, formed a special bond between all those who helped, and it took a lot of volunteers each year to get the job done!”
Coulman said every step of the process was done efficiently and with many members of the congregation helping. For example, after the pie shells had been made and frozen, the real work began.
“With our entire fellowship hall floor and hallways covered with plastic, tables, supplies (i.e. apples, sugar, flour, cinnamon) and equipment ( apple peelers, buckets, measuring cups, boxes) set in place, we were ready to assemble the pies. It took two evenings and a Saturday to do this, with 25 to 30 volunteers each time,” she said.
“This was done in an assembly-line fashion, with the first table peeling and chopping the apples, the next table measuring enough apples for four pies into large bins. Next, adding the sugar, flour and cinnamon, etc., right down the line to the finished pies being put into boxes with baking instructions, being bagged and placed into boxes.”
Sandra Kendall is another longtime pie making volunteer. “It is both exciting and satisfying that we have achieved this amazing result. The pie fundraiser took off with success right from the start and we surpassed our goals the first year and every year thereafter. I have some great memories of these many hours,” she said.
So what will happen next, now that the bank mortgage is burned?
“We still have some debt, but what we want to do as a church is to become even more community focused, so do things that are of benefit to our community,” said Denstedt. “We’re a church in Elmira, and so we do fundraising for Woolwich Community Services or Woolwich Counselling Centre. We try to support those structures in the community that provide those things.
“We’re hoping to expand our programming. So we now have monthly what’s called Messy Church, for families on Friday evenings. Continuing to do our own programming is one of the things that we want to do.
“We’ll continue with our pies, we obviously still have to maintain our facility and the expenses that come with that. We’ve also recently invested in a part-time outreach coordinator, somebody who will help deliver the programming that we’d like to see happening,” she said.