The Irons church hosted an open house and dedicated their new community center on July 10. The new 3,000-square-foot building will provide a home for the church’s Community Services ministry, as well as a center of influence for the area.
Nearly eight years ago, Irons members stepped out in faith and broke ground on the center. Since then, the congregation has seen the community pull together to complete the center.
A Legacy of Assistance Continues
Lake County, where Irons is located, is a landlocked area in west-central Michigan. According to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, it’s the second poorest county in the state, and the only county in Michigan where most households earn less than $38,000 a year.
Since the 1960s, the Irons Community Center has served individuals in need. News reports from throughout the center’s history detail a strong community presence, rising to the occasion when needs were presented in the community. One such report from the Manistee News-Advocate on October 24, 1973, states that after a “tragic house fire” left a family of 10 children homeless, “Our neighbors from the Seventh-day Adventist Church came to the rescue with donations of clothing and bedding.”
The community center was established in a defunct Grange Hall built in the 1890s. However, as the building aged, it became apparent to church leaders that the once suitable building no longer served their needs. Stepping out in faith, the Irons church shut down the old center. Vowing to never go into debt, and with $11,000 in hand, the church set out to build a new home for their community center.
A series of miracles since that decision propelled the church’s vision forward. “The money just kept showing up!” says Nancy Przedwojewski, one of the community center’s leaders. A realtor donated prime real estate. Professor Martin Smith and the School of Architecture at Andrews University drew the plans for the building at a fraction of the standard rate. Contractors worked as money for projects came in, and later, contractors donated their labor and paid for materials. In 2021, a generous donor supplied nearly $16,000 worth of goods for a gigantic community yard sale. Donations, grants, and other in-kind donations were also a major part of the project. Combined, Przedwojewski estimates the value of all the donations tops $450,000.
Community Pulls Together for Center
The rural community has rallied around the community center in a variety of ways.
Several businesses and individuals around Northern Michigan donated their time and services while the center was built. These businesses include electricians, concrete finishers, heating/cooling companies, plumbers, sign makers, carpet companies, septic plumbing contractors, landscapers, roofers, and siding companies.
In addition, community leaders have extensively supported the center.
Richard L. Martin, Lake County Sheriff, says his department plans to support the center by mentoring youth and providing safety training. “Being the sheriff is not just about law enforcement,” he says. “There are always things that we can be doing as a law enforcement agency that can establish a better relationship with the community. We all live in this community, and we need to make this community better.” In addition, Martin says that the center will be valuable to the community. “I think there needs to be a focus, a meeting place, [for] people from all areas of…the community. Now that we have this building, and the people behind this building…we can find something that is going to be of value for everybody in this community.”
Rachel Gillespie, Community Nutrition Instructor at the Lake County Michigan State University (M.S.U.) Extension, says they plan to offer lifestyle, nutrition, and other food-related classes for people of all ages at the community center. “We are planning on offering nutrition programs at the community center,” she said.
Przedwojewski says that Spectrum Health and the Michigan Department of Health (District 10) are also planning on offering programs at the community center.
“If we are community services, we need to serve the communities we are in. This building is really a gift for the whole community,” Przedwojewski said during the center’s dedication.
Chelli Ringstaff, director of Adventist Community Services for Michigan, says she is looking forward to working with the new center. “I’m so grateful for all of the love, care, and hard work that Irons has poured into starting their new community service center,” she said. “I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing the new relationships this ACS center will forge within the community—the Lord is going to be working alongside Irons as they minister.”
Community center leaders have made several plans to reach the surrounding area.
The center will support the community with a food pantry and lifestyle classes. They also plan to focus heavily on youth ministry in partnership with other community organizations.
As for future ideas, Przedwojewski says leaders are considering offering more programming, including daytime programming for senior citizens, grief recovery assistance, parenting classes, and more. “In God’s work, there is no place for sitting on the sidelines,” she said.
Przedwojewski hopes that they will be able to lead their community to something more profound. “They all know we’re doing good in the community. But I want them to know something deeper. I don’t care if they come to church—what I want is for them to meet the Lord. I want them to find some peace in life because of a relationship with God. That is my ultimate goal.”