The corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Young Street was a hub of activity Saturday, Nov. 7, as Rotarians and their spouses, along with community volunteers joined together to begin the restoration of Messiah Church of the Living God.
The volunteers were busy scraping paint, removing rotten boards and whatever else needed to be done as the project got under way on the historic church, which was built in 1920.
Dr. Jamal Rasheed, founder of the Ellis County African American Hall of Fame and a member of the Waxahachie Rotary Club, originally came up with the idea and discussed it with Billie Wallace, the organization’s president. The idea was initially shot down by a construction company, which felt it was too big of an undertaking for the club to take on.
Wallace and Rasheed, however, felt it could be done.
“I’ve been looking at this church for quite a while,” Wallace said. “I would pass it often and take pictures. God kept leading me here. After about three months, we decided to take it on.”
The goal is to get the restoration finished before bad weather sets in.
“We want to get the whole church scraped today,” Wallace said that first workday. “We also want to get the big tree on the side of the church removed and the shrubbery in front removed.
“It is going to take several Saturdays to finish the job,” she said. “After the scraping is done, we will power wash the outside, replace the rotten boards and then paint it.”
The service project is a commitment for the Rotarians and, as the Sun visited the site, several of the volunteers took a moment to talk about the work.
“We wanted to be sure we had all the equipment needed for the building and to remove the tree,” Rotarian Eric Epperly said, with volunteer Savannah Morgan saying, “There is just something about giving back, especially when it’s for a church.
“This is also giving me an opportunity to meet new friends,” she said with a smile.
Volunteer Tomeka Branch was busy scraping paint.
“It really feels good to do something good,” Branch said, with Devin Wesson adding, “It really feels good to help on this. I have been doing volunteer work since I was a teenager.”
Rotarian Von Aday said it’s projects such as this that serve as a big reason for why he’s involved with the service club.
“My dad was active in the Rotary and I’ve always been around it,” he said, with new Rotarian, Stephen Hunt Sr., saying, “This is a really great project, restoring and keeping our history.”
Epperly, Aday and Rasheed were responsible for overseeing the project under Wallace’s direction.
Epperly procured the donated materials and equipment, expressing his appreciation to Sherwin Williams for paint, Citizens National Bank for equipment, U-Haul area field manager Tobias Zavala for equipment including power washer and ladders and Colonial Restoration owner Brad Yates for sending an employee to pull down the undercoating and providing a trailer to haul away the waste.
“It is a great day when neighbors help neighbors,” Wallace said. “We all feel this project is a calling.”
Church pastor, Bishop E.J. Bacy, spoke with the Sun by telephone and shared his thoughts on the project.
“I am very excited,” Bacy said. “It is showing love and is such a blessing to our congregation. There is a lot of history in our church. People are being so nice to us. I never thought something like this would happen.” He added that the church was planning to serve a barbecue dinner to the volunteers on their next Saturday workday.
In addition to the restoration work, prayers are being said for a much-needed roof replacement to come about.
Those wanting to make donations of money, lumber and other needs or to volunteer their time on the project can contact Billie Wallace at 214-224-9601. All help is greatly appreciated.