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KANSAS CITY, KAN. – A small, worn-down 1850s church in Montgomery, Minnesota has gotten quite a bit of attention over the past few years thanks to local resident Greg Thomas. After being diagnosed with stage four cancer in 2009, Thomas came to the dilapidated church to sit on the closed structure’s steps and reflect. That’s when his life — and the life of the church — changed.
To focus his attention away from his dire life situation, Thomas “adopted” the abandoned church — called St. John’s Chapel — and gained permission to start renovating it single-handedly. One of the first projects was stripping off up to 15 layers thick of old paint on the exterior so he could repaint the church. After news of his task attracted media attention, Thomas received support for the renovation project.
“I saw the story of this dedicated man working every day to restore the church exterior while dealing with his cancer and I thought to myself, ‘we can help him’,” says Travis Herritz, president of Springer Construction Services, LLC out of Prior Lake, Minn. “I found out that water had leaked in through the bell tower and rotted out the ceiling and the floor below. This church desperately needed a new roof. I went to one of my best roofing suppliers, DaVinci Roofscapes, and shared the story.
“The folks at DaVinci volunteered to donate their polymer slate roofing tiles to replace the worn-out, curling wood shake roof that had weathered badly over time. My team offered to do the installation work at cost for the church. Together we made it possible to add new life to the church.”
Remarkably, as the church came back to life, so did Thomas. After 40 sessions of radiation for cancer in his head and neck, plus many rounds of chemotherapy, his cancer went into remission. Although he has lingering effects, Thomas is now cancer-free and dedicates most of his time to the church’s restoration.
“On December 23, 2013 we had our first open house at the church,” says Thomas. “More than 100 people came out for a holiday celebration of singing and harp music. I had made a new fireplace and hearth this past autumn inside the church, so we had heat. We also had kerosene lamps and candles inside the church. It was a very special evening.”
Of the new roof overhead, Thomas calls it “awesome” and appreciates the efforts of everyone involved. “The new roof is a blessing,” says Thomas. “It’s very authentic-looking and a perfect match for this church.”
What’s in store next for Thomas and the church? “I would like to see more events inside the church,” says Thomas. “I hope there will be a summer community event there plus continuation of this Christmas celebration each year. My youngest sister wants to get married at St. John’s Chapel and I’ve had a request to ring the bell for a funeral service.
“This church has a great deal of life left to it. Now that the roof overhead keeps the interior dry I’m looking forward to starting the inside renovation work so that others can enjoy the church for many years to come.”
The experienced team members at DaVinci Roofscapes develop and manufacture industry-leading polymer slate and shake roofing systems with an authentic look and superior performance. DaVinci leads the industry in the greatest selection of colors, tile thickness and tile width variety. The company’s reliable products have a 50-year limited warranty and are 100 percent recyclable. All DaVinci high-performing roofing products are proudly made in America where the company is a member of the National Association of Home Builders, the National Association of Roofing Contractors, the Cool Roof Rating Council and the U.S. Green Building Council. For information call 1-800-328-4624 or visit www.davinciroofscapes.com.
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