In the News
NEW LEASE ON LIFE
COUPLE REOPENS CHURCH FOR WEDDINGS, CHARITY WORK
By BRANDI BARHITE
Sandusky's Calvary Episcopal Church, First and Meigs streets, is reopening. Only this time, without a permanent minister or congregation. Diane and Gary Ackerman, born and raised in Sandusky, will rent "Old Calvary" to people wanting to have a wedding, baptism or funeral at the church.
The couple is also starting Calvary Foundation to serve children of the working poor.
The first service project is providing new clothes for 500 Sandusky children, by referral only. "My grandchildren will be the sixth generation to attend here," said Diane Ackerman, who attended Calvary Episcopal Church and was baptized there.
An invitation-only open house will take place in January. A public open house will be announced for February. Calvary Episcopal Church closed in April 2004 because of declining membership and financial troubles. Known as the church with "Red Doors," the deteriorating doors have been replaced with plain wooden ones. The pews and altar are still intact."The red doors are associated with the church being Episcopalian," Ackerman said. "This church is non-denominational."
A portion of the church's basement has been turned into a community center. The children's clothing will be in the center, set up like a department store. "I think we can make a difference," she said. "I don't think we can change the world, but I think we can make a dent in it. There are people who are working like crazy and still don't have extra." Ackerman declined to say how much she and her husband endowed to start the foundation, although she said it was "sizable." She also wouldn't divulge the cost of the renovation.
One hundred percent of what is made through renting the church will go toward the maintenance of the church, as well as to offset the cost of the utilities, she said.
Renting the church for a wedding for instance is $950. The Ackermans bought the church in May from the diocese for $169,000. Architects, Poulos + Associates, have designed the architectural renovations and additions. Since June, local contractors have been replacing the roof, installing new carpet and repairing the foundation of the 107-year-old church building. The utilities were also replaced."It was just something I felt I had to do, that is the truth," said Gary Ackerman, who came up with the idea for the project.
Ackerman is an entrepreneur who works in manufacturing. He visited the church Friday, seeing for the first time many of the improvements, a bride's and groom's waiting room, and the new bathrooms."We didn't want to make it a modern church," said Matt Pickworth of Sandusky, who did the interior design work. "We wanted to restore it the way it used to be." There were a few exceptions.
A security system and outdoor lighting has been installed. People continue to come by looking for food as they did when the church was open.
Near the stage in the community room, a "wall of history" will be displayed. Among the items will be a Bible from 1848 found in the basement, as well as pictures of former church ministers and old tickets from Swiss steak dinners held at the church.
"We wanted to preserve what the church was," Ackerman said.
• Location: 701 First St.
• Phone: 419-625-3535
The venue is available for weddings, funerals, baptisms and other events. It is also home to Calvary Foundation.