With a little faith, anything’s possible.
At least that’s what staff members and volunteers from Life Church want to believe their work restoring dozens of houses and community spaces around Washington has achieved.
Since Life Church opened in 2014, 60 projects have been completed. Their work includes fixing residential properties for seniors, people with disabilities, or veterans. They also work on community spaces like parks and playgrounds.
This past year, Life Church established another nonprofit called The Dreamers Co., which is fueled by creating community development in Washington.
Aaron Miller, director of school of ministry and The Dreamers Co., wants to focus on making “renaissance a reality” for the city.
“Washington’s been plagued by blights and there are so many spaces that have been forgotten,” Miller said. “We’ve addressed vulnerable housing situations for residential areas in need. So when I say ‘we are making renaissance a reality’ it’s more than just doing a project here and there. It’s about bringing that sense of art and beauty back into the space again.”
In 2014, three churches – Life Church, The Church of the Covenant and Washington Alliance Church – witnessed firsthand how making an impact locally was going to boost the city.
The churches then started a mission trip.
“We started a brief expression of a local mission trip, and for the past five years it’s kinda grown from a local expression to a weeklong work week where we have addressed over 60 properties.”
This year, nine properties are in progress.
A lot goes into the restoration of these properties, Miller said.
They have partnered with the Citywide Development Corporation and the Redevelopment Authority of Washington County to help find the projects to work on.
Once the projects are found, the team accesses the needs of restoration and determines if they can help or not. If they able to help, contractors come in to create a plan, volunteers are recruited and a work day is established.
If Life Church is working on a community space, “stakeholders” from the community are brought together to create a discussion of what should happen in the space.
“We talk to so many people even before we commit to a community space,” Miller said. “We want to know what people want. We’d discuss what would make this playground a space where memories and friendships are created instead of a blighted space that’s left to pursue different proposes that aren’t beneficial for anyone.”
Washington Park, one of the parks on the list for renovation this year, is one example of community getting together to see what would be needed.
“We’ve been working with the park office for three or four years now to be a part of the overall vision of this transformation.”
One of the mission’s most frequent tasks lately has been cutting down dead trees around playgrounds and mountain biking trails.
“We’re concerned of the children that want to play in that space,” Miller said.
Aaron Miller’s brother, Adam Miller, is a pastor at Life Church and oversees the church’s coffee shop, The Table.
“Our heart was to have a footprint in the city,” Adam said. “We believe in city transformation where things should continue to get better, but that hasn’t always been the story for Washington.”
The Table and the mission trips are the first initiatives Life Church has implemented to give back to its community.
“We’re really passionate about good coffee,” Adam said. “We’re a specialty coffee shop – it’s all about the details. We’re not an assembly coffee experience. We want you to come in here and feel like you’re about to sit around the table in your family home.”
Hence the name, The Table, which is meant to invoke the experience of catching up with family and friends at the dinner table. Adam said it was to make everyone in Washington feel like they have a seat saved.
“It’s all about bringing people together,” he said.