LCEF Church Improvement Loan Brings Long-Dreamed-For Accessibility to Zion Lutheran Church in Maryland Heights

Most people don’t necessarily see a direct connection between a congregation’s business administration and the individuals worshiping on Sunday morning. However, when churches and other buildings receive repairs or updates, the impact can change lives.

For example, it’s been almost six years since Joyce Hicks entered the fellowship hall of Zion
Lutheran Church in Maryland Heights in St. Louis county. Joyce relies on a wheel chair for mobility, and until recently, the fellowship hall was only accessible through a set of stairs.

Members had sometimes resorted to carrying people in wheel chairs up and down the stairs. Another long-time member with limited mobility would walk backwards up the stairs, with other members acting as spotters. These were not ideal solutions, but camaraderie and shared time are part of the benefits of being part of a congregation. At Zion, like most churches, the fellowship hall acted as a social headquarters for the congregation.

Years of Planning to Connect People to Fellowship Hall

Building this ramp has been a priority for Zion Lutheran Church for many years. For at least five years, they collected donations for this project. In June 2018, a new ramp finally connected all members and guests to the fellowship hall.

What finally made the project come to life was a partnership with the Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF) and the donated design and project management services of Kent Hoynacki. As an architect, Kent has long advocated for accessibility in his work. He designed the ramp and oversaw its construction, which included mistakes from contractors that prolonged the process from its original three-week schedule to 32 weeks.

While the construction took significantly longer than anticipated, the loan repayment was swift and strategic. LCEF provided a Church Improvement Loan to offset the reaming cost of the ramp.

The terms of these loans include two years on “cost of funds,” which was approximately two percent interest. With donations from members, Zion was able to pay off the loan in full within 15 months, taking great advantage of the loan.

A Financial Partner Striving for More than Just Profits

Casey Carlson, Missouri District Vice President for Lutheran Church Extension Fund, celebrated with Zion Lutheran. Casey noted that in the private sector, it’s not considered a positive experience when customers pay
loans back early, since it means they earn less interest. Casey says, “But we serve a different purpose at LCEF.
We know the dollars to service this debt can now go to mission and ministry, or it allows the church
to step forward again into the next project.”

Zion has worked with LCEF previously to protect their stained-glass windows and plans to partner with them again to renovate the lower level of the church into a coffee house.

Lifelong Member Enjoys Access to Fellowship Hall Before Being Called to Glory

Bryan Kobb grew up attending Zion with his parents, Marge and Jerry. As his parents grew older, his father suffered from decreased mobility and agility. As he time went on, managing the stairs to get into the fellowship hall became too great a burden for Jerry.

“Nothing was going to keep Dad from going to church…He was so excited when he found out they were going to build a ramp to get to the fellowship hall…He missed the fellowship with the congregation after church.” The week before his passing (which also happened to be Father’s Day), Bryan was able to take Jerry to church and to the fellowship hall after, for the first time in many years. Bryan says, “It meant so much to him to be able to use the ramp to get to the fellowship hall and see his friends.”

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