This past weekend I lead a small group of devoted volunteers at Holy Trinity in Austintown, Ohio, in taking the first steps to restore glory to our beloved, but sadly struggling church. The larger plan for this “Raccoon Road Renaissance” was laid out in an ambitious PowerPoint Presentation in December. The presentation was met with enthusiasm and hope.
With children as the future of our church in mind, we began our mission logically with the Sunday School Project. As you may know, Sunday School attendance here has been non-existent for some time, partly due to the Coronavirus, but mostly due to a classroom having been slowly converted into a storage room after years of neglect.
This is no one individual’s fault and assigning blame would be both unfair and unhelpful. We discovered many useful learning resources left from years prior buried beneath the dust. People clearly cared, but perhaps lacked broader support for adapting to the times when children started to disappear.
Under Fr. Bojan’s energetic guidance we have stopped dwelling on these problems and turned our focus to the future. Looking to successful Sunday School rooms online as inspiration, I acquired the necessary materials myself as a donation to the church. Together, our small volunteer team got our hands dirty and completely remodeled the Sunday School over the course of two days. And what a fun two days it was! My mother, a professional teacher, assisted in the smart planning of the classroom and worked with our very committed new Sunday School teacher to discuss lesson plan options and grouping children of different ages according to those plans.
The new classroom, welcoming, vibrant, and organized, is now ready for children.
Sometimes a community needs a fresh viewpoint and willing leadership to offer a vision and to help them get past the “talking phase” about what needs to happen. This is my role now, with Fr. Bojan’s blessing, as the volunteer Project Manager of our church renaissance. Working remotely from Chicago during the project development stages, I am committed to making monthly weekend trips to coincide with the execution of each project. This church was my childhood, and I care about these people. My help has largely been met with open arms by the active church members, and so long as it is also met with participation, I will always offer it.
There is a renewed sense of optimism among the parishioners here, who for years have been discouraged by the seemingly overwhelming task of restoring Holy Trinity. Having achieved our first goal as a team, suddenly the other goals no longer seem so unrealistic. We have received widespread encouragement and offers of support from current and even former members, as well as from members of our Board of Directors. People are becoming aware of us again for more than our great hall. The classroom was just step one. Truly, if our volunteers continue to match their newfound enthusiasm with smart planning and hard work, then the best is yet to come for Holy Trinity.
Our next project, repurposing a wasted storage room as a Volunteer Office, is scheduled for completion on February 21st, 2021. With a proper space for volunteers to work, subsequent projects will be easier to manage for each project committee. Utilizing cost saving interior decorating and landscape design software for intelligent planning, we will transform the foyer and lobby into a one of a kind Serbian-American diaspora history museum and also begin the beautification of our church grounds. Last on our list for summer 2021, and perhaps most challenging, is the restoration of our pavilion. As always, funding and resources is a problem for a small-town parish, but all of this can and will be achieved through individual donations, if necessary. Skilled volunteers can ease labor costs for several of these projects, paving the way for realistic budgets to be met. Anyone willing and able to offer help should contact Fr. Bojan.
Ako Bog da, we will celebrate our progress and achievements with summer and fall festivals on our beautifully restored church grounds!
A new website, currently in development, will also feature information on our current and upcoming projects and should go online this spring.