ARLINGTON — The walls are going up for a new entryway and an expanded preschool and daycare at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church on East Highland Drive.
The Mission Builders, a national organization under the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, sent 10 workers to help church volunteers and contractors finish a 3,000-square-foot expansion and interior renovations at the church by September.
Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church has been in Arlington for 124 years. It moved to its current location at 615 E. Highland Drive in the 1970s and is in need of an overhaul. The preschool is the biggest piece of the project.
“We’re doing this for present and future generations,” the Rev. Scott Summers said. “We want to renew our commitment to hospitality. This is a way we serve our community.”
His wife, Susan Summers, is the lead teacher at the preschool. On Thursday, she read a book about a sloth to 15 children gathered in a circle before sending them to play.
The preschool is in a portable behind the church. The portable was put in as a temporary fix to handle the expanding program.
That was 20 years ago.
Kids must be walked into the church by one of the teachers when they want to use the bathroom. There are no sinks in the portable, so baby wipes and buckets of water are on hand for messy paint spills or play dough disasters. Susan Summers would like to do more with the kids, such as having cooking lessons or science experiments, but that requires running water and more space.
“The environment limits the possibilities, so we’re excited for the new space and all the things we can do,” she said.
The new preschool is expected to have four sinks, two bathrooms, a kitchen and a covered area outside for playtime and outdoor learning.
It should be open by Sept. 1, in time for next school year.
Susan Summers wants to keep the small, family-feel of the preschool and the quality of the lessons, while allowing room to add classes if needed, she said.
There’s been a childcare and preschool program at the church for more than 35 years. All-day childcare is available for kids from 1 to 12 years old, preschool for 3- to 4-year-olds and pre-kindergarten for 4- to 5-year-olds. The childcare has about 70 children enrolled and the preschool and pre-kindergarten have more than 30 kids total.
The church has about 200 members, with 100 people showing up regularly for Sunday services. The preschool is open to the community, not just the congregation.
When Scott Summers first started talking about raising money for an overhaul of the church, John Billdt wasn’t sure they could raise enough for a big project. He’s the chairman for the church’s master facilities planning committee and was happy to be proved wrong. Last year, the church launched a capital campaign that brought in about $350,000. A churchgoer who is an architect donated her time to help design the expansion, saving the church tens of thousands of dollars, and the Mission Builders do construction work for minimum wage in return for fellowship and prayer at the church.
The church’s new entryway and gathering area is going to connect the existing sanctuary with the adjacent offices, gymnasium and childcare area, Billdt said. Volunteers helped update the interior of the sanctuary with new carpet, seating and screens where Bible verses or hymns can be displayed. They removed a bell tower with a century-old bell but plan to reuse the wood and build a new, smaller tower to display the bell.
Work started on May 1 and is expected to continue through the summer.
The Mission Builders are glad to share their skills and beliefs with the Arlington congregation, said Dennis Smith, head of the work crew.
“The Mission Builders themselves are all (people) who are dedicated to serving God in a fun way through construction,” he said.
The builders come from all over the country. They also work all over the country. They have jobs lined up in North and South Dakota, Minnesota and Nebraska. There are about 30 more jobs in other states that are pending approval, Dennis Smith said.
Susan Summers has turned the church construction into a lesson for her preschoolers.
She helped the kids plant flower baskets to give to the construction workers to thank them for their work. Then, in their Bible lesson for the day, she talked to them about loving others and showing that love through service.
“Our belief is that we serve others,” Susan Summers said. “They’re serving us in such a generous way.”
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.