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Miracle in progress

By Sarah E. Reynolds | Sep 09, 2020
Courtesy of: Brandon Pelkey Brandon Pelkey, pastor of Cornerstone Bible Baptist Church, stands by the sign in front of the former Stockton Springs Elementary School, which his church bought Aug. 27.

Stockton Springs — Asked when his church closed on the purchase of the former Stockton Springs Elementary School and when volunteers started renovating it, Pastor Brandon Pelkey has a single answer: Aug. 27.

The old school, once plagued with mold, is being renovated, mostly by volunteers, in a labor of love by the congregation of Cornerstone Bible Baptist Church, which bought the school from the town Aug. 27 for $130,000. Church members have had help from two other congregations, Pelkey said: Bible Baptist in Unity and Truth Baptist in Jefferson. The number of people working on the school ranges from just a couple to around 20, but work has been going on every day since the closing.

Currently, volunteers are working on cleaning out the building: tearing up carpet, removing ceiling tiles and mop boards, thoroughly scrubbing the bathrooms, patching holes in the drywall. They have even gotten the walls in the entryway primed for painting, he said. The church plans to clean all the indoor space, even though it will not use all of it at first.

New carpet will eventually be laid and new ceiling tiles installed; the building's fire alarm and sprinkler system must pass inspection before the building can be used for services, Pelkey said, and the air handling system, boiler and kitchen appliances will be inspected and serviced as necessary.

Of course, even with a lot of volunteer labor, the renovation will cost money. The pastor said he expects the entire project to cost around $150,000, though he added that the figure could change as work progresses. He has continued to be surprised at how donations keep coming in, mostly through word of mouth, and the church's needs have been provided for. One example of this is the donation by Bible Baptist of Unity of both plants and labor to redo the gardens at the school. Another is the donation of new flooring the church received.

Regarding the mold that was previously found in the school, which was closed and poorly ventilated for several months between its closure by Regional School Unit 20 and its being turned over to the town, Pelkey said, "The mold we take very seriously."

He added that the town did a good job of eradicating the mold when it cleaned the inside of the building. Also, the air handling system was turned on this summer and the school was "very dry" by the time the sale closed.

He said people wear masks to protect them from possible exposure to mold "when needed," and that no one so far has had an allergic reaction to the presence of mold while working in the building. He also said no mold was found behind the ceiling tiles that were removed, which he felt was a good sign. All the remaining mold or mildew is on the walls. When the cleaning is all done, the church will have the building tested for mold again, and should have the results within a week after the test.

As far as precautions for the coronavirus, Pelkey said "We're following guidelines as we're supposed to."

A handyman himself, the pastor is able to handle some of the jobs needed for the renovation, he said. Professionals will be called in for work on the plumbing, electrical system, boiler and so on.

When it bought the school, the church said it wanted to keep the playground open to the community, and work is planned there, too. Pelkey said it is basically in good shape, but volunteers will replace the gate and repair the fence, clean the playground itself and replace a rotted wooden sandbox. He said the church is insured against liability in case anyone is hurt on the playground.

The pastor hopes to have services in the school building by early in October, but work will go on through the winter and probably into next year, he said.

Church members are very excited about the process of renovating the old building and reclaiming it as their own. "Everyone is just amazed at what the Lord is doing, and how he continues to provide."

Members of Bible Baptist Church in Unity plant a new garden at the future home of Cornerstone Bible Baptist Church in Stockton Springs. (Courtesy of: Brandon Pelkey)
A volunteer waters the newly planted garden in front of the former Stockton Springs Elementary School. (Courtesy of: Brandon Pelkey)
Volunteers work on renovating what will become the worship space, or sanctuary, for Cornerstone Bible Baptist Church in the former library of Stockton Springs Elementary School. (Courtesy of: Brandon Pelkey)
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