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Fundraising continues for St. Mary’s expansion

Krystle Wagner • Jan 21, 2016 at 12:00 PM

SPRING LAKE — Preparations for the expansion plans at St. Mary’s Catholic Church are moving forward, while nearly half of the $5.8 million projected cost has been raised.

Through the Spring Lake church’s Mary, Seat of Wisdom Campaign, about $2.8 million has been pledged toward the new education center project. Of that, $2.427 million has already been collected.

Before breaking ground, an additional $250,000 to $300,000 needs to be collected, said Father Dave Gross of St. Mary’s.

The goal is to collect the remaining amount by the end of February so ground can be broken in the spring for the two-story school.

In December 2015, the Spring Lake Village Planning Commission approved the expansion, which includes a 23,000-square-foot building southeast and attached to the church. The building will house preschool through eighth-grade classrooms, staff work space, resource space, and room for art and science classes.

About 600-700 people will use the new space on a regular basis, Gross said. In addition to growing student enrollment from about 200 students to 250-300, the space will also be used by nearly 200 faith formation students and adult education courses.

The current middle school wing of St. Mary’s School will be demolished to make way for green space and parking. The elementary school remainder of the building will be converted into storage and the parish’s food pantry.

In the coming weeks, Gross said they plan to demolish the former priest residence.

Gross said the project demonstrates the parish’s commitment to Catholic education by providing resources needed to keep with 21st-century learning. He said it also shows the parish’s love for young learners and the sacrifices they are making to provide them an education that allows them to learn to the best of their ability.

Gross said it’s exciting to see the plans moving forward.

“It is fulfilling to see all the efforts from everybody come together in something that’s a little more tangible,” he said.

Initial planning for the expansion started prior to 2002 when the church completed a new gathering space, kitchen and gym. Fundraising for the new building started in 2012.

St. Mary’s School Principal Steve VanHammen said the efforts will provide students with upgraded technology and new classrooms. Most of all, he said, it will mean everyone will be under one roof.

St. Mary’s students currently walk from the school to the church for classes such as art and music. In addition to saving time and students from bundling up for classes, the new building will provide additional safety and security.

Depending on the construction schedule, students could be in the building as early as this coming fall. If construction moves slower than expected, VanHammen said they hope to move students into the building in January 2017.

Gross said the church is discussing the possibility of community fundraising events to complete the campaign.

Community members interested in donating to the campaign or specific aspects of the project can contact the parish office at 616-842-1702 or visit the campaign’s website at msowcampaign.org.

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