South Toledo Community Center seeks new homeWritten by Caitlin McGlade | | firstname.lastname@example.org
For two years, the bulky gray church at the corner of Walbridge Avenue and Broadway Street has stood as an uplifting symbol for thousands of Toledoans crushed by the South End’s decline.
But this will likely change by the end of the year, when Cherry Street Mission’s lease expires with Moawad Ball Holdings, LLC, the firm that purchased the building in 2006.
The firm bought the building at 1411 Broadway St. for $140,000 but has since put as much as $15,000 into the property and has accumulated debt in mortgage and taxes, said William Lowry of the Moawad Group, which operates Moawad Ball Holdings.
The company recently paid off property taxes for the building, after going from 2009 to 2012 without paying any, according to the Auditor’s Real Estate Information System (AREIS).
Pastor called ‘joker’
The South Toledo Community Center, which is run from the church, partners with Cherry Street Mission. The mission pays the rent and Pastor David Kaiser and his wife Kelly of Western Avenue Ministries operate the programs for low-income neighbors and the church services.
Rent costs $1,500 a month and Dan Rogers, president and CEO of Cherry Street Mission, said operating the outreach ministry would be more affordable if the partnership could buy its own building. Kaiser offered to buy the property for what Moawad Ball Holdings paid for it in 2006.
Lowry called Kaiser a “joker.”
“I’ll be darned if I’m going to put more money into his pockets,” Lowry said. He said the firm already subsidizes $1,000 a month of Cherry Street Mission’s rent. The mortgage costs $2,500 a month. Between the mortgage, the debts and the investment pumped into the building, Kaiser was told he would need $384,000 to purchase it.
That’s just not doable, Kaiser said.
“The fundamental thing is that they bought the building in 2006, at the height of the real estate bubble,” Kaiser said. “It feels like greed.”
The building, with its dated infrastructure, has needed a lot of work throughout the years. When asked why the firm owns the building, Lowry said,“Stupidity.”
Sam Moawad of Moawad Ball Holdings has a different approach. Moawad bought the building when a church came to him asking for help finding a place to locate.
“We like to get involved in ministries,” Moawad said. “We’ve been involved in the community and we know the cash flow and the economy is hard for everybody.”
He also owns a smaller church on Western Avenue that he bought for $22,500 in 2005. Lowry said at least $60,000 in repairs went into that building. Moawad said his company has borrowed money to subsidize much of Cherry Street Mission’s building expenses for the church because the mission does great work for the community.
A new real estate sign stands in the building’s front lawn. Moawad said if he sells the place he wants to sell it to another church group.
Parenting classes have coached almost 130 moms and dads — as young as 14 years old — about discipline, self worth and gearing their kids toward college. Another program has offered hours to at least 60 welfare recipients to clean and cook, so they can meet the government-mandated work requirements to receive cash assistance.
The kitchen sent groceries home to at least 10,000 households last year. On average, the South Toledo Community Center serves 167 meals a day.
Outreach workers have knocked on countless doors to connect struggling Toledoans to aid services. Spanish-speaking workers have hit up the Hispanic neighborhoods, helping to bridge the language barrier between service providers and Toledoans who speak little English.
Talk of a free clinic in the second story had evolved into more concrete plans just last month, with a handful of doctors meeting to discuss logistics and equipment needs. Kaiser had also intended to set up a day care in partnership with the YMCA.
“But our hopes to transform the South End are in limbo,” Kaiser said. “At the end of this year, we’re going to have sort of nowhere to go.”
Kaiser has a few options. The nearby Queen of Apostles offered to host the parenting courses and church services, but Kaiser said he fears that numbers will dwindle without the soup kitchen and food pantry.
Other buildings that might seem like options are older and mostly dilapidated. Kaiser was considering the La Garza building but repair costs could be immense. The block of brick buildings surrounding La Garza was constructed when Abraham Lincoln was president, Kaiser said.
Up in the air
As for the free clinic? The day care? It’s all up in the air for now.
“These ideas have been in the brew for so long and I’m so confident with every closed door, a door will open,” Rogers said.
The top priority is to keep services long-term — to implement a 12-to-15-year plan so that the outreach can cut through generations of poverty. The partnership between Kaiser and the mission will continue, Rogers said.
‘I’m going to be lost’
Gege Sprague depends on it continuing. But she has a weak knee and no car — and if the church moves too far she’ll have to stop going. Sprague, 52, lives down the street and her morning routine every day for the past two years has included breakfast from the soup kitchen.
“Whenever this church is open, I’m here,” she said. “If they take this away from me I’m going to rot — I’m going to be lost.”
Baby University, the parenting class, has educated her niece and her son. She eats many suppers at the soup kitchen and attends every church service she can. In a life challenged by two deaths — her son and spouse — and the subsequent years of working two jobs to support her three other kids, Sprague finds solace and healing behind the Broadway Street building’s doors, she said.
Kaiser said many of his attendees face a similar plight: They don’t have transportation. Making it a mile down the road on foot often hinders people in the neighborhood from making medical appointments or getting to the drug store, he said.
“If the new place is not within walking distance, I’m going to have to say goodbye,” Sprague said.