St. Stephen Presbyterian reopens Christian Education Building after vandalism

After seven months of fundraising and hard work, St. Stephen Presbyterian Church reopened a previously vandalized building on a gray Sunday afternoon.

St. Stephen’s “Topping Out” celebrated the completion of all repairs and the restoration of its Christian Education Building, where the congregation’s youth went for Sunday school. The building was vandalized and set on fire around 4:30 a.m. on Jan. 8. Though the fire was put out quickly, the church was badly damaged and forced officials to cancel Sunday morning services.

The vandals smashed many of the windows, set fires and trashed the building. Church members shared photos of the damage.

Members of St. Stephen’s congregation and the surrounding community gathered for tours of the repaired classrooms, offices and other areas affected by the vandalism during the church’s celebration on Sunday.

Rev. Fritz Ritsch said he felt blessed about the reopening.

“We really feel like we’ve been so blessed by this entire process and by the way that the whole community kind of gathered around and supported us,” he said.

Ritsch added that the restoration cost $600,000 and at least $60,000 was raised through people’s generosity. All of that money went straight into the repairs, mostly the window replacements.

“The big problem was virtually every window in this building was broken,” Ritsch said. “And, if it wasn’t broken, it would probably have been needed to be replaced because we couldn’t find matching glass.”

He revealed that window repair and replacement was the most expensive piece of the restoration.

Emily Endres, one of St. Stephen’s elders, said the church’s insurance company was very helpful to the church and its restoration.

“We had fabulous coverage with our insurance company,” she said. “They were just above and beyond in helping us.”

Emily Endres said it was hard for the youth who grew up in the Christian Education Building and saw things that they’ve worked on for years now gone. However, Vendie Endres, a member of the church’s youth group, said she was looking forward to making new memories with the new building.

“There were so many memories just from every little corner [had a memory] and so a lot of it was gone,” she said. “I’m glad with everything back to normal and we can get some those memories back and create news ones.”

The Christian Education Building is now fully operational and you can visit St. Stephen’s website to find out times of service at www.ststephenpresbyterian.com.