Anderson Church Community Center is a place of hope | News

ANDERSON — A crowd of workers this week were working on the planned community center being built by the First Anderson Church of the Nazarene.

The soft opening of the facility is scheduled for Sunday at 10:30 a.m. and the entire facility is expected to be completed by mid-September.

On Wednesday, workers were setting up a one-of-a-kind playground, building a stage, installing gates, building a ramp to the community center and plastering the walls.

The church focuses its efforts on the grid running from Brown Streets to Main Streets and from 23rd to 29th Streets.

Over the past year, two community gardens, a gathering place and a tire park have been built in the area with plans to expand for a pumpkin patch and a larger gathering place for area residents .

The church is investing $2.9 million in the community center which will include a two-story playground, rock climbing wall, commercial kitchen to hold cooking classes, coffee bar, conference rooms and meetings and showers for homeless residents.

The church raised $1.9 million from church members and community partners.

Pastor Joe Dagostino came to Anderson three years ago from Texas and has been a driving force behind the project.

“The church had a heart before I really came to invest in this community,” he said. “When I arrived here, I felt the Lord was calling us to turn our attention to the area to create a hub where people could come.”

Dagostino said it is a place where people can be seen and cared for and give hope.

“I see this as a center of hope and empowerment,” he said. “People can rise above the barriers around them.

“We scoured the streets to find out the needs and the positives,” Dagostino said. “The intention is to mitigate these barriers.”

He said the hope is that people from across the Madison County community will come to serve at the community center to help transform the area.

“The project has been in preparation for two years and the groundbreaking took place a little over a year ago,” Dagostino said.

“I just trusted in the Lord,” he said of the opening a year after construction began. “People have stepped up and I’ve been encouraged by their willingness to believe in what they can do.”

Dagostino said he knew Anderson a bit before deciding to make the switch from Texas.

“When I decided to come here, there was a gentleman in Texas who was modeling a ministry,” he said. “I had already decided not to come.

“He said while modeling one department after another at Anderson,” Dagostino said. “It was important for a reason. God was calling me here.

He looked all over South Madison County and the struggles and victories that were here.

“We have a great partnership with South Meridian Street Church of God,” Dagostino said. “Both hospitals have been great, the community hospital has already started using the property.”

He said the hope is that other churches see what they can do in the future, if not on this scale.

“They can reallocate the spaces we have to provide services to the community,” Dagostino said.

The church has been located at 23 and Meridian streets since 1917.

Clayton Whitson, president of the Madison County Chamber of Commerce, said at the 2021 groundbreaking that the project is more than a community center.

“It’s a symbol of the revitalization of downtown Anderson,” he said. “Some of the things this particular church is doing is taking over vacant lots to revitalize them.

“They’re moving the needle in Madison County for health and wellness,” Whitson said. “We encourage leadership by example, and First Church does. We hope that other civic organizations will play a leading role in revitalizing their community.

To follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.

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