INDUSTRY — Joni James and Rosemary Frazier hated watching a quaint former church in their town deteriorate, but they didn’t quite know how to fix the problem.

After nearly a decade of looking for a solution, the women and a small group of friends decided that the building would make a perfect community center. They soon reached out to other residents and got started earlier this year on the project.

Volunteers spent the summer fixing up the place and recently started hosting community events, despite having a lot of renovation work left before the building is completely restored, James said.

“It’s up and running, but we’ve got all kinds of pipe dreams we’re hoping to accomplish with this place,” she said. “This is just the beginning.”

James, 29, and Frazier, 71, spend their free time working alongside their neighbors and friends at the two-story center. They’ve already restored some of the interior by building a new wooden stage as well as refinishing most of the floors and walls.

New coats of bright yellow paint give the building a look of an old schoolhouse, complete with colorful blue doors and a small bell tower. A front porch painted white evokes a picket fence. The building overlooks Route 148 and the rolling hills of Industry beyond.

Volunteer construction crews from churches helped with most of the renovation work that required skilled labor. Local businesses also donated materials and labor to repair the heating system and other aging building infrastructure.

James said she has fond memories of spending her childhood at the former church, putting on plays and hanging out with youth groups pretty much every day after school.

She hopes finishing the center will give her 4-year-old son, Danny, a chance to have similar experiences there.

She even helped pick Sparrows’ Nest as the center’s name because it preserved that link, being based on the former church’s youth choir named Sparrows’ Song, she said.

“We want to have after-school programs and theater groups and so much more,” James said.

The building formerly housed a congregation that has since merged with United in Christ Presbyterian Church in nearby Starks, James said.

That church still owns the building and is allowing it to be used as the community center. James and Frazier are among a handful of friends on the board that manages a nonprofit group established to run the community center, they said.

Major renovation work stalled recently while the group keeps looking for funding to finish the building’s lower level, which remains far behind the main community space upstairs.

While some people may see cold, unfinished concrete floors downstairs, however, Frazier pictures a place where neighbors will be able to sit around a table, sharing stories over a warm meal.

She plans to refurbish the space and open a kitchen to serve community meals. Her goal is to establish the Sparrows’ Nest soup kitchen to provide free meals and food to families and senior citizens in the area.

Frazier described her idea as being in the planning stages, which is where the entire renovation was before volunteers and the community threw their support behind the project.

“So far, if we dreamed it up, it’s happened,” she said.

Frazier said people who want to find out about community events or support the project can call 696-4323 or 778-4639.

David Robinson — 861-9287

[email protected]


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