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Just in Time for the New Year

A roving band of church builders makes a Vero Beach dream come true.

The Jack Ballard Church Builders, a group of retirees who go around the country completing the interiors of new churches for free, pose outside the Cornerstone Christian Church in Vero Beach. Right: Some of the volunteers at work inside the new building.

The Jack Ballard Church Builders, a group of retirees who go around the country completing the interiors of new churches for free, pose outside the Cornerstone Christian Church in Vero Beach. Right: Some of the volunteers at work inside the new building.

Perfectly timed to coincide with the season of goodwill, Vero Beach’s Cornerstone Christian Church has received a very special kind of gift. After 11 years of holding their services in the cafeteria at Glendale Elementary School, the 80-strong, non-denominational congregation is putting the finishing touches to its own church on 12th Street, a short distance west of 58th Avenue.

The total cost of the 6,000-square-foot building, raised by congregation members, is around $1.3 million, including the 9.3-acre site. But it would have cost many thousands more if it wasn’t for the assistance provided by a unique group called the Jack Ballard Church Builders.

Based in Georgia, where they were founded 39 years ago, the Church Builders – named for their founder, who died in 2007 – are a roving group of retired carpenters and engineers from 12 states who specialize in constructing the interiors of new churches all over the U.S. They do this free of charge; they pay for their own transportation, accommodations and evening meals as part of their Christian ministry. All they require is that the new church provides drinks and snacks for two daily work breaks plus an on-site lunch. So far, they have worked on 96 projects in 25 states, from Hawaii to Pennsylvania, plus two trips to Canada.

Between October 21 and November 5, crews ranging from 35 to 50 men worked on the Cornerstone site, wielding saws, hammers and putty knives with professional aplomb. The congregation, led by minister Kent Hawkins and church member Gerald Wilgus, who coordinated the project with the Church Builders, now plans to hold its first service in the new facility early in 2011.

Read the entire article in the December 2010 issue