By Celine Klosterman
HILLS – St. Joseph Parish was surprised two weeks ago to learn it had been awarded the full amount of a nearly $81,000 grant it requested to build an elevator for the church and hall.
The Washington County Riverboat Foundation awarded the parish $80,877 as part of the foundation’s fall grant program.
“We applied a couple months ago, but didn’t think we would get the full amount,” said Father Mike Spiekermeier, pastor. “We weren’t expecting anything like this.”
The funds will help St. Joseph’s make its facilities more handicapped accessible, one of several building improvements the parish aims to begin this spring, he said. Besides the elevator, projects include adding handicapped-accessible restrooms, creating office space in the church’s lower level (parish hall), and updating the hall’s electrical wiring and HVAC system.
Currently, parishioners who face difficulties climbing the stairs to the church’s front entrance can use a lift that holds one or two people, Fr. Spiekermeier said. “We’re going to create a bigger vestibule that will have a hospital-size elevator that holds seven to eight people and a casket if needed.”
Unlike the existing restrooms, the new handicapped-accessible facilities will be located on the church’s main level. Parishioners thus will no longer need to descend stairs or use the lift to access the restrooms.
St. Joseph’s estimates the total cost of its projects at about $462,000. The parish doesn’t plan to undertake a capital campaign, but will use gifts from parishioners’ estates, Fr. Spiekermeier said. St. Joseph’s also is giving Catholics the opportunity to donate to the building improvements in memory of a loved one.
A display case in the new church entrance will house historical items from the former St. Stanislaus Church west of Hills, once a mission parish of St. Joseph’s.