By Cody Neff
Burlington United Methodist Family Services took steps — 350,000 of them, to be exact — toward its longtime goal of having a chapel on Thursday.
After the earlier announcement that the Cline Family Foundation had pledged a $250,000 matching donation, Burlington CEO Sheila Walker led a presentation to thank those who donated to their cause.
Walker announced that shortly after the Cline match become public, the Greg and Darlene Darby Family Trust and Little General Stores came forward with a $100,000 gift in response.
“The Cline Family Foundation made it possible to achieve our dream of having the chapel,” Walker said. “I’m really excited to announce today that we received our first gift toward the match,” she said in reference to the Darby gift.
“I need to say that this chapel has not only been in the making as a goal for us for the last 17 years, but it has also been a goal since 1961,” Walker said. “When the campus started here in 1961, (campus founder) Virgil Cook had a dream to have the cottages, a gym, a school and a chapel.
“The chapel is the last piece of the puzzle and that was Virgil’s dream. He handed that dream down to us. We really appreciate the Cline Foundation stepping up to the plate to get this thing started.”
Chapel architect Dan Snead says the project has been a lot of work, but he’s sure Cook would be happy with their progress.
“I know I spoke with him years ago about this process,” Snead said. “At that time it wasn’t feasible, but it became feasible. They handed us a beautiful site in the woods. It’s like a chapel in a park-like setting. It’s going to be a beautiful asset to the good work that’s going on here.
“I’ve been very much impressed with the dedication of all of those who manage and run this facility. The good work they’re doing is very commendable. I think this chapel will be a great asset to everything they’re doing.”
Snead says the chapel will be more than a place of worship, though.
“We tried to build a chapel that would be multi-purpose space,” he said. “In the back of it, we have offices and activity rooms. In the front we have the chapel that can be used not only for religious services, but other kinds of meetings and such. It’s a durable building that will stand the test of time. It’s very low-maintenance.
“The contract is well on its way now. The rigid frames for the chapel itself were installed this week and soon the roof will be on and all of that will be covered up. The workers will have a dry place to work for the winter. We hope to finish the work in the spring. At any rate, I applaud the work that’s been going on here and applaud the fact that they’ve been able to build this chapel. I’m pleased to have been a part of it.”
Walker held up a photo of what the finished chapel will look like. One member of the Cline Family Foundation said the photo brought back several memories for her.
“I went away to school and we had a chapel at our school,” said Candice Kenan, daughter of foundation founder Chris Cline. “We gathered at the chapel for various purposes. To this day it’s one of the most meaningful memories that I have from when I went off to school. I’m really excited for the Beckley campus to have this opportunity to have those experiences as well.
“It is our opportunity to make a positive impact on the youth and families that are served through the Beckley campus. Supporting programs and projects that positively impact individuals in communities in West Virginia is one of the priorities established by the Cline Foundation. We have been very fortunate and it is important to our family that we lead by example.
“Our gift to the new chapel and community center on campus is one opportunity to do that. We look forward to following the growth of the Beckley campus and hope that our participation will encourage others to join us in support of the youth and families that are served here in Beckley.
“I feel like places like Burlington are the heart of the community,” she added. “You’ve got to take care of the people. It obviously impacts everyone that’s in the community as well. Family and taking care of youth is where it all begins in terms of making a positive impact on people’s lives. We’re excited to see the progress of everything and we’re looking forward to visiting the campus in the future and seeing where it goes.”
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