Knox Church Rises Like the Phoenix from Ashes
By Laura A. Hobson
- Flooding at Knox: lower level with flood waters
- Flooding at Knox: lower level hallway with flood waters
- Flooding at Knox: lower level atrium with flood waters
- Adam Fronczek, pastor; Jana Reister, associate pastor. Knox boiler room with two computerized boilers. This room was covered with five feet of water.
The Hyde Park community is no stranger to disaster.
On August 5, a flood hit Greater Cincinnati and affected Knox Presbyterian Church in addition to 1,000 homes and businesses in the Hyde Park and Norwood areas. Some of Knox’s staff and parishioners suffered because they were under-insured. The Hyde Park Senior Center was flooded as well.
Sewage water poured into the church in the evening when an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting was held. Backed up from the street, dirty waste and water lodged in the basement from 18 inches to 3 feet. Geysers poured out of the sinks, toilets and floor drains. AA members saved historical furniture, e.g., a communion table.
Director of Communications Glenn Williams said, “It was a dangerous situation for health reasons.” A former senior manager of communications at Procter & Gamble, Williams retired for a few days and then entered back into the workforce in 2015 at Knox.
The church’s pre-school in the basement was affected. Carpeting, toys, and furniture all were damaged. Rob Templeman, facilities and IT director, said, “We have a problem.” That was an understatement.
Staff members came in that night. By 11 p.m. a company was pumping out the water. Templeman had called the plumber, electrician, HVAC and elevator. It took three weeks to get the place dry and sanitized. Preschool was canceled.
Everything had to be replaced. Miller Valentine was the general contractor managing the project. The damage was $1 million, which insurance covered. Knox management and elders wanted to mitigate the health danger before starting the repairs, which centered around youth areas.
Parishioners and neighbors rallied around the cleanup. Williams commented that the church asked some people to be flexible and stay away until major repairs were done. The flood was large enough it took a long time to get ready for restoration, but also gave Knox the opportunity to renovate.
Preschool moved to the third floor of the building, with Knox community groups moving to upper floors as well. There was a lot of scrambling. Clean-up, which took several months, involved replacing the studs in the basement, the heating and cooling system, boilers and floors. Heat didn’t return until November.
Built in 1925, Knox has played a significant role in the community for years. It wasn’t going to let a flood stop its contributions internally or externally. Originally, the church was located at the corner of Erie and Shaw, where the Hyde Park Senior Center is. In removing the debris from the flood, Center volunteers found a stained glass window that belonged to Knox. The church is making arrangements to restore the window.
To have everything back in order has taken months. Williams anticipated March 2017 as a final target date. In his role as Knox pastor, Adam H. Fronczek looked at the flood as a way to do a creative renovation and offer a better gathering place for the Hyde Park community. He wanted the staff, parishioners and partners to be vital and hospitable. “We want people to use it,” he said.
For example, he cites the May Festival Youth Chorus, Overeaters Anonymous and NAMI as organizations which use the space. “It’s not just a Sunday church,” Fronczek said. Madeline Ludlow, director of administration, managed some of the restoration and remodeling with the approval of the elders.
In October 2016, Knox sponsored a capital campaign with the focus on bringing the church into the modern era with an emphasis on children. Greg Ebel, long-time parishioner and now president, Junior Achievement of OKI Partners, chaired the $1.2 million campaign totally unrelated to the flood. To date, the campaign has raised $1.5 million.
Ebel said the campaign budget includes $900,000 for renovations at Knox. The second portion of the campaign is $250,000 to support operating needs at Third Presbyterian Church, Knox’s mission partner church in East Westwood, and $50,000 for mission projects supporting youth education in Uganda and Jerusalem. In the latter is the Jerusalem International YMCA, which hosts a preschool with Jewish and Muslim teachers. Knox is paying for teacher training.
There are other outreach programs sponsored by Knox, including ‘Building Tomorrow” in Indianapolis. Money is allocated toward building schools, serving kindergarten through junior high.
“The Knox congregation has once again responded with compassion, commitment and generosity in supporting our mission needs at home, across town, and across the globe, all in the interest of facilitating spiritual and educational growth opportunities for youth,” said Ebel.
Knox has a membership of approximately 1,200 with 450 people on its active roster.
Like the phoenix, Knox has risen from the ashes.