NEW CASTLE —
The Kennedy Square church with the soaring spire won’t remain New Castle’s only physical link to a defunct congregation.
Ground was broken last night for a second building that forever will be linked to First Christian Church, a group that worshipped on The Diamond for nearly 150 years before declining numbers forced it to dissolve last year and sell its longtime home to the Family Worship Center.
The new structure — Habitat for Humanity’s 21st Lawrence County house — will rise at the corner of Newell and Madison avenues in Mahoningtown, and provide a home for Amber Norman and her 6-year-old son.
The project, said local Habitat executive director Sheree Cunningham, is being completely paid for by a farewell gift from the former First Christian board.
Sandra Chandler, who had been chairman of that panel, explained that the church looked at its remaining assets as “money that didn’t belong to us; it was kind of on loan.”
“We just felt that it needed to go somewhere where it would do some good,” she continued, “and where we felt that God was leading us to share it.”
Determined that the money should help residents of Lawrence County, the board doled out financial gifts to various social service agencies, the Salvation Army, the City Rescue Mission, the East Side Bread Basket and His Hands Ministries.
Its donation to Habitat came with one proviso.
“We asked that the house be called the Disciples House,” Chandler said, a nod to the Disciples of Christ denomination of which First Christian was a member.
Still, the one-time downtown congregation isn’t the only church to play a key role getting Norman her own home. The lot — on which two Habitat houses eventually will be built — was donated by the Church of Genesis, located just one block west of the construction site.
“The lot was donated to the church probably 15 years ago,” said the Rev. Ron Eade, Genesis pastor. “We talked about many possible uses for it, but we never did anything with it.
“It was a liability just sitting there. We had to keep the grass cut and maintain it. We finally decided to donate it to Habitat, and I think it’s a good use for it. It’s a quiet neighborhood, and a very nice place for a house.”
Several trees already have been removed from the site, and the remains of a former asphalt tennis court also will have to be cleared. No one on site last night knew how the court came to be there, but some speculated it may have been connected with the former Mahoning School, which stood nearby at the southwest corner of Madison and Cedar. It closed in 1988 and was razed a few years later.
Norman had been waiting for last night’s groundbreaking since November, when she was told she’d be getting the next Habitat home. It was a long wait, but now that the building process has begun, “It’s amazing,” she said. “I feel very blessed to be getting this done.”
Chandler also expressed satisfaction that two churches — one of which doesn’t even exist any more — could team up to help make Norman’s dreams come true.
“It’s kind of a testament to the fact there aren’t any boundaries as far as faith,” she said. “God’s going to use it where it needs to be used.”