What’s Next? Our Parish Family Recovers After Hurricane Irma

For the past several weeks, we have divulged the emotional, physical, and psychological toll Hurricane Irma had on our Parish Family, as well as illustrated how we rose beyond our challenges to serve the community in this dire crisis.  If you missed any of it, I highly recommend taking a look at our website, which not only provides those stories, but has the day-by-day chronicles of our efforts and the gratitude of Naples, Immokalee, and many others.  We even had a story about our exploits in the Naples Daily News – https://www.naplesnews.com/story/weather/hurricanes/2017/09/23/naples-church-slammed-irma-but-still-wants-help/693288001/ .  It is both heartwarming and heartrending to comprehend just what happened on and to our campus from this storm.  Now, we need to move forward and face the next challenge together, the repair and restoration of our church and facilities so we can continue our Mission: To Know, To Love, and To Serve God in His Church and Our Community.

There is not a single inch of our campus that was not impacted by Irma.  You may not see it from your current vantage point, but I thought it might be impactful for you to have the list of damaged or destroyed areas of our campus.  $4 million in damage can seem overwhelming, and that does not even include the landscaping and exterior, which will not be covered by insurance.  We do not intend to simply replace everything back to the way it was, however.  We are moving forward with our improvements to make our campus safer, more accessible, and enlivening for all our efforts and activities.  Our “new normal” will include the rejuvenated St. John based on the vision Father John laid out for our campaign.  We will need all of your help to make it reality.

Let us start in the church, where you may be sitting right now.  Imagine for a moment the howling wind and driving rain that pelted our beloved church, ripping the top corner of the roof clean off to the plywood, and peeling the top cap nearly off.  With the roof destroyed, water seeped into the ceiling and poured down through the vents.  If you look up, almost certainly you will see the damage to our beautiful wood ceiling.  The pews, especially near the organ, were soaked.  The carpet was flooded.  Water seeped into and through every single door, including the large doors behind the altar, warping them beyond use.  Tiles from the roof hurtled around the entire area outside the church, penetrating massive air conditioning units.  The wind howled around the bell tower, pulling the cross loose and bending it so badly it had to be removed. 

We are now awaiting the final insurance appraisal of our church.  We took them up to the very top of the ceiling in our special lift, so they could see the moisture that is causing significant damage to the wood.  Once we have their results, we will be moving forward with a major construction project for our church building.  This project will repair and renew all the above damage but will go further than just simply replacing the components.  We will be using this opportunity to enhance our church.  The roof will no longer be tiles, which became projectiles during the storm, but instead will be the standing seam metal roof system, just like the Life Center.  This will increase the cost over what the insurance company is willing to pay for, but it is a necessary and appropriate step for the future of our Parish Family.  The roof will cost about $310,000.  Insurance will cover $250,000 of it, so we will need to use the wonderful gifts provided during the matching campaign to pay for the delta.  The same will go for the doors, which we will integrate the new safety and security system into, the ceiling, and any other component of the church that we know must be restored and renewed.  We are expecting a massive construction project to begin this summer to accomplish all of this work, and I thank every member of our Parish Family that has already provided for our hurricane repairs with their prayers and gifts.

Unfortunately, the damage to St. John did not end in the church.  Our Parish Activity Center was hit hard as well.  The roof above the Ballroom opened up and we had leaks into both the main hall area as well as the storage room.  We lost over 600 banquet hall chairs, along with the entire room itself: carpet, walls, doors, curtains, sound proofing, dance floor, lighting, ceiling.  The divider wall does operate, but the covering has been destroyed.  This space is over 9,000 square feet, so the scope of the damage and now restoration is massive.  Just like the church, we are not just replacing these destroyed components with the previous materials, but we are moving forward with the new interior design and systems to ensure it is an exciting and safe location for all of us to enjoy dances, parties, and other activities.  This is the reason that so many of our enjoyable events have been cancelled this year.  We cannot have the Saint Patrick’s Dinner or our Broadway Concert in a destroyed Ballroom.  It will mean a significant investment by the Parish Family to complete this room.  The County has blessed us with delays to allow us to make a final request of you all.  If you have not yet given to our hurricane repair fund, we have one more month to receive your gifts without assessment from the Diocese.  Please just make your check out to Saint John the Evangelist and place “Hurricane Repairs” in the memo line.

There is further damage in nearly every other section of our campus, from lost lighting outside to flooding in the classrooms, Seminar Room and Youth Room in the Claussen Center.  There are other questions that will come up, like if the stained glass of the church has been structurally impacted, that we still do not have answers for.  We are trying some new things to keep critical activities on our campus.  The new indoor/outdoor seating space between Rome and the Courtyard will enable us to have our Lenten Fish Fry’s every Friday evening.  If this communal layout is successful, it could be a wonderful addition to our event environment.  Every day we are working as hard as possible to continue the mission of St. John and get our new normal, the renewed campus that will provide tremendous programs for our Parish Family and the community.  Thank you all for your continued patience, support and prayers as we attempt to make progress. 

God Bless Saint John the Evangelist Catholic Church!

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