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A mortgage story

First walk through

First walk through

Many folks have asked us about the logistics of purchasing the historic Huss School as the headquarters for *culture is not optional’s work in Three Rivers.  How could a scrappy, upstart organization afford such a fine palace as this?  Well, I’ll start from the beginning…

Rob was actually searching for the sale price of another Three Rivers building in early 2009 when he stumbled on the listing for the old Huss School.  A group of us went to see the property with a friend who’s a real estate agent and, while we could certainly see the possibilities of the solid, historic building and its accompanying acreage, we were overwhelmed by the size and needs and put the idea on hold.  However, when our friend called us a few months later to say there was a bid on the school to tear it down, we got on the phone with our *cino board members and, with large amounts of prayer and trepidation, put in an offer to purchase the property on land contract for $75,000 with a $15,000 down payment.  Could we do $20,000 for a down payment?  Sure — we didn’t have $15,000, so what’s $5,000 more?  We emptied our bank account for the $1,000 guarantee and started fundraising.

Over the next forty days, donations came in from supporters near and far and we raised $25,000.  We’re still stunned now that we pulled this off.  How much more of an invitation did we need to walk through an open door, even if we were somewhat terrified of what lay on the other side?  Walk through the door, we did, and it’s been a wildly strange, delightful, anxious, surprising journey.

First things first: we figured out how to mow and care for four acres of land, and planted a garden.  But we also took on a hefty mortgage payment of $500 a month, in addition to insurance and property taxes, which we’ve managed to cover through things like personal donations, program fees for our service-learning spring break trips, recycling scrap metal, promoting home energy check-ups door-to-door and organizing fundraising events like the annual Huss Future Festival.  While these fundraising efforts have allowed us to cover our bare minimum expenses, it became clear as the deadline for our balloon payment neared that we’d have to do something more drastic to meet the terms of our agreement.  When we signed on the dotted line, we agreed to pay the former owner the remainder of the balance on the property (about $50,000) on June 15, 2013.  Who knew that date would come so quickly?

In December 2012, we launched the Brick Campaign.  Our overarching objective for this campaign has been to build capacity.  By paying off our mortgage, we’ll gain $500 a month to invest in infrastructure improvements and programming.  By soliciting initial architectural services (approximately $8,000), we’ll be equipped to pursue grants and larger gifts.  By pushing for our big $100,000 capital goal by December 31, 2013, we’ll have enough money to get at least one room up and running year-round, which opens up a host of programming and facility rental opportunities.

So that’s the story of our mortgage — a story we hope will have a happy ending soon.  We are excited about the possibility of being relieved of this burden, with a property that is an asset, rather than a liability.  But truly, this property has always been an asset to *cino and to the community at large, with its long history, its ample space for play, its rich soil, its open doors.  We look forward to continuing to grow abundance and joy at 1008 8th Street in Three Rivers!

Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma

Kirstin is a member of the *culture is not optional core community and is the Head Caretaker at GilChrist Retreat Center.