By Michelle Leidy-Franklin
The Conway Springs Development Foundation signed a contract to purchase the former home of the Conway Springs First Presbyterian Church during a community update meeting on Sunday, Jan 13.
The plan is to use the former church as a community center.
The First Presbyterian congregation held their last service in January 2018, then shut their doors after nearly 100 years in existence.
The Presbytery of Southern Kansas initially contacted the city of Conway Springs to ask them if they would be willing to purchase the building before it was auctioned off and potentially demolished.
“The city was just not in a position to be able to purchase it. You see all the work we have going on around town. We just aren’t in a position to purchase that. So the foundation got together, and we’ve had a lot of long, hard talks,” said Mayor Jessica Gerlach, who also serves as president of the Development Foundation. “Contentious as times, but we have decided to move forward with purchasing that church to keep it from being demolished and then utilize it as a community center,”
The Presbytery of Southern Kansas agreed to sell the church to the foundation for $2,000. The property is valued at over $245,000, but presbytery representative Ken Coryell said the presbytery was more concerned about honoring the building and those who have invested in it.
“There are more important things than money,” said Coryell.
The low price enables the foundation to purchase the building and pay for essentials, like utilities and insurance on the building, until fundraisers can be held and programs can be put in place to utilize the space.
“We are really excited about this,” said Gerlach.
During the community meeting, Kansas Pride representative Jan Steen gave a presentation on ways the state can partner with the local foundation to help support the city of Conway Springs.
Kansas Pride has grants available for rural community development and resources for other grants that can stretch funds for community projects. They also provide education and resources on how to best build a strong community that attracts business and residents.
Residents were asked for their feedback about areas of the city that could be preserved, improved, or created. Locals weighed in on areas they believed would help grow and develop the community.
Foundation members discussed areas of concern with those in attendance to get an idea of how the organization could provide the desired changes.
Attendees were given applications to submit contact information and indicate where they would be able to help. Gerlach emphasized that while not everyone could give monetarily, skilled labor and volunteer hours would also be essential to helping the foundation keep the new community center a thriving part of Conway Springs.
Residents of Conway Springs interested in donating time, talent, or funds to the Conway Springs Development Foundation may contact Gerlach at ConwayMayor@gmail.com, or call 316-226-6258.