On July 10, 2022, Fairmont’s Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church got a big surprise for their 120th church anniversary. Dr. Mark Staples, Senior Pastor, had sought out the owner of their original but idle 1928 church for permission to go inside. “All I asked was to take a picture of our older members in that church again for our anniversary brochure,” he says.
Instead, the owner offered to give their original church back to them - as a gift. His only condition - it must be used for service to the community. So, in September 2022, Mt. Zion took possession of 501 Cleveland Ave. again, and designated it as a second campus called Mt. Zion’s “Center of Hope.” Mt. Zion is its owner/steward, and all donations and expenses are accounted for separately from the church’s general fund.
Dr. Staples had already established “Dare to Dream” with Marion County public schools, holding an annual church graduation ceremony for all ages. That outreach has extended to “Mt. Zion After School Academic and Enrichment Program,” currently meeting twice a week at the nearby Fairmont Hills apartment complex until restoration of the “Center of Hope” is completed. Eventually holistic health/wellness programs, kingdom karate, marriage and premarital classes, divorce recovery, health resources, and similar life-enhancing services will be added to equip church members and area residents in the community with hope for a better future.
In addition, Mt. Zion is seeking “Partners in Hope” to: (1) restore the original church for shared use as a community outreach center in an underserved area and (2) align with providers of existing services such as NA, AA, Celebrate Recovery, etc. to use the “Center of Hope” to expand to that location, at no cost to recipients. Such use will be offered on a scheduled basis to maximize the productive time of Mt. Zion volunteer oversight of the center.
The mostly senior congregation of Mt. Zion was not prepared for the financial investment this project will require. Mt. Zion’s membership rolls are larger than their weekly attendance. But so far, most donations of time and treasure have come from outside the Mt. Zion congregation. The providential nature of this project so far encourages them to keep working with others across the community to offer proactive, life-enhancing activities at the ”Center of Hope” for any residents who wish to avail themselves of it.
In a building this old that has seen decades of neglect, there is much restoration to do. Poor drainage outside has caused interior water damage, which has already been partially remediated. The roofline is straight, and the floors in good condition and level, but the structure needs professional evaluation to determine its exact condition and any needed reinforcement. The HVAC and roof are approximately 15 years old, and the original stained-glass windows are still inspiring.
Dr. Mark A. Staples, Senior Pastor
Barbara Grigg, Assistant to Pastor
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