Cook Ed Townson ladles out one of his tasty Tuesday soups for visitors and staff at Key Peninsula Lutheran Church. Photo by Colleen Slater, KP News

How do you build a $350,000 church for $75,000?

The American Lutheran Church, responsible for “planting” the Key Peninsula Lutheran Church (KPLC), said it couldn’t be done; but over the years, church members and friends gave time, money, labor and other resources, and it grew.

The church’s 35th anniversary service will be held on Sunday, April 7. Activities and mission focuses have changed, and it has grown into a congregation well-known for extensive community outreach.

Pastor Edward Wagner made a door-knocking circuit around the Key Peninsula in 1977 to raise interest in organizing a Lutheran Church. “He was a big, jovial German. You just had to love him,” said Kay Pinter, charter member.

Dedication and organization took place in April 1978. Wagner conducted services in the Key Peninsula Civic Center until they moved to the Lackey Road building on Thanksgiving Day, 1983. “There was no sheetrock and it was cold,” said Pinter of that year’s Easter services in the unfinished building.

The original design put the pulpit on the east side of the sanctuary. The congregation realized it wouldn’t work to face the morning sun. The pulpit has changed positions twice since then.

During church activities of the past, while the men worked the women often provided lunch.

Elsie Vezzani said a favorite congregation story lives on about women selecting items needed for the kitchen in the main building. At one time, a group of women wondered what size rug should go between the sink and counter. Nona Jorgenson stretched herself out on the floor and said: “I’m exactly five feet tall.” The size was perfect, Vezzani said.

McColley Hall extended KPLC’s ability to serve the community.

Ruth Matthews’ neighbor, John Nederlee, inquired about the building progress one day.

Matthews told him, “We have a used kitchen stove and an avocado refrigerator with ‘Uff da’ on it. We need a commercial kitchen, but don’t have the resources.”

“The next day, John met with Pastor Allen, took measurements and told the women to make up a list of everything they wanted. Within a week, a check arrived from the Geneva Foundation,” Matthews said.

Nederlee remains one of the churche’s strong supporters, but many other non-members also volunteer and help with various programs. “This is our church home,” said Pinter. “It’s like inviting our neighbors in for a meal.”

A memorable occasion for Pinter and Matthews was frying chicken for 100 people to celebrate the church’s 10th anniversary. They did all the frying on Sunday morning, and were still occupied when services began.

“We don’t have fried chicken on any menus anymore,” Matthews said.

Some may call KPLC their “home church” without official membership, but that’s fine with the congregation involved in those programs, members say. Pinter and Matthews, currently the main kitchen coordinators, organized the community meal program in December 2004 after participating with other KP congregations involved with the Sunday I.M.Pact meals at the civic center.

McColley Hall became the first emergency shelter on the Key Peninsula, with provisions and training completed two weeks before it was put to use during the December 2006 windstorm. They served three meals a day for nine days to some 100 people, with a handful also sleeping over in the nursery. Volunteers, many non-members, came in to help with breakfast, lunch and cleanup.

Now, two breakfasts and a dinner are provided on specific Saturdays of each month.

Supplies and clothing for Evergreen Elementary School are collected, and members participate in the Family Resource Center’s Holiday Helper program at Christmastime.

Ross Bischoff once brought excess produce from his garden to share with the congregation. He took “leftovers” to the food bank the next day. This act of generosity eventually became the KPLC Food Pantry.

“If someone is in need, it’s taken care of. It’s not announced, it just happens,” Pinter said.

Somehow, someone with the right skills has always been available when a need arises.

Pinter, Matthews and Johnson stressed the camaraderie and joy always present with the various programs and tasks, including volunteers as well as church members.

“It’s enriching to have (extended) family,” Pinter said.

Charter KPLC members Ramona George, Julie Johnson, Del Leaf, Carol Bischoff Larson, Larry and Kay Pinter are all still active in the church.

KPLC’s mission statement expresses their attitude: “To the glory of God and empowered by His love and grace, we commit ourselves to spiritual growth and offer our resources to our neighbors.” And they have.

For information, visit kpluth.org.

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