Disciples Church Extension Fund

During the worst days of the pandemic, the cooped-up inhabitants of Charlottesville, VA, including elderly couples and parents with kids, would walk along the natural trail that winds itself through the woods and slopes of Park Street Christian Church (PSCC)’s property.

This happenstance intergenerational community reflects what the church aims to intentionally recreate today. With the help of Disciples Church Extension Fund (DCEF) and other organizations, the congregation is aiming to address the lack of housing and preschool education accessible to the low-income residents of their city.

Park Street was established in 1960 when its founders purchased a little more than seven acres of land. The congregation’s pride and joy, Park Street Christian Preschool got its start in 1999 to provide affordable Christian preschool to children of all religious backgrounds.

Over the years, however, the preschool’s structure was neglected. By the time Rev. Colleen Swingle-Titus became PSCC’s pastor in 2015, the school was in dire need of an upgrade. There were no ADA-accessible washrooms and additional classrooms were needed, but the congregation didn’t have the funds to renovate.

Rev. Swingle-Titus didn’t have much luck with local contractors either and it wasn’t until she attended General Assembly two years later that she connected with DCEF and started a strong relationship that would see PSCC go beyond a mere renovation of their aging preschool facility.

In 2017, the church worked with DCEF to find a consultant through its Architectural Consultation service. While initial plans were created, the architect was unable to continue with the project. However, this process enabled the congregation to start thinking beyond the existing four walls of their church.

A church member, who was an architect herself, brought Bruce Wardell of BRW Architects on board. Not only did Wardell, a Charlottesville resident known for designing religious buildings, discover that it would be cheaper to construct a new building for the preschool, but he helped PSCC through an identity process that resulted in the congregants coming up with their church’s core values and bylaws. Along the way, PSCC became an open and affirming congregation.

With the church newly recommitted, Wardell helped its members identify their largest asset: acres of undeveloped land in a city experiencing a high cost of living.

During this time, PSCC also joined IMPACT C’ville, an interfaith group that works toward social change in Charlottesville, colloquially known as C’ville. Through this membership, they learned how youth could help enhance the lives of older adults. Could the church somehow meet the needs of young families and senior citizens, both of whom are disproportionately affected by the high-cost housing crisis?

Wardell had an idea: partner with the Piedmont Housing Alliance (PHA), which provides housing and community development services to low-income Charlottesville residents. The nonprofit’s CEO was passionate about creating affordable housing and if he was interested, then PHA could help construct housing on the congregation’s property.

“Wardell sent an email and within less than two hours, the CEO called back,” recalls Brian Day, chair of PSCC’s building committee. “He said, ‘You bet I’m interested!’”

With PHA and BRW on their side, PSCC could provide 50 units of senior affordable housing using Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC). The church would provide PHA with a 99-year lease of the property, generating $1M in rental income to construct a new preschool.

“In the past, our elders watched children, passed on traditions, and told stories,” explains Jim Michel, DCEF Building and Capital Services Advisor for the Virginia region. “This will give the two generations an opportunity to live with one another again.”

However, only 60-70% of this income would be available up front to begin construction, so in 2023, PSCC partnered again with DCEF to raise $230,000 via a capital campaign.

Throughout August and September, Jim Michel and President & CEO Belinda King traveled to Virginia to consult on the project. Belinda coached PSCC’s campaign team on how to run a fundraising campaign while Jim answered clarifying questions and made weekly coaching calls during the months leading up to the campaign launch.

“Our campaign team had no idea what they were signing up for,” says Rev. Swingle-Titus. “But the church had confidence in Jim, and Jim had confidence in our church.”

Then, PSCC kicked off Growth for Generations, a three-year campaign that aims to raise funds for a more accessible, more sustainable, and more relational preschool as well as affordable housing. The church turned a bulletin board hanging in their building into a campaign tree – for every $1,000 donated, a little paper hand was tacked up. Every person who makes a pledge is sent a thank you note with a branded pouch containing native wildflower seeds. Throughout, Jim continues to keep in touch with church leadership to monitor the campaign’s progress.

Earlier this year, the preschool’s founding families visited the church and left donations and pledges behind. PSCC has made its $230,000 goal – and PSCC supporters continue to make contributions.

As for the partnership with PHA, the nonprofit remains committed to the housing project, which now has 15%-25% of its units set aside for housing adults with physical and developmental disabilities. In June, they will learn if they have been approved for LIHTC funding. And when it comes time for the church to build its new preschool, DCEF will be there again to provide any needed funding for construction.

In the meantime, the church continues to be active with its local community, as it has always been.

“If we talk about kindom building and not fortress building,” muses Rev. Swingle-Titus, “then we can create earth as it is in heaven.”


Is your place of worship, camp, or other facility looking to raise funds? Your regional Building and Capital Services Advisor can be your guide.

Thanks to DCEF’s donors, we offer Congregational Vitality Services to communities of faith so they can identify and leverage their people, property, and finances for mission and ministry. If you would like to support this work, consider making a gift to our New Ways into the World campaign, which will provide funds to ensure all congregations can access these services.


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