Middletown church has big plans for former Verity school

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Middletown church has big plans for former Verity school

By this fall, a Middletown church will hold its services in a renovated building.

Pastor Lamar Ferrell, of Berachah Church, said services will move from Middletown High School on North Breiel Boulevard to the former Verity Middle School building on Johns Road after major renovations, which started in December 2015, are completed.

The church purchased the school and the 58 acres for $293,000 from the Middletown City School District last year, and Ferrell said the church will invest $1.7 million renovating the 77,000-square-foot school that was built in 1970.

<<< RELATED: Church makes highest bid to buy former school >>>

The cost to renovate the building would have been “significantly” higher except for the in-kind material and labor the church received, said Ferrell, who was the guest speaker at Tuesday’s Middletown Rotary Club meeting.

After moving from a church on First Avenue, and selling the building to the Middletown Area Salvation Army, Berachah has held services in the MHS auditorium. Once the church, which has about 500 members, outgrew the high school, Ferrell said he looked for land to build a church in Middletown.

He then was approached by George Long, business manager for the Middletown district, to see if the church was interested in the Verity site. The church eventually was the highest bidder at auction. The property was appraised at $740,000, or 40 percent of its sale price.

By selling the property, Long said the district won’t have to demolish the school at a cost of $330,000 and that money can be used renovating Middletown High School and building a middle school.

<<< RELATED: Board OKs sale of Verity school >>>

After touring the dilapidated building, Ferrell said he was “overwhelmed.”

But now, he said he believes the Verity property will be the right fit for the church and the Middletown community. He envisions the building being a center of activity and not just a place to hold church twice a week.

“Our passion is for our community,” he told the Rotarians. “We are a part of this community. We are a changing agent.”

The plans call for a 1,000-seat sanctuary to be built on the front of the building that faces Breiel Boulevard. Ferrell said the property will be used to serve the community in numerous ways, including seasonal outreach at Freedom Court, a summer lunch program, Vacation Bible School, a community health clinic, Red Cross classes, children’s summer theatre, after-school mentoring, community rooms, Upward Sports, practice fields and Elley’s Hope Playground, designated for children with disabilities, at nearby Lefferson Park.

He said it’s fitting that the Verity site at 1900 Johns Road is “right in the heart” of the city.

Now more than ever, he said, the entire Middletown church community needs to support the city’s residents. He said the heroin epidemic is tearing apart families.

“We need to provide hope to people who need hope,” he said. “We got to rescue people. We need to bring hope to this community and beyond.”

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