Kenwood Church kicks off capital campaign
Looking to buy a home for future pastors
By Jay Gamel and Laura Lamar
The price of property in Sonoma County – and Kenwood in particular – makes it tough for middle- and low-income people to buy or rent a house. As the situation does not seem to be getting any better, Kenwood Community Church has decided the best thing to do is provide their own housing for their pastor.
Church leaders have set a goal of raising $500,000 to buy a modest but appropriate home in the area for use as a parsonage. Church leaders are all committed to contribute to this goal, and church members are making donations. A Pastoral Housing Fund has been established, and a significant donation has already been received from a friend of the church in the Kenwood community.
“We are excited about this next phase in the history of the church,” said Dave Crockett, chair of the Pastoral Housing Committee. “We look forward to not only continuing to be at the heart of the Kenwood community, but to growing in our service and support of our neighbors.”
Former pastor Rev. Jim Fish officially retired last January, continuing part time as the visitation pastor. The Rev. Charles Ensley, a retired pastor and member of the congregation, assumed the role of interim worship pastor while the church searches for a new pastor. That search is nearing its end and, in anticipation, church leaders have determined that recruitment of a new pastor is absolutely contingent on providing affordable housing.
Kenwood Community Church’s Fellowship Hall was built in 1910 to house the parson, but is now used full-time for both church and community meetings and events.
A big issue county-wide and beyondHousing is an increasing concern for many community organizations: churches, nonprofits, fire districts, school districts, police and other essential services throughout the county.
Housing was the number two issue cited in the Sonoma County Economic Development Board’s (EDB) 2017 Workforce Report. “Employers expressed major concern over housing and living costs in Sonoma County and their effect on labor availability. While more than half of surveyed businesses have responded to hiring difficulties with increased recruiting efforts, almost 40 percent of respondents have recruited from outside of Sonoma County or simply not filled open positions.”
And that’s in the private sector, which traditionally offers higher salaries.
Jack Wellman, project coordinator of the EDB’s Strategic Initiatives, recently published “Strategic Sonoma – Competitive Assessment,” which noted that with a cost of living index of 171 (the U.S. average is 100), Sonoma County is the second most expensive county among the benchmarks examined – second only to Monterey County, which has a cost of living index of 218.
The San Francisco Bay Area as a whole is more expensive than Sonoma County – with a cost of living index of 194.
“Cost of living is an important component of quality of place,” Wellman’s report states. “Regions with high costs of living may find it difficult to attract and retain talent. A higher cost of living disproportionately affects lower income families and may create socioeconomic imbalances and create hiring challenges for many “working” occupations – including teachers, nurses, hospitality workers, and more.”
Given the high cost of housing in Sonoma County, other institutions have already done this. Knowing that one day they would be searching for a new rector, St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Kenwood set aside a significant amount of money over the years to be used solely for housing costs.
Santa Rosa’s Church of the Incarnation bought a home for their priest and his family in 2016, according to treasurer David Jasper. After a long search, the church found a home within “brisk walking distance” of the downtown church. In existence for over 150 years, the church had acquired enough in bequests to make a substantial down payment, and owning the home offers sufficient financial and tax incentives to make it worthwhile, Jasper said.
On the Peninsula, the Menlo Park Fire District has been acquiring properties for over a decade. Seven of the district’s fire stations have acquired properties, six of which had homes on them, though not all are lived in, according to Chief Harold Schapelhouman.
“Two have been demolished to make way for station expansions,” the chief noted. One has been rented at market rates, providing a tidy income for the district, and two are housing essential fire district personnel. For the most part, the property acquisitions are long-term investments in property to eventually expand fire houses and administration rather than house people, Schapelhouman said.
The district offers substantial incentives to staff, based on how close their housing is to their station, up to $4,100 a month for the nearest.
Long-term legacy for churchThe Kenwood Community Church has always been self-supporting. Originally, Women’s Guilds raised funds to help support the church by making and selling embroidered and handmade items. Today, the annual Fourth of July Pancake Breakfast and Silent Auction are the main source of funds to support the maintenance and ministries of the church. It is on solid ground, debt-free, and looking forward to serving the Kenwood community for another hundred years.
“We inherited the legacy of this church from our predecessors,” Crockett said. “We feel that a parsonage can be our legacy for the future. We invite you to join us in making this vision a reality.”
Crockett said that it is a good time to think about giving tax-deductible donations: cash, securities, or real estate are all welcome. To assist potential donors in making their gifts count the most, while obtaining the greatest tax-deductible advantages, “we will be offering some planned giving assistance to those who would like it.”
Crockett and Tim Dorman, moderator of the Board of Trustees, will be happy to speak with any member of the community who might wish to help the church reach this goal. They can be reached through the church office at 833-1087.