BLOOMINGDALE – Thanks to nearly $1.5 million in donations and pledges, St. Isidore Parish and School in Bloomingdale was able to break ground Saturday on a renovation project that will provide a home on campus for the Youth Ministry programs and more.
“That’s a dream that we’ve had for a long time, and we’re finally able to reach it,” said David Heimann, head of Youth Ministry.
The project cost is expected to total what’s been donated and pledged. Renovations will include the addition of an elevator and lower-level restroom to the chapel, construction of a space to function as a preschool classroom and meeting space, and addition of other meeting spaces in the school for the Youth Ministry programs.
The computer lab and library spaces at the parish school also will be switched, allowing the library to be located in a more open space near the new Youth Ministry breakout rooms that will be used for other parish needs as well.
The capital campaign to fund the project was started in August 2013. Before the campaign began, St. Isidore Parish leaders conducted surveys and focus groups of parishioners to gather their input in early 2013.
“We think we’ve listened to our parishioners, what they’ve said and what they think we should do,” Parish Administrator Tom Norton said.
Although the project broke ground Saturday, major work will not begin until school lets out for the summer at the end of May.
“We’ll do everything we can do before school is out that still keeps the school day safe and quiet,” Norton said.
The goal is for the renovations to be completed before the new school year starts Sept. 3. Classes typically begin sooner than that, but the first day of school was pushed back to accommodate the project, Principal Cyndi Collins said, adding she’s looking forward to the school renovations.
“Our library right now is fine, but I think that we’re all – especially our librarian – looking forward to some brighter space, new bookshelves, a little bit more open than the current classroom is, and the other benefit of course is the new room for the preschoolers, for the little guys,” Collins said.
With an elevator and lower-level restroom, the parish chapel also will now be accessible for all parishioners and guests.
The chapel was the original St. Isidore Catholic Church before a new main worship space was built. The chapel still is used for some services, including Mass, evening prayer, weddings and funerals.
In addition to making the space accessible, the project will include other improvements to the chapel as well, such as new plumbing and the addition of fire safety features, including egress doors and stairwell areas of refuge.
More office space also will be created in the lower level of the chapel building.
The parish’s Youth Ministry programs currently rent a vacant retail space in the nearby Stratford Square Mall, but now that the location will soon be occupied, the programs needed to find a new location, and what better place than the parish itself?
“A lot of the space changes are done with the mindset of youth safety,” Heimann said. “Our safe practices – what we’ve learned about keeping youth and families safe – have really become a priority to all of us, and we design our spaces accordingly.”
The Youth Ministry programs are looking for new furniture donations from stores to use in their breakout rooms.
After the current renovations are completed, other projects may be on the horizon for St. Isidore, but at this point, there is no defined timeline for those. Projects could include creating a Eucharistic adoration chapel, resurfacing the parking lot and adding other improvements, and building a rectory on campus for the parish priests.