When faced with adversity, congregation ‘raises the roof’

By Linda Mastaglio

Innovative fundraiser helps Catholic community replace damaged buildings.

St. Mary Immaculate Parish in Plainfield, IL, located about 40 miles southwest of Chicago, had a problem that many congregations are all too familiar with: The church and campus buildings had roofs that leaked and needed replacing. In the face of tough economic times, the congregation came up with a unique way to raise the funds. Their “Raise the Roof” campaign helped put a new roof over their heads and also got parishioners personally involved.

St. Mary Immaculate Parish is a congregation of some 27,000 members in Plainfield, part of the Catholic Diocese of Joliet, IL. The church building opened in 1993 following a devastating tornado that hit the area in 1990, and other buildings followed as the church has grown during the past 20 years.

Strapped for money
“Every church I’ve ever worked in has had roof leaks,” Pastor David Medow says. “Churches are typically strapped for money and capital assets get put on the back burner. Usually, roof leaks are dealt with by making temporary patches until it’s so bad you don’t have a choice.”

Despite the young age of the facilities, the northern Illinois weather had taken its toll on the roof, causing leaking following rain, snow, and thaws. The leaking became a major problem, resulting in interior damage and even disruption to services. “The roof wasn’t even 20 years old,” notes Medow. A longer lasting, more durable roof was a major consideration for the congregation, but so was how to pay for it.

Lightweight metal shingle
Fortunately, the staff and congregation came up with a solution that solved multiple problems in a unique and creative way. They chose a lightweight metal shingle manufactured by DECRA Roofing Systems. These metal shingles, which carry a 50-year limited warranty, offered a long-lasting and durable roofing solution. And, they enabled St. Mary to raise the necessary funds for them in a fun and uncommon way: Parishioners could buy a shingle and then inscribe their personal message on the back of it. The fundraising campaign, which was called “Raise the Roof,” was a great success, covering about 60 percent of the funds for the new roof.

Each roof tile measures 21 by 56 inches and the price was set at $275 per tile. Once the price was set, the metal shingles were put on display at St. Mary for several weekends so parishioners could see them and know exactly what they were getting.

The Raise the Roof kickoff event was held in the parish gymnasium. The event started with a dinner, followed by the buying and inscribing of the backs of the metal tiles. Shingle tiles were spread out on tables in the gym and everyone who bought one could inscribe the back of it, any way they wanted.

People personalized the back of their shingles with prayers, names and creative artwork. Families who couldn’t afford to buy a shingle joined together and bought one. Additionally, some older parishioners purchased multiple tiles in honor of their families and grandchildren.

Saving money
The steel shingles are also lightweight, so that the new roof was able to go right on top of the existing roof. This enabled the parish to save both money and landfill space. Kevin Bumstead, president of Stan’s Roofing & Siding in Orland Park, IL, was the general contractor for the new roof and is a member of the parish. “I was so glad to save my church so much money by not tearing off more than 300 squares of old shingles and throwing them in landfills,” says Bumstead. “I am very big on trying not to fill landfills, which in the roofing industry is hard; but DECRA makes it a little easier.”

“You may spend a little more upfront, but over the lifetime of the building it is so much more affordable and cheaper,” Medow says. “I don’t know how anyone could turn it down.” This committed congregation created a unique and fun way to raise its roof — and to find the money to finance it.

Linda Mastaglio is a freelance journalist in Van, TX. www.twi-pr.com


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