Category Archives: Borrower Stories

Winter 2017 FEATURE STORY – Cornerstone UCC (Melbourne, Florida)

Crossroads United Church of Christ is a close-knit and vital congregation located on the east coast of central Florida in Melbourne—about 50 miles east of Orlando. Melbourne is in Brevard county, along with its northern neighbors Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center.

John Fox, Senior Elder at Crossroads, shares that the church has a unique membership/attendance situation: “There are about 60 members, but regular Sunday attendance is usually greater than the actual membership. Even our giving units are higher than would be expected for only 60 members. We have a number of ‘snowbirds’ who contribute all year, and we also tend to attract people who attend and give regularly, but haven’t elected to join the church.”

Despite the generosity of the Crossroads members and attendees, Fox said about five years ago they found themselves in the midst of a budget shortage. It was also time for them to refinance their existing balloon mortgage loan. They began researching their options. Their current lender offered favorable rates and they looked into the Cornerstone Fund and found that they also help churches with refinancing. They ultimately made the decision to stay with their lender, who, unfortunately, became increasingly difficult to work with.

Fox decided to contact Cornerstone Fund to ask them some very detailed questions about refinancing. He was pleased with all of the information he received, and this allowed him to be able to explain the benefits of a Cornerstone Fund mortgage to the council and congregation. They decided to refinance with the Cornerstone Fund.

“So far our experience with the Cornerstone Fund has been exemplary. They have been very accommodating. One of the best features of our loan is that we’ve lowered our payments.” 

Fox said the church’s original plan for their Cornerstone Loan was to only pay off their balloon. They ended up with more than they needed so their council decided to hold onto the funds until the end of the fiscal year in case they needed them to pay for some already planned expenditures. To date, they still have no specific plans for the funds, and may use them to reduce their principal or put them toward a number of projects that could be completed with this infusion of funds.

So far our experience with the Cornerstone Fund has been exemplary. They have been very accommodating. One of the best features of our loan is that we’ve lowered our payments.” Fox states that he would definitely recommend the Cornerstone Fund to other UCC churches. “The service is excellent.”

“I have also let our members know that the Cornerstone Fund gives them the opportunity to invest their retirement funds, and many are doing just that—with confidence and the satisfaction of knowing that their individual investments also help UCC churches in need of financial assistance.”

Is Your Congregation Ready to Explore Accessible to All (A2A)?

kelli-ordination-053by the Rev. Kelli Parrish Lucas

The United Church of Christ Disabilities Ministries (UCCDM) encourages all settings of the UCC to be Accessible to All (A2A).

So, what makes a church A2A? Enlisting the help of UCCDM is a great start. The first step is the Church Building and Program Accessibility Audit—a tool to help local congregations determine how accessible their programs and buildings are. After all, accessibility is more than just having a ramp at your church. The audit can be completed online, or you can download and print a PDF version or Word document, both of which are available in large print.

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What is your real name?

susan-chartierYour church’s title is more important than you might think

Does your church have plans to build, expand, or improve its property? There are a few important things to consider before moving forward—things you might not have thought of that, if overlooked, could grind your plans to a halt.

The Cornerstone Fund is fortunate to work with Susan Chartier, General Counsel for Brennan Title Company in Washington DC. An expert on church property, Susan shares her wisdom in this area.

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Something for everyone

A Conference expands its facilities, a Conference Minister invests for retirement

Marja_and_JimThe Rev. Dr. Marja L. Coons-Torn says she first became aware of and interested in the Cornerstone Fund when she was Conference Minister for the Penn Central Conference of the United Church of Christ. She saw what
wonderful things UCC local churches were able to accomplish with the assistance of a loan from the Cornerstone Fund.

In fact, the Penn Central Conference itself borrowed money from the Cornerstone Fund and used it to finance a much-needed renovation to the dining hall of their Hartman Center Camp and Conference Center. This loan helped them to double the size of this building. “Little did I know at the time,” says Marja, “how important the Cornerstone Fund would become for my own retirement plans.

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The Cornerstone Fund Comes Through!

UCC church switches mortgage loan to the Cornerstone Fund after 12 years with another lender

St. John's United Church of Christ in Merton, WisconsinA “win-win” is how Denise Gander, treasurer of St. John’s United Church of Christ in Merton, Wisconsin, describes her church’s current mortgage loan situation with the Cornerstone Fund, with whom they began a relationship in December of 2014. They finally feel confident they’re borrowing from a lender they can trust, who will treat them as a loyal and valuable customer. Additionally, they love that their loan actually supports other UCC projects, including churches in need of financial assistance. Their situation wasn’t always a win-win, and Gander hopes that by sharing their story, other UCC churches experiencing similar problems will consider Cornerstone as a financial solution.

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Cornerstone Loan Leads to Access for All!

Built in 1888, First Congregational Church (UCC) of Colorado Springs occupies the oldest church building in the city still in continuous use by the same congregation.

Over the years, First Congregational Church has added newer buildings to its historic buildings, usually with no thought given to limited mobility access. For over 25 years, said the Rev. Dr. Benjamin Broadbent, the church had identified the need to make its facilities more accessible. In the mid-1990’s, plans had been drawn for an elevator, but due to a lack of funds were not completed.

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Updating an historic property

When it comes to making capital improvements, churches often take a while to consider their options and make their plans. Built in 1835, historic First Congregational Church in Jefferson, Ohio had once hosted abolitionist John Brown in its pulpit. The oldest in Ohio’s Western Reserve, the church was well-preserved — but their last major remodeling project was completed in 1910. For a long time, the 191-member congregation had talked about the need to update the building and improve accessibility. Continue reading

Expanding ministry

For the 205 members of Melfield United Church of Christ in Haw River, North Carolina, ministry means continually growing an open heart for the community. Centered in a rural area that is home to many farmers and textile workers, the church has sponsored a successful food program that feeds 150 families. But to meet another big need — supporting working and single parent families with after-school programs — they required more space. After considering the project for several years, the church turned to the Cornerstone Fund when they decided to move forward.

To meet their goal of offering before- and after-school care and tutoring programs, Melfield UCC built a 2,500-square-foot educational building. Borrowing part of the funds for the $164,000 project from the Cornerstone Fund, the church conducted a capital campaign that enabled them to pay the mortgage over a period of time. The new building provides space for Sunday School, houses the clerk’s office and accessible restrooms, and even offers shower facilities should the church be needed as an emergency shelter.

The pastor of Melfield UCC, The Rev. Dannie T. Williams, got to know the Cornerstone Fund when serving as an Associate Conference Minister. “The Cornerstone Fund is very helpful — not just with loans, but with the business decisions that go into making capital improvements,” he said. “I’d strongly encourage any congregation to consider the Cornerstone Fund when building or renovating, or for investments. It’s definitely the way to go.”

Building for ministry

Holy Covenant UCC in Charlotte, North Carolina moved to the growing north side of town when people were just beginning to move that direction. These days, the church is surrounded by a thriving, rapidly expanding suburb — and they were running out of space. With a loan from the Cornerstone Fund, Holy Covenant built a new wing to accommodate more Sunday School and meeting rooms, to pave the gravel road and parking lot that circle the church, and to add attractive and prominent signage to extend their welcome to the thousands who travel by every day.

Recovering from Katrina

Volunteering at BeecherSituated in the 7th Ward of New Orleans, Beecher Memorial UCC has served its community since 1904. For more than a century, the church weathered storms and rebounded — including 1965’s Hurricane Betsy, which destroyed Beecher’s building leaving only the bell that now sits in the church’s front yard. Continue reading