Small Wellington church proposes to build an affordable services village in Wellington

PHOTO BY LIBBY JAMES. Pastor Mark Gabbert describes Grace Village at community meeting.

A small group of people gathered in a small church in a small town in Northern Colorado in January 2016. The gist of their conversation revolved around moving beyond themselves and their own welfare to the broader concerns that they saw affecting their community.

The more they talked, the more they motivated each other to move beyond talk to action. They formalized a committee to brainstorm and they came up with a long laundry list of concerns and what they might be able to do to address them. “Slowly we whittled down our list with the goal of getting to one item we could do something about,” Pastor Mark Gabbert of the Zion Lutheran Church in Wellington said. The church has about 150 members.

At that point a congregant spoke up. “Perhaps we should think bigger,” he said. And the committee listened.

From this humble beginning, the concept of Grace Village was formed and has now been recognized as a non-profit organization in Colorado. There’s no doubt that this organization thinks big. In the next few years they plan to bring to life “An intergenerational community designed to improve the lives of those it touches, as it is God’s will,” according to their brochure.

The community will first address three critical needs—affordable housing for all ages, affordable child care and affordable senior housing. Over time Grace Village plans to meet the needs of seniors by providing independent and assisted living plus skilled nursing care. Other community needs the organization hopes to meet include a child development center, counseling, post foster youth care, occupational therapy and other similar services.

It’s a tall order. That is the reason why Pastor Mark Gabbert stood in front of a gathering of community members at the Fort Collins Senior Center on Sunday, August 27, to share the Grace Village vision. He explained that a commitment has been made to purchase 48 acres of land close to Wellington on Highway 1 and Jefferson Street. The land is under contract as a sod farm until 2020, but at least part of it may be available for development before that date.

The Grace Village Master plan includes more than just affordable housing. Its an affordable services complex.

Gabbert and his committee want to get the word out to the community, share their confidence in its potential, its financial needs and the experience and talent that will be necessary to make Grace Village a reality. He emphasized that Zion Lutheran Church is not in this alone. He has been encouraged by the interest shown by the other churches in Wellington and the surrounding area.

While the community will be faith-based, the pastor emphasized the fact that Grace Village will be open to anyone of any faith. “We won’t be seeking converts,” he said. “We will help everyone and then, if they are curious about why we do this work, we’ll tell them.”

Grace Village welcomes partnership with a wide range of other churches and organizations. Habitat for Humanity is considering becoming involved in housing construction. There will be opportunities for investors interested in a unique approach to solving community issues. Grace Village is considering construction of a wedding chapel and reception area to meet an acknowledged need in the Wellington community. One day there will be an urgent care facility on the property, something that is needed in the Wellington area. A mission congregation may find a place to get established on Grace Village grounds.

“We’re seeking relationships,” Gabbert said, “and not only with churches.”

Gabbert and his committee might be the first to agree that big ideas can emerge from a few, but to be successful, they need the help of many. This month an official board consisting of Gabbert and only two other Zion Church members will be installed. The remaining members will come from the surrounding community—people with the talent, expertise and commitment needed to bring Grace Village to life. For more information, see https://gracevillage-wellington.com

 

 

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