Mike Bell helps Old West End church officially break ground on planned $400,000 Welcome Center


Mayor Mike Bell helped an Old West End church officially break ground today on a planned $400,000 Welcome Center addition.

First Congregational Church, 2315 Collingwood Blvd., known for its rare Tiffany stained glass windows, is constructing the Welcome Center at the rear of the stately building. The addition will be a new enclosed entrance portico with other renovations to serve as the church’s regular main entrance. It will include new restrooms, heated sidewalks to thaw ice, and push-button doors and wheelchair-accessible entrance.

Tom Walter, the moderator of the church committee, said the renovation "is the first change to the facilities that anyone can remember."

Mayor Bell thanked the congregation for its confidence in the city’s future.

The mayor, who is embroiled in a re-election campaign against challenger Councilman D. Michael Collins, said he saw significance for him in the pastor's message during the service, taken from the Book of James: “We may make our plans, but God has the last word.” And he complimented the church on its history and the beauty of the building.

'You have a piece of history that a lot people across the world would love to have. That you have the commitment to our city to be able to do this, I'm very thankful as a mayor," Mr. Bell said.

Senior Pastor Larry Vriezelaar said the congregation wanted to do something to go along with the city's $5.6 million reconstruction of Collingwood Boulevard between Monroe and Central Avenue, now under way.

“The corridor is going to be so gorgeous. We said, ‘let’s be part of the revitalization’,” he said. 

He said the design of the Welcome Center is in the style of the original church and the plans were approved by the Old West End Historic District Commission.

Mr. Bell's opponent is campaigning today with walking door-to-door in the afternoon and remarks to be given at the annual banquet of the United Muslim Association of Toledo at the Stranahan Theater. The theme of the event is "Compassion in Islam, Compassion in City of Toledo."