Two days before Jan. 1, horrified onlookers watched as the St. John the Evangelist Parish activity center was devoured by flames. A fire on a neighboring property had blown over to the building, incinerating it.
"The whole thing went up, but you could still see the cross," said Donna Miller, parish member.
Despite the best efforts of the firefighters, the building couldn't be saved.
"It was a total loss," said the Rev. Jeremy St. Martin, pastor at the parish. "It burned up to the extent that it was condemned. When it was fully going at its height, it went right through the roof and was pouring out of every window."
But now, the church is looking toward the future. They hope to be able to rebuild the activity center by October 2013, according to St. Martin, hopefully with some improvements.
"The building that burned was a tiny property ... Everybody knew from experience using the facilities as they were that they needed a little more space," said St. Martin. "Rather than simply trying to replace the building, we're trying to build it up a little."
The church has gone through the process of interviewing architects and has made its choice for the project.
"We're waiting for the architect to give us a cost analysis to see what's viable in terms of cost," said St. Martin. "We want to build the best building we can afford."
Funding for the building will be mostly covered by insurance money from the fire as well as additional fundraising,
"There's really a limit to what we can do at all," he said.
The property is small and triangular, said St. Martin, which makes it difficult to build because so much of the property is too close to the road. In order to build a new building, it is imperative that there is a location available to install a new septic system.
Still, there's reason to hope, he said.
"We worked with a septic designer who found two places on the property that ... we can put a septic system," he said. "When we found out there is such a place, it became easy to build a consensus about building and easier to get excited about it."
The church hasn't formally begun fundraising yet, said St. Martin, because they want to make sure everything is definitely moving forward before accepting donations.
"We want to respect the will of the donor," he said. "If somebody gives us money specifically for the building, and the building doesn't get built, that's a problem."
But St. Martin is hopeful that after receiving the cost analysis, that won't be a problem.
"At this point we have confidence in saying we can have a building by a year from this October," he said. "I'm not making a promise, but I'm confident."