A small, worn-down 1850s church in Montgomery, Minnesota has gotten quite a bit of attention over the past few years thanks to local resident Greg Thomas. After being diagnosed with stage four cancer in 2009, Thomas came to the dilapidated church to sit on the closed structure’s steps and reflect. That’s when his life — and the life of the church — changed.
To focus his attention away from his dire life situation, Thomas “adopted” the abandoned church — called St. John’s Chapel — and gained permission to start renovating it single-handedly. One of the first projects was stripping off up to 15 layers thick of old paint on the exterior so he could repaint the church. After news of his task attracted media attention, Thomas received support for the renovation project.
“I saw the story of this dedicated man working every day to restore the church exterior while dealing with his cancer and I thought to myself, ‘we can help him’,” says Travis Herritz, president of Springer Construction Services, LLC out of Prior Lake, Minn. “I found out that water had leaked in through the bell tower and rotted out the ceiling and the floor below. This church desperately needed a new roof. I went to one of my best roofing suppliers, DaVinci Roofscapes, and shared the story.
“The folks at DaVinci volunteered to donate their polymer slate roof tiles to replace the worn-out, curling wood shake roof that had weathered badly over time. My team offered to do the installation work at cost for the church. Together we made it possible to add new life to the church.”
Remarkably, as the church came back to life, so did Thomas. After 40 sessions of radiation for cancer in his head and neck, plus many rounds of chemotherapy, his cancer went into remission. Although he has lingering effects, Thomas is now cancer-free and dedicates most of his time to the church’s restoration.
Learn more about lightweight roof systems at Terracotta-Hued Roof Added to Villa Maria Guadalupe Retreat in Connecticut.