Members of five different faith groups that make up the Santee Interfaith Alliance joined forces on Saturday morning to give the Santee Christian Church some long-awaited repairs including resurfacing their battered parking lot, repainting exterior walls, and trimming tall palm trees along the perimeter of the property.
Alliance members first heard about the project when Santee Christian Church Senior Pastor Wayne Dabney “figured out how to use Zoom” while the church was physically closed under state and county directives and joined online meetings.
The bulk of the project focused on laying new concrete in a torn up lot that sustains the weight of garbage trucks at a weekly pickup. That same lot also served as a makeshift gathering space where in-person services were held at a distance with sermons available on 98.5 FM, “one stop before life,” Dabney said while indoor worship temporarily shifted outside in an effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When other alliance members realized the church group was struggling to complete needed repairs at their facility, they banded together to make short work of projects the small congregation at Santee Christian Church could not easily complete on their own.
“Their congregation is mostly elderly. It was a struggle to get bids, and certainly to do any of the work required for this project,” Harper said.
Santee Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Pastor Randy Schimpf said he applied for a $5,000 Humanitarian Aid Fund grant through his organization after finding out Dabney was planning to cover repair costs for the church out of his own pocket.
“Initially, the project was just going to be helping out with the parking lot but the need for volunteers spread by word of mouth and we decided to help with several other areas as well,” Schmipf said.
Milne Trucking and Equipment owner Ken Milne donated the use of heavy equipment required to reconstruct the parking lot while Horeth Construction provided free labor toward laying new concrete outside the 1970’s-era building.
Additionally, about 25 volunteers from Carlton Hills Evangelical Lutheran Church, Summit Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Guardian Angels Catholic Church, Santee United Methodist Church, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints turned up— some painted walls while others scaled tall ladders to trim dead fronds off palm trees.
“If I hadn’t been on Zoom, this never would have happened,” Dabney said.
Originally from South Carolina, Dabney is one of 16 children raised by a Southern Baptist pastor and first came to San Diego as a Navy Radioman in 1962 before a 20-year career with Pacific Bell. He joined Santee Christian church in 2003 and became pastor in 2008, all while continuing to pitch fast-pitch softball through four decades and several championships.
He walked lightly and easily around the church on Saturday, stopping to offer help to four women painting a wall before answering a few questions about which trees to trim.
“I love this church. It’s my life. I’m just so grateful for this help,” he said with a smile.
Santee Interfaith Alliance Secretary Julie Harper said their group meets monthly with the goal of building relationships and serving our community.
“In a time when political and religious differences seem to make it impossible for neighbors to be very neighborly, we hope to send a message that love can reverse that trend,” Harper said.