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BOXSt. Olaf church holds grand opening for expanded facilities

By Karen Colbenson

Post-Bulletin, Austin MN

One year ago, it was just a shovel in the dirt. On Saturday, St. Olaf Lutheran Church will open the doors to its new multi-million dollar building addition.

The grand opening of the addition will be at 2 p.m. and will include a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tours of the new facilities. The Augsburg Centennial Singers will perform a concert at 7 p.m. in the sanctuary. The community is invited to attend all events.

Details of the expansion

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The 10,000-square-foot addition on the west side of the building consists of two floors of new space, which include a large fellowship hall, stainless steel kitchen, new offices, a new preschool center and a sunken auditorium. Several handicap-accessible features, including a new elevator, also were included in the expansion.

A new large entrance on the west side of the building is located near a car port, which allows for quick pick-up and drop-off. The fellowship hall, formerly in the basement, is now on the ground floor of the addition. Administrative offices were moved from the center of the building to the ground floor, and the former offices are being opened up into a large social gathering space outside the sanctuary.

The basement level now houses the church preschool. The Wee Learning Center is near bathrooms and the playground — two conveniences the former facility did not offer, according to preschool director Jenny Smith.

"It’s all-inclusive," said Smith. "We are so blessed to have such a great facility."

Additional remodeling on the original building will continue through December. A nursery on the main floor, a large gathering area and media center, as well as improvements on the third and fourth floors are included in the remodeling plans. There also will be handicapped accessibility to the choir loft when the project is finished.

Capital campaigns raised money

Church members in September 2007 approved the $5.5 million project. A groundbreaking ceremony was held in October, and construction began Feb. 1.

According to Pastor Glenn Monson, several three-year capital campaigns have funded the project; the remaining amount will be financed. The first campaign started in 2006 and raised $2 million by fall 2007.

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It is the church’s first major building addition since the 1950s, when a four-story educational wing was added to the north side of the building. The original church sanctuary was built in 1929.

Church members react

Church members Dorothy Nieman and Helen Johnson said they are excited and proud of the expansion.

"It’s gorgeous," said Johnson.

Nieman, who has been a member of the church for 46 years, said the new elevator is a welcome update.

"There’s been a lot of groundwork laid here," said Ila Akkerman, president of the St. Olaf Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. "We are all very excited."

With more than 3,000 members, the church has one of the largest memberships for Lutheran churches in the country and is the largest Lutheran and Protestant congregation in Austin.

For more information, go to Postbulletin.com/weblinks.

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St. Olaf Lutheran Church: http://www.stolafchurch.org/

Ribbon-cutting ceremony

What: Grand opening of building addition.

When: 2 p.m. Saturday.

Where: St. Olaf Lutheran Church, 301 First St. N.W.

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