Church Partners With St. Louis Nonprofit To Restore Vacant House | St. Louis Public Radio

Church Partners With St. Louis Nonprofit To Restore Vacant House

Feb 2, 2019

Jerre Wike-Picker outlines an angel on a length of canvas tacked to a crumbling plaster wall.

The house is in dire need of repair, but someday soon a new family will call it home.

“I want them to feel the love of the community,” Wike-Picker said, dipping her brush into a jar of dark-blue paint.

She’s a member of Grace Church, a non-denominational Christian congregation in Maryland Heights. The church has paired up with St. Louis-based nonprofit LOVEtheLOU to renovate the vacant home in north St. Louis and donate it to a family in need.

Grace Church purchased the home at a discount from a private seller based in Nashville and later donated it to LOVEtheLOU.

Lucas Rouggly, executive director and founder of LOVEtheLOU, calls the partnership a “perfect match.”

The goal, said Rouggly, is to support longtime neighborhood residents and help them build equity.

“In the next 10 years, I think there’s going to be a lot of development and growth in this area,” he said. “If we can get ahead of it and create homes that families can own, then as development happens, those neighbors are set up as anchors for the neighborhood.”

The house, which was built in the late 1800s, will need substantial repairs, including a new roof, plumbing and electrical system. Volunteers from Grace Church will be responsible for the renovation.
Credit Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

LOVEtheLOU has selected a family to receive the renovated home, but Rouggly said he has not yet notified them.

Volunteers from the church will be in charge of the renovations, including replacing the roof, electrical and plumbing system.

Although the house has been vacant for years, said church member Christy Fry, much of the original woodwork and fixtures remain.

“This had to have been a glorious house,” said Fry, pointing to the four-foot slabs of marble lining the walls of the bathroom.

‘The mourning is over’

Before the renovation officially begins, volunteer artists like Carlie Trosclair are filling the home with art installations.

Near the rear of the house, Trosclair has installed a reproduction of the original staircase.

She created the paper-thin installation by applying layers of latex to the staircase and carefully peeling it away, a technique she calls “ephemeral imprints.”

"The imprint of the staircase holds layers of memory while also acting as a visual marker of rehabilitation and restoration," said Trosclair, in an email. 

St. Louis artist Carlie Trosclair produced a latex reproduction of the home's staircase, shown here.
Credit Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

In the home’s front parlor, artist Bert VanderMark unfurls large pastel banners printed with scripture verses.

“Most of my art has to do with encouraging people to move forward and dig deeper,” said VanderMark, who is a member of Grace Church. “We’re hoping to bring a sense of hope and restoration and possibility.”

For VanderMark, the colorful banners are the equivalent of raising a flag from half-staff.

“It’s basically saying, ‘The mourning is over,’” he explained. “We’ve acknowledged that there’s been destruction, but now we need to move forward.”

Follow Shahla on Twitter: @shahlafarzan

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org