Delta Foundation breaks ground on church project renovations (photos)
Story by Zach Brien
The New Orleans Delta Foundation (NODF) began renovations for the Church of the Epiphany, its rectory, and convent on Saturday, July 22. The local nonprofit arm of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., the NODF recently purchased the three buildings located on 1949 Duels Street and 2741 Saint Anthony Street, which have all been abandoned since Hurricane Katrina.
Constructed in 1961, the church is only one of three churches in the United States whose stained glass windows depict both the Old and New Testament.
Volunteers from Dow Chemical spent part of Saturday painting the plywood over these historic windows to protect them from further damage. Shelia Danzey, president of the NODF, hopes that once construction is completed and the plywood is removed from the windows, the church can become part of New Orleans’ stained glass tours.
The first building they plan on renovating is the rectory, which sits catty-corner from the church. A former private residence purchased by the church, the foundation plans to develop it first to establish an on-site presence while they continue with renovations at the other locations.
According to Danzey, the foundation plans to deliver programs there and partner with community schools in the rectory.
“The rectory will hold small meeting rooms, probably offices, not that many,” Danzey said. “A lot of our members are educators, so we do a mentoring program and our new neighbors–Good Shepherd [School]–they go up to 8th grade. We want to partner with them and mentor them as well to bring the community back and increase the quality of life.” The new Good Shepard School, located at 1839 Agriculture Street, is under construction as well.
The Foundation plans to also use these facilities to consolidate community resources, like voting.
“It might sound like a small thing, but when we had our public meeting, young ladies came in and said, ‘I’m so glad because the people in this neighborhood have to go all the way to Elysian Fields to vote’,” Danzey said. “We want to make it convenient for people in this neighborhood. Hopefully we can offer our place up as a polling place.”
The Foundation plans to connect with other churches and schools in the community as well, such as Corpus Christi Epiphany Parish Church and St. Augustine High School.
According to Jorge Cerame of Dow Chemical, the company’s volunteer efforts and financial contributions to the church are part of their 2025 goal.
“Every 10 years, Dow sets a set of goals in regard to environment, health, safety, also community impact,” Cerame explained. “By the year 2025, Dow has a goal to positively impact 1 billion people through efforts like this where Dow personnel use their skills to help their community.” The company is the church’s first ever corporate sponsor.
Kevin Jones, a resident of the Seventh Ward, employee and volunteer with Dow Chemical, and member of Corpus Christi Church, says he spent time around Church of the Epiphany growing up. He recalls when the church was abandoned after Katrina. “After Katrina, they didn’t have the support of the Parish,” Jones said.
The community has already responded to the purchase and is excited to be involved with it.
“We had one of the ladies in the neighborhood who belonged to this parish say that her 50th wedding anniversary is coming up in a year or two and she’d like to have her celebration here at the church,” Danzey said. “It’s just very significant for the neighborhood and the community.”
The foundation expects the full renovation to take five years.