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Members of St. Stephen were active in planning for the housing facility and, since its opening, several residents have joined the congregation for worship and activities.


The start of this housing project goes back to


1960 when Ella Bostwick, a member of St. Stephen, donated some land to build a new church for the growing congregation. The building, including classrooms and offices, was soon built, but for 50 years the 1.79-acre lot adjacent to the church sat vacant. In 2000, when the affordable housing crisis


reached a peak, Jim Lapp, pastor of St. Stephen, led the congregation in helping start a faith-based community organization to address the crisis. The group, known as Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action (COPA), was officially formed in 2003. During this time, a young family from St.


Stephen was evicted from their home because their rent was raised beyond their ability to pay, despite both parents working. They contacted the congregation council to see if they could live temporarily in a trailer on the church parking lot, which they did for three months. Shortly after this, the idea to use the church’s vacant land for affordable housing was born. After much work with county leaders and staff through COPA, St. Stephen decided at a special


34 JANUARY 2018


congregational meeting in 2010 to use its land for affordable housing. Through the relationships they’d formed in COPA, the congregation contacted a nonprofit, Mid-Peninsula Housing, to help them achieve their goal. After securing county funds and a successful vote of rezoning the church property, St. Stephen entered into a ground lease with Mid-Peninsula so they could fund, build, manage and maintain the housing facility. “The congregation of St. Stephen had many


discussions, some heated, about how the land should be used. But in the end, we decided low- income senior housing was the best use of this generous gift to our congregation,” Lapp said. “Several of the senior residents have been attending services and participating in church activities since the opening. As time goes by, we hope to welcome many more into our midst.” Ron Buswell, St. Stephen’s treasurer, said, “This


was a long and arduous process, but it was well worth it.” And Herb Schmidt, a retired pastor and member of St. Stephen, said, “It turned out even better than we thought it would—a genuine surprise.” The housing development has four studios, 32 one-bedroom units and four two-bedroom units.


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