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Westside church lends S'side church a constructive hand

A 100-year-old Sunnyside building was given a new lease on life last week, thanks to the efforts of a group of enthusiastic Westsiders.

More than 50 members of the Northwest Four Square Church of Federal Way arrived in Sunnyside last Monday to help the congregation of Amistad Cristiana remodel and revitalize their historic, but long neglected church building.

The church, located at the corner of South Ninth Street and Franklin Avenue, has been the home to the local Spanish Foursquare church for the past several years, after having been abandoned for several years. The local church family has been active in beginning the repairs to the church, but a lot needed to be done, said local church members.

The Western Washington families arrived armed with the skills of experienced construction workers, all bent on giving the small church family an entirely new interior to the Spanish church. The team of volunteers, led by Dietrich and Anne Brunner, spent the week ripping out walls and electrical wires. They then proceeded to replace everything with all new materials.

"There are no words to express our gratitude," said Jose Acosta, pastor of the Sunnyside church.

"We are overwhelmed by their generosity," he said.

The Federal Way church family has spent many summers helping other churches, said Brunner. "We have offered our skills to churches from Wenatchee to Montana," he said.

"Many of our members are skilled in construction and take their vacations, and bring their families along to help out other communities," Brunner explained.

The old Sunnyside church, which was built in 1905, offered the Federal Way crew a few surprises.

"As we started pulling down walls, we discovered a lot of stuff we weren't prepared for," said Charlyn Wingard, the project architect.

The volunteers thought they would just be moving a few walls, and doing a little rewiring to the Sunnyside landmark.

"Even though we knew there was a lot to do, we still found a few surprises once we started ripping out walls," she said. "Old buildings will do that to you," she said.

Among the projects the team tackled during the five-day make-over was the replacement of major floor joists and support beams, as well as floors and ceilings, she explained.

"We even found sawdust still being used in the church belfry, which was the usual form of insulation in the 1800s," explained Joe Turner of Federal Way. He said all of the sawdust was replaced with fiberglass insulation.

In addition to retrofitting the church from basement to rafters, the volunteers reworked the building's landscaping. An overgrown sycamore tree was removed from the old playground and replaced with a new shade pavilion and new trees.

Among the people helping on the project was former Sunnysider Antonio Arteaga of Covington. Now an electrician for Seattle University, Arteaga said he was thrilled to be able to come back to Sunnyside to work on the project.

"I've worked on a number of these projects, but this one makes me feel especially good. I'm giving something back to my boyhood community," he said.

Brunner said the Federal Way volunteers are already making plans to make another trip to Sunnyside.

"We still have some work to complete. There was more than we can do in a week. We're looking forward to coming back to finish up," Brunner said.

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