Capital Campaign

Pardon Our Dust

In the next few weeks our project to Renovate, Enhance and make Accessible our Church Home will move from the visions and concepts of design to the dust and dirt of construction. Over the summer the Build Committee, chaired by Kathryn Kamm, worked with Kubala Washatko Architects (KWA), especially our team leader Vince Micha, to develop the schematic design presented to the congregation in late April, a stage known as design development.


During design development various engineering experts worked with the Build Committee and KWA to refine the plan. The engineers thoroughly investigated our building. The structural engineer’s review revealed the structural support for the grand arch of the chancel ran through a doorway we planned to open up into the dining room; the doorway shifted. Others looked into the chimneys, finding a way to safely run flues through the chimneys while still allowing us to open up a doorway between the current study and the stairwell from Graham Chapel to the gym. We reviewed the location of telephone jacks, wireless emitters, and other data lines. Throughout the process Vince worked with the city planner’s office to understand how we could work within the building code. Adam Arndt, of the construction management firm Catalyst Construction, kept watch on the budget, advising us of the costs or savings associated with different elements of the project. Additionally the Build Committee is working with Vince on the many material selections involved in the project—carpeting, tile, counters, etc. As a result of this three-month process we will have construction documents ready by the end of August.


Once the construction documents are ready, the Build Committee will work with KWA and Catalyst to send the project out to bid. The Build Committee, drawing on City of Milwaukee standards, is developing bid guidelines to balance price, quality, and workforce diversity in awarding contracts. The bid process will be completed and contractors chosen by the end of September.


Getting ready for demolition day involves several significant projects and moves, such as all of the library books, the contents of several offices, and too many storage rooms. These projects are already underway but we could use your assistance.


Construction will tentatively start September 27 and last through February. During construction much of the “core” of the church will not be accessible. Access to the church will be through the Milestones’ Playground entrance on Summit. There will be no nearby or accessible bathrooms for much of this period. As a result we will move Sunday morning worship and likely coffee hour to the gym. Church school will continue to take place in Graham Chapel and nearby classrooms. The church office will shift to a vacant room next to the choir room; Andrew and Bridget will share Bridget’s office. We will celebrate the re-dedication of our building in late Spring.


During construction we will need people in the church to significantly step forward to volunteer. Opportunities include:

-set-up and clean-up for worship in the gym (Sundays)

-construction clean-up (Fridays)

-coffee breaks for contractors

-building greeters (during UWM classes and other events)

-painting projects

Basically, if you’ve got an hour, we’ve got a job! We hope involving our congregation in the work will provide a sense of engagement and ownership in the exciting renovation of our church home.


Like home remodeling projects, the dust and dislocation of construction can be a pain. But we will soon be in our renewed church home, able to invite everyone regardless of mobility issues into the full life of our congregation.



Congregational Meeting
On Sunday, April 29, we will meet as a congregation to review the schematic design for our building renovation.  Model images from Kubala Washatko can be seen in the slide show below.  

REACH Campaign Project

REACH Project Update By Kathryn Kamm

While interviewing Construction Managers last week, it really struck me how fortunate we are to have so many qualified people genuinely interested in our “little” project.  I can’t help but believe the timing of this project with the current downturn in our economy has made available a level of professional expertise that may not have been as available or affordable had we began this endeavor a few years ago.  I am optimistic that this will also be true of the quality and value that we will see from subcontractors who are chosen to work on our project. 

The Build Committee met with 4 qualified Construction Management firms over the last couple of weeks and have selected Catalyst Construction.  Catalyst is a small firm that has been able to grow each of the last 4 consecutive years, despite the downturn in the construction market. Catalyst has an experienced team and focuses on working with non-profits in Southeast Wisconsin. We felt that their business model would provide the most flexibility because they do not have any in-house trades. This flexibility not only makes the bidding process potentially more transparent, but can also help us encourage some underrepresented groups in our workforce.

Catalyst will work closely with our architects Kubala Washatko over the next few months providing “pre-construction services.”  These services include cost estimating at various checkpoints throughout the design phase, making suggestions on how to improve constructability and coordinating information provided by subcontractors.  

During construction, Catalyst will then switch to a role that many of you may be more familiar with, General Contractor.  During this phase they will coordinate the subcontractors’ bids and work, manage volunteer labor and provide full-time on-site supervision, at a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP). I’m completely convinced that this project delivery method will get us the best project our money can buy.

Our renovation should be viewed as a small, local stimulus package – our spending will directly affect the livelihoods of people in our community.  Having the opportunity to do so is a blessing.  The Build Committee will keep Plymouth’s mission work in mind when working with Catalyst to encourage both minority-owned, and more importantly, minority-staffed subcontractors.  We will be drafting guidelines for this process over the next few weeks and appreciate your input.

Building Patterns:

Kubala Washatko Architects presented the "Patterns" they found in our building.  These patterns will guide the development of a renovation plan.


The Difference Between Operating Budget and Capitol Campaign
By Eric Koepp

Recently, I was at the optometrist’s office. Seems I need help with my long range vision. And with my short range vision. They’ve got something for that. They call them bifocals. It hurts to think I’ve “progressed” to the point that I need “old people’s” glasses. But in fact I have. If I want to see all things clearly, I need this help. Thank goodness though there is such a thing as bifocals.

This business of needing new glasses seems similar to other concerns I’ve been involved with lately. For instance, I’m told if I use the top part of the bifocals, I can see a great distance. This is similar to the way in which we look far into the future as we have done recently regarding our capital campaign. We address thoughts such as: Years from now, what will our church look like? Who will want to join us for worship on Sundays? What causes will they want to support? What values are important to them, and how should we demonstrate our conviction to those values? Do we say we are all inclusive, or do we actually demonstrate that we are? Weighty questions and I think answered with a reasonable amount of unanimity and fervor, based on the success of our capital campaign.

We are clearly an inclusive congregation in so many respects. Now we are extending this inclusiveness by more fully accommodating our members’ and guests’ physical needs. Our new physical layout will demonstrate to all of us as well as to future church members what we stand for and that we are willing to back our convictions with words, certainly, but also in deed and with financial resources. We are on the way to demonstrating the epitome of a successful capital campaign; We are acting as a group of people who’ve decided to commit resources for a number of years, to a cause, or causes which we believe in, which will have benefits for years to come including for future generations and which can not simply be accommodated via lip service or a by a line item in the annual operating budget.

Things get blurry for me though as I look “below the line” with these bifocals. Below the line, I see the here and now. I visualize people who are eating baked beans, Ramen noodles, potatoes, etc. as they huddle together for warmth on the cold bare floors of their beautiful mansions. These majestic structures would be their legacy, if they could only maintain the quality of life required to make those houses into homes. In short, these people have completed a massive capital campaign, but without the foresight of a corresponding operating budget. These are not the places many friends visit. They are not the places where fond childhood memories are formed. They are not the locations of neighborhood gatherings or block parties. They are not the places grown children return to. As well designed and spacious as they are, the owners did not provide for one key thing: An operating budget.

If anything, operating budgets should increase after a successful capital campaign, and not decrease. Why? Gee, that doesn’t seem fair, does it? Yet, simply put, we owe it to ourselves (if not to others) to maintain our beautiful new environment. So, as always, we want ensure we continue to have wonderful programming, wonderful music, insightful sermons; all the things that make a house a home, or a church a place for spiritual growth and nourishment; a welcoming place for members as well as for non- or potential members. Naturally we also want also to support causes we believe in. On top of that, we want to respect our new large long term investment by providing whatever annual maintenance requirements are needed.

As usual, I digress. I do think I’ll have to go ahead and get those bifocals. After all, I’d like to see clearly. If you don’t need them, don’t get them. Either way though I hope you’ll join Laura and me by taking both a long and short term view when it comes to supporting Plymouth. Thanks for helping with our long term vision by making the capital campaign a success. Please treat your contribution to the operating budget with the same level of importance. It’s what makes a majestic house a wonderful home.

REACHing Success

by Andrew Warner

Throughout the last few months we sang in worship, “All Are Welcome.” Marty Haugen’s hymn captured the hopes and dreams behind our capital campaign, “Let us build a house where love can dwell and all can safely live, a place where saints and children tell how hearts learn to forgive. Built of hopes and dreams and visions, rock of faith and vault of grace; here the love of Christ shall end divisions.”

The central purpose of the capital campaign was to modernize our church building, make it handicap accessible, and improve many places which had become worn. Creating a handicap accessible building was a long held dream of the congregation; our current plans are an adaption of ones first discussed in the 1980’s. Planning for accessibility began in earnest after our 2005 strategic planning process. Our current renovation plans, formed with significant input from the congregation over a multi-year period, led to the decision to undertake a capital campaign at this moment.

Our goals for the campaign ranged from a basic goal of 1.3 million to build an addition onto the north side of the building to intermediate and challenge goals of 1.5 and 1.7 million respectfully. These further goals would allow the congregation to renovate Graham Chapel, the Sanctuary, and the Dining Room.

Under the leadership of Jeanne Sherer as Campaign Coordinator and assisted by numerous campaign volunteers, our congregation began a capital campaign in January. We were guided by Steve Havey of Havey & Associates, inc. Campaign volunteers called on over 200 families and individuals in our congregation and the wider community, shared the story of our campaign and the church, and sought participation in the campaign through a five-year pledge. The leadership skills our volunteers developed and the way our fellowship with one another deepened through the visitation process must certainly be considered one of the successes of this endeavor.

I enjoyed making my visits. It gave me a chance to hear hopes and concerns for our congregation. Several of my visits were with people in the community who do not attend Plymouth. They shared with me what it means to them to have a congregation like ours lifting up a progressive understanding of Christianity. One of them said, “I’ve never given to a church before, but I’ll give to Plymouth.”

Volunteers asked members and friends of our congregation to make generous commitments to our congregation. The pledges we were asked to make represented a far larger gift then we would normally make to the annual pledge campaign to the congregation. The capital campaign was a once-in-a-long while opportunity to give a remarkable gift to the congregation, one with a long-lasting impact. Just as we’ve benefited from the legacy of past generations at Plymouth, these pledges created a legacy which would serve future generations.

People made thoughtful and prayerful decisions about their pledges. Together we committed over $1,385,000 to the REACH Campaign. These pledges represented a significant investment in the future vitality and health of Plymouth. We will begin work on the first phase of our renovations: the north-side addition enclosing an elevator, 5 ADA bathrooms, and new greeting and lobby spaces.

Several people are still in the process of deciding their pledge. Some asked to contacted in a couple of months because of personal situations. We hope that over the coming months the total pledged to this project will continue to rise.

Now that we now what we are working with in terms of funding we will finalize the building design. The Board of Stewards will take the lead on this process, with plenty of opportunities for engagement and feedback by the council and congregation. Through the bulletin and newsletter we will keep you informed of the progress we are making on implementing our dream.

Construction on the new addition should begin in the new year. But even before then we will undertake numerous volunteer projects to address needs in the building. We’re already underway with the conversion of the dining room stage into a multi-purpose room. (Please contact me if you are interested in helping out). Once that project is completed we’ll see what else we can do with volunteer labor.

The success of this campaign grows out of the hard work and dedication of our many volunteers and the openness to the members and friends of our congregation to conversation about the campaign. Bridget and I are especially thankful to the steady leadership Jeanne Sherer provided - we could not have achieved this without her. We’re also thankful to the Congregational Chairpersons who enlisted the Team Members and served on the steering committee - Jim Aubert, Becky Guerrero, Luci Klebar, and Jennifer Morales - as well as Pat Mueller (steering committee), the A/E Speakers - Kathryn Kamm (steering committee), Dick Sherer and Tracy Wilkins - and Planned Giving Committee - Steve Frieder (steering committee), David Clark and Matt Kamm and the many people who gave campaign testimonials.. These volunteers along with all of those Team Members who did visits, led awareness and education events, and offered financial planning advice contributed greatly to our success.

As we move into the next phase of the campaign we will continue to rely on volunteers. Karen Zachow (REACH financial secretary), Elaine Vokoun (REACH bookkeeper), and Pat Mueller (REACH auditor) will receive and track pledge payments to ensure they are paid in a timely manner. Jennifer Morales will lead up a follow-up committee that will contact those who have not pledged as well as invite new members to our congregation to pledge. Joining her will be Jim DeKoch, Tina Owen, and Laura Sutherland. Jeanne Sherer will continue to be involved with the campaign in an advisory role. We will be recruiting additional volunteers to help with this project over the next five years.

Together through this campaign we saw what can happen when we all REACHed to make Plymouth a strong and vital congregation. Your hard work, honest conversations, and faithful decision-making will allow us to “Renew, Enhance, and Access Our Church Home.”