Watts helps turn church renovation idea into reality

March 29, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN - Perhaps no one was happier than Sue Watts when Otterbein United Methodist Church's $1.4 million renovation project was introduced to the downtown Hagerstown community recently.

But, as chairwoman of the building committee, Watts said she hoped she'd never have to head up such a big project again. Overall though, it was rewarding, she said.

"I certainly learned a lot about construction," she said.

Her involvement began at a church retreat with a seemingly simple discussion about the need for a new roof on the education building next to the church, at 108 E. Franklin St.


That talk soon expanded into plans for a full-scale renovation and addition of a second floor on the existing education building and some other changes elsewhere on the property.

"Bob Bricker was the chair of the building committee and he did a lot of the planning," Watts said. "But when his plate got full, I took over."

Watts said she didn't have a whole lot of say about the change in leadership. She was glad that Bricker, a local builder, stayed with the project most of the way through the process.

"While I was in charge, Bob was still the driving force," she said.

Codes, accessibility for the handicapped, correct sink heights - all those were a mystery to Watts when she started, but she learned and added her talents of organizing and attention to detail.

Watts even helped pick out the decor, perhaps the most fun part of the job.

"There were some changes along the way; the unexpected came up as it always does," she said. "And then, there was the weather."

The project was several years in the planning stage and nearly 11/2 years in actual construction.

Pastor Stephen Robison was instrumental in pushing the major renovations, Watts said.

"We stepped out in faith on this," she said.

Watts, 60, and her husband, Andy, came to Hagerstown in 1975 from Colorado. Drawing them to the area was her husband's then-military career, which shifted him and the family to be near Fort Ritchie.

"We were in Germany for a while and then Arizona, where our first child, now 32, was born," Watts said. The youngest child, now 26, was born in Maryland. And there is a 2-year-old grandson now.

Sue Watts works part time at Christopher and Banks clothing store. The rest of her time is devoted to family, church and a variety of other activities in the community.

On March 14, more than 400 people gathered to reconsecrate Otterbein's building, share a congregational luncheon and tour the new space.

There are new offices, new classrooms, new bathrooms, a lobby between the two buildings, an elevator, a new parlor and kitchenette, and a nursing room for mothers.

Now that the renovations are done, the congregation is hoping to draw in its neighbors to become part of the Otterbein community. There have been block parties and more are planned, Watts said.

"This is a building for people - we didn't do all this for show," she said. "I feel very good that I had a part in this renovation. I wasn't just here for show, either."

Watts said the whole experience has been one of learning for her. And she was buoyed by the joy of working with many dedicated people.

"We firmly believe this is what God wanted us to do," she said. "It took a long time, but it was worth it."

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