Historic Tacoma church receives anonymous million-dollar gift

Rendering shows the exterior of Bryant Neighborhood Center looking west. Rendering courtesy of Broderick Architects

Thirty years ago, an average Sunday at Trinity Presbyterian meant just a couple dozen attendees. The small congregation considered closing down, but instead decided to launch new programs that would care for their neighbors. This community work, started decades ago, has not only helped the church to grow and thrive, but also recently inspired an anonymous donor to give a million dollar gift.

The program that started it all was an after-school tutoring program at Bryant Elementary School that continues to this day. More programs were added over the years, such as a clothing bank, a weekly community meal, and a free health clinic, making Trinity a central resource for the neighborhood. Today, Trinity has a vital, growing congregation and helps meet the basic needs for thousands of individuals each year through an array of neighborhood initiatives called Trinity Outreach Programs.

The interior looking southeast. Rendering courtesy of Broderick Architects

Last fall, Trinity Presbyterian celebrated its 125th anniversary and began an ambitious capital campaign to restore its crumbling 1922 building. When the current church building was constructed, it was designed with not only the congregation, but the local community very much in mind. The local business association even contributed funds so that the building could include amenities like a gymnasium, a movie projector, and a large meeting hall, which would address the needs and opportunities of the local neighborhood.

After decades of deferred maintenance, however, it was clear that Trinity could no longer safely serve its congregation and community without serious upgrades and renovations.

Historic status is by no means a guarantee of survivorship in Tacoma. In the past decade, several historic churches similar to Trinity Presbyterian have shuttered as the burden of capital expenses have overcome their dwindling congregations. Trinity Presbyterian spent several years considering options and consulting experts, ultimately deciding to rehab the current building in the same footprint – a monumental task to be sure, but one that reinforced Trinity Presbyterian’s commitment to the neighborhood.

“We took a long time to explore our options given our deteriorating building and even considered the possibility of moving locations, but through the process, we realized how absolutely essential to who we are is our geography and this good soil we’ve been planted in since 1891,” said Pastor Matt Robbins-Ghormley. “We began to dream about setting down even deeper roots here by investing in our historic building – and opening our doors to the neighborhood even wider through the Bryant Neighborhood Center.”

Priorities for the HERE for GOOD capital campaign include a seismic retrofit, upgrading systems, improving the functionality of the space, and establishing the lower level of the building as the new Bryant Neighborhood Center.

The Bryant Neighborhood Center will augment the existing Trinity Outreach Programs and offer new amenities identified by Trinity’s neighbors as areas of need. A yearlong series of community listening sessions and data analysis with partner organizations revealed a desire for free activities for youth and families, and a physical space for neighborhood events, community conversations about issues, information sessions, and recreational activities.

Seventy Trinity families have already pledged a collective $1.16 million, a generous outpouring considering the economic makeup and size of the congregation. To reach its overarching capital campaign goal of $4.7 million, Trinity Presbyterian seeks to raise $2.5 million from those outside the congregation through grants, corporate gifts, and individual donations.

In September, prayers were answered when an anonymous individual gave Trinity Presbyterian a $1 million gift for the capital campaign. The donor does not want their name or details about them shared, but told Trinity Presbyterian staff that they were inspired to give by the difference the church is making for those who live in the surrounding neighborhood.

The anonymous donor had this to say about the HERE for GOOD capital campaign: “We were really impressed with the work being done in the Bryant neighborhood and the great impact it is having on the community. We are hoping this donation will help as you look to renovate the facilities, expand your programs, and continue to do the great work you are doing.”

Practically, this generous gift means that Trinity Presbyterian is on target to start renovations in the summer of 2018. With this gift, Trinity Presbyterian is now just over 50 percent of its total goal. Church leadership also hopes that it will inspire others to learn more about how Trinity Presbyterian serves those in need and consider supporting Trinity Outreach Programs and the Bryant Neighborhood Center HERE for GOOD campaign.

For more information, visit tpctacoma.org/hereforgood.

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