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Our Congregations Partner Together to Fix Broken Things

Since the beginning, Genesis has operated on a shoe-string budget. As our needs expanded more quickly than our resources, we've always come together to do-it-ourselves, partnering with each other to fix broken things. This has become our Genesis way of life. Our partnership has grown even stronger—and our community ever tighter—out of this necessity.

Sometimes our ties have strengthened in bursts of fervor, such as when we came together repeatedly to fix a ton of stuff in need of urgent or emergency repair in just one season of a single year: autumn 2010.

When Genesis first started in 1974, we didn't have a full-time facilities manager. Our facility manager worked jointly for each congregation as a secretary, managing the building calendar and calling for repair services as necessary. Only after we completed the current sanctuary did the Genesis budget allow hiring a dedicated facilities manager. But even then, lacking any other full-time staff, we still needed to contract a cleaning service.

Without a staff and operating within a tight budget, when things broke, we weren't always able to hire contractors to fix them. Genesis instead relied on volunteers from St. Clare’s and Temple Beth Emeth to do the work ourselves.

2010 was a banner year for building systems needing expensive repairs. The boiler died unceremoniously. The Social Hall brickwork was beginning to crumble. Having brought in contractors to fix those things earlier in the year, our coffers were depleted by the end of it. Meanwhile, things continued to fall apart.

Grumbling about the uncomfortable chairs in the Sanctuary may well have been the first thing the Genesis Board heard at its moment of inception, legitimate complaints which echo through time down to this day. These chairs predate the formation of Genesis by many years. In 1968, when St. Clare’s built their "new" sanctuary (now our Social Hall), the church lacked sufficient funds to purchase cushioned pews, but was able to afford these very same chairs that still sit in our current sanctuary.

fixing chairs

These chairs are remarkably sturdy given their age. But by 2010, many screws had loosened and many of the chairs had become unstable. To address this, in one afternoon in early September 2010, fifteen TBE and St. Clare’s congregants answered the call to repair 30 of them.

Repairing chairs turned out to be relatively easy. Soon after that, we had to “dig in" to really hard stuff.

No sooner had the chairs been screwed back together than the fall rains came. With the drainage tiles clogged, successive rains flooded our classrooms, ruining the rugs, and destroying the plaster walls in some of the classrooms. It didn't help that apparently, some kid had dropped a chunk of concrete into an open sanitary clean-out by the back entrance, further exacerbating the situation. Michigan Power Rodding was unable to clear the blockage.

So our team of intrepid congregants had more work to do. This time, a team of 40 congregants from St. Clare’s and TBE bore down to dig out a 6’ deep trench along the entire window well to fully expose the clogged drainage tile pipe running along the outer perimeter of those classrooms. A contractor installed a new drainage tile pipe and a pump to pump the rain water out of the window well drainage pipe and into the parking lot drain.

But that still wasn't the end of it! Around the third week in September, we discovered the sanitary sewer line used by both the Lower-Level Social Hall (Rooms 4/5/6) and the Social Hall was also plugged. Snaking a camera through our septic lines, Michigan Power Rodding located the blockage behind the social hall bathrooms, some 9 feet below the ground. With the High Holy Days just around the corner, the blockage needed to be cleared, stat!

No room remained in our budget to hire professionals to dig the hole to reach that sanitary sewer line. So on September 23, a crew of congregants from TBE and St. Clare’s once again got digging. By September 27, our stalwart hole-digging team had nearly reached China, and the sewer line was now accessible. So, at greatly reduced cost, Michigan Power Rodding was able to open the pipe, remove that wayward concrete chunk, and restore the system to operation. Flushing in the bathrooms was again possible. Halleluyah!

What did we learn from all this hands-on partnering in 2010? Those of us who together dug down in these trenches learned that from whichever congregation we come from, we make terrific partners. We share similar values, and we all care deeply about Genesis. We don’t mind getting our hands dirty and really digging in to get done whatever is needed, so that Genesis works for all of us.

We believe the same is just as true today. During Genesis’ 50th Anniversary year, let's all strive to rediscover how partnering to heal a broken world makes us who we are.

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