17,000-square-foot building gives place for congregation, others, to gather for community events

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Anne Robinson, campaign coordinator at St. Anthony Catholic Church, shows all the campus new 17,000-square-foot community center, which opened earlier this month.In the two weeks that St. Anthony Catholic Church’s new community center has been open, it has held a youth mass, an ice cream social, a pancake breakfast, a funeral, dinners, an open house and Vacation Bible School.

And it has plans for plenty more.

“We haven’t stopped since we’ve opened,” said Anne Robinson, the church’s campaign coordinator who helped fund the center’s construction.

St. Anthony, 9905 S.W. McKenzie St., has long been a local landmark along Highway 99W. The church and private Catholic school broke ground on the new community center last August, following four years of fundraising.

“We were really in need of a place for everyone to come together and be one community,” Robinson said. “We wanted to have more social activities, spiritual activities and things we could all do together. Yes, we go to church here and our kids go to school here, but we didn’t have one place where all of us could come and socialize.”

The $5.5 million dollar building was paid for almost entirely though donations and gifts-in-kind, Robinson said.

“We’re really proud of it,” she said. “Everything that is in this building is paid for.”

The church does need to raise a few more funds for extra furniture for the facility.

Didn’t have the space

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Bishop Kenneth Steiner, center, and Tigard Mayor John L. Cook speak during the opening of the new St. Anthony Catholic Church community center.With a congregation of more than 2,500 families, there is always something going on.

“We’re a big church and have a lot of different needs and functions that we just didn’t have the space for,” Robinson said. “We had a gym, but it didn’t have a kitchen, the kitchen we have in the school is old and too small.”

Now officially open for business, the community center is open to anyone for events and meetings. The 17,000-square-foot building features a commercial kitchen, stage, a large meeting space and several smaller rooms for gatherings.

St. Anthony Catholic School, a private school operated on the campus, will use the new community center as its cafeteria, Robinson said. The new community center will also allow the church’s severe weather warming shelter to expand, Robinson said. The shelter offers the city’s homeless population a warm meal and place to stay during the winter when the temperature drops near freezing.

“They have big plans to do some remodeling,” Robinson said.

The church has already received calls from community members, hoping to rent the space for community events, Robinson said. “We’ve gotten calls from the garden club, Art in the Burbs and Tualatin Boosters,” Robinson said. “We’ve had quite a few groups from Tigard and Tualatin contact us.”

Next: A new school

St. Anthony’s Tigard history runs deep. The parish has been running continuously since the 1800s, and the church’s main chapel was built in 1959. The church had a community center years ago, but it was converted into a middle school library and computer lab for St. Anthony Catholic School several years ago, Robinson said.

The new community center is only part of a larger master plan that calls for a new school to be built in the next several years.

“We need a break after this big project, so that will probably start in two or three years,” Robinson said.

The community center gives parish and St. Anthony school events priority, but Robinson said that the community center is open to everyone in the community.

“This is what we have been waiting for, for so long,” Robinson said. “This is one of the things that was really missing.

“It’s great to see so many activities in here, already. A family had their child baptized the other day and they were taking pictures in front of the fountain. Those are the things we’ve always wanted to be able to do.”

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