Dave and Kathy Clark of rural Westby have always lived a mission-based life. They look for the good in people and lend a helping hand whenever one is needed. This time though it is the Clarks who are in need of a helping hand after learning that planned upgrades to the Cornerstone Christian Academy gymnasium skyrocketed from a planned $30,000 investment to $200,000 in the blink of an eye.
Five years ago the Clarks purchased a vacant building adjacent to the Cornerstone Christian Academy and renovated it into a gymnasium allowing the school to expand its physical education classes. Dave, the owner/operator of Clucker’s Repair of rural Westby, and Kathy, an educator at Cornerstone Christian Academy, felt students at the school needed a place to release their energy, a decision that proved to be priceless in their eyes.
The new space opened a door of opportunity for Cornerstone students to stay active by joining Tri-County Athletics (a Christian club boys and girls basketball team); became a haven from the storm when inclement weather didn’t allow students to be outdoors for recess; and was a place to practice indoor soccer and volleyball during the winter months. The large facility also allowed the school to host special events and is booked solid most of the year.
Hoping to better meet all the growing demands for use of the structure, the Clarks decided to coincide reroofing the building this summer with raising the roof to better accommodate sporting events held in the gymnasium. So plans were set in motion to raise the concrete walls six feet, upgrade the lighting and redo the arched roof with a flat roof.
Vernon County is not zoned, so the Clarks were under the impression they didn’t need a permit to make changes to the building. That assumption turned out to be a costly one after Amish laborers removed the old roof of the building; the new trusses and lumber was already on site; only to find out that the scope of the project upgrades required state approval which the Clarks did not have halting workers in their tracks.
With $30,000 budgeted to make changes to the building, the Clarks were flabbergasted to find out that raising the roof of the building required state licensed permits, blueprints and contractors and the work could not be done by Amish laborers, who are unlicensed. The new information raised the overall costs by an estimated $170,000; money the Clarks don’t have in their budget.
To make matters worse the roof of the building had already been removed before the state inspector made an unscheduled stop at the construction site halting the project and storms last month left a mess inside the roofless frame of the building.
Since learning the error of their ways, the Clarks have invested in state approved architect blueprints and hired a licensed masonry to raise the concrete walls to the new height. They are working hard to find a licensed roofing contractor to enclose the building before more damage to the inside occurs.
“This project would have been done by now, but instead we are at the mercy of the state. School will be starting soon and this building is nowhere near completion. It so frustrating,” Dave said.
The Clark’s know that God has a plan, but they are solely confused on how to fund the unexpected costs to the building project. Dave said since dealing with the state he has learned more about concrete blocks than he ever cared to know and every time he thinks he understands something a new wrench is thrown his way. Kathy, an educator at Cornerstone for the past 14 years said, life is complicated and nothing seems to get any easier. She said her position at the school is unpaid since the school struggles to make payroll and she elected to donate her time to better the lives of others through educating students without financial gain.
“Dave and I are trying so hard to do God’s work by helping the school, students and so many others that use this building. We don’t charge for using the space. Freewill donations are appreciated, but they don’t even cover the cost for utilities,” Kathy said adding,” We do this because we care and want to make a difference.”
Cornerstone Christian Academy is a member of the Association of Christian School International (ACSI). The K4 through 12 grade school has approximately 30 students and has been in existence since 1993. It was founded by a group of parents and community members looking to provide a faith based education. Anyone wishing to help the Clarks in their mission to get the school’s gymnasium operational again can make secure donations at https://www.youcaring.com/thegym-890231 or mail a fee-free donation made out to the GYM and mail it to: The GYM, Dave and Kathy Clark, S2081 County Rd D, Westby, WI, 54667.