Fifty years in the community and $300,000 in debt, Royal Palm Covenant Church is in desperate need of money and in jeopardy of closing its doors.
Not just a place of worship, but a community gathering point, the church long has been a center for assisting people in the community, from all walks of life.
The church’s financial troubles date back to the devastating hurricanes of 2004-05, which blew off the church’s roof and did dramatic infrastructure damage. Lean economic times have made it difficult for the church to keep up, said Rev. Michael Rose, the church’s pastor for the past nine years.
Rose and his congregation are pleading for $300,000 to pay off the banks in order to save the church. The bank has been working with the church, Rose noted. It presented a workout option of $50,000 to keep the account current. Unfortunately, that will cover only the accumulated interest that the church owes.
Rose, has been on a frantic mission to save the church. The church has set up a building fund with PNC Bank and TD Bank so that people can donate money to the church at any of their branches.
“All people have to do is to go into any one of those banks, and say they would like to make a contribution to the Royal Palm Covenant Church building fund,” Rose said. “That’s all we need for people to do to reach our goal.”
So far through the bank fundraiser, the church has raised about $4,000. “Our main goal is to pay off the $300,000 this year, to get this financial burden off of us so we can carry out our ministries,” Rose said.
Known for being the oldest church in Royal Palm Beach, the church is located at the southern end of Royal Palm Beach Blvd. It opened in 1962 and was previously known as the Evangelical Covenant Church. Rose is the church’s fourth pastor, along with his wife Carolyn, who serves as co-pastor.
Rose has initiated programs such as the Youth Xplosion for young people to learn about important issues affecting them through several days of workshops and entertainment. He also started the church’s after-school tutoring program, which provides inexpensive instruction for students from low-income families.
“If the church is closed down, then many of its programs go with it,” food pantry volunteer Berbeth Lewis said. “I don’t know what these people would do without it.”
The pantry feeds more than 300 people per week, many families with small children or homeless people, who all depend on the church’s pantry for sustenance. “Right now, we are classified as a Class B agency, so that allows us to go down and purchase food from Feeding South Florida,” Lewis said.
The pantry is open only on Thursdays for a couple of hours. “We are the only ones who have a weekly pantry in the western communities,” Lewis said. “And some people from as far west as Belle Glade come and as far east as West Palm Beach.”
Lewis hopes that despite its problems, the church will be revived. “I hope the membership will grow back to what it was or more,” she said.
When Lewis first began going to the church in 2004, she noticed a change in the membership. “Many of the members left after the former pastor left,” she said. “And that cut the membership drastically at that time.”
In recent years, membership began to pick up. “There were times when the church was full,” she said. “And we had a lot of young people coming here and going to the Sunday school.”
Recently, the membership began to decline again. “I’m hoping that with some changes, the membership will grow again,” Lewis said.
With so many people to feed every week, Lewis does not know how they are even sustaining the food pantry program. “I only have around $75 to purchase food every week,” she said. “Even though the food is not that expensive through Feeding South Florida, our pantries are always bare, because we don’t have enough food.”
The church is close to many people’s hearts in the community, from business owners to the elderly, Rose said. Some have been members for decades.
“A lot of people have already told us, ‘We don’t want this church to go; it has to stay here, because this is the church we used to go to when we were young,’” Rose said. “Our oldest member just celebrated her 99th birthday.”
Local accountant John Spillane has been doing the church’s finances for many years and understands how much of an impact it has on the community. “If people knew what the church was about, they would help,” he said. “From its food pantry to the after-school tutoring program, it helps a lot of people.”
The multicultural church also has a Creole ministry, which has become an integral part of the congregation.
Royal Palm Covenant Church has also been a catalyst for many local churches and congregations of other faiths in the area.
“We have been a blessing to many ministries here,” Rose said. “Synagogues and Catholic churches — they all meet here at some point.”
The church is located at 660 Royal Palm Beach Blvd. For more information, or to make a donation, call (561) 793-1077 or visit your local PNC Bank or TD Bank branch.