About two weeks after the major storm that caused flooding and damage across Santa Barbara County, dozens of volunteers are making progress repairing the Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara building, where parts of the church were left under water from flooding.
While work is being done to restore the building, the church has been holding its Sunday morning services at the Arlington Theatre.
The heavy rain caused about 2.5 feet of water to flood the church’s children’s area, in addition to standing water and flooding throughout the rest of the building.
Kids were happy, though, to learn that the large play boat and the kitchen in the children’s area had survived.
It wasn’t the first time that Senior Pastor Tommy Schneider had seen the church flood. It flooded in 1995, when he was working as a janitor for the church.
The difference this time, however, according Schneider, was that the building wasn’t finished by the time of the 1995 flood, but it was this time, and the children’s area had even recently completed renovations in the months prior.
Volunteers — including members of the church and other churches, and even other people from the community who are not part of Calvary Chapel — have been drying out the walls and furniture, replacing drywall, removing about 30,000 square feet of flooring, repainting and more.
“It’s a devastating amount of work, both financially and also just labor-wise,” Schneider said.
Some furniture was saved and is in storage, but cabinetry throughout the building was destroyed.
Schneider said nearly a mile of drywall has been replaced, and everything that was 2 feet and below was damaged or destroyed.
But with a minimum of 50 volunteers working on repairs each day, the church is well on its way to returning services to the chapel by its goal of Feb. 5.
“Shortly, within about an hour after we got here [to survey damage on Jan. 10], there were over 50 volunteers — they just took it upon themselves to show up,” Schneider said. “It’s also really very special to serve together. It kind of brings people together.”
While volunteers worked and remained “upbeat,” as Schneider said, other neighboring churches have come to bring food for volunteers and raise money towards the rebuild efforts.
Other things that have had to be done to rebuild include redoing the skate ramp in the area for older children, repairing offices and the main sanctuary, and sanitizing everything, among other work to refurbish the church.
“We have received an outpouring of people coming by and helping wherever they can,” Schneider said. “I’m just really overwhelmed by the beautiful, loving care of our city, of other churches, of people’s generosity. … It’s really a beautiful thing.”
Schneider also reflected on the 2018 mudslide and debris flows in Montecito, and the work they did at the time.
“Five years before, with the mudslides, we were not only in the zone with all the first responders for eight days, feeding them, but then we housed FEMA in [the church] for the first 30 days and saw all the victims of the flood get care from FEMA here,” Schneider said. “So five years ago, we were getting to share our care to others, and now this time we’re receiving the care.”
According to the Calvary Chapel’s flood updates, city and environmental inspectors have approved their drywall extraction, allowing them to move forward with rebuilding, and gave them “a ‘clean’ bill of health on the building.”
The update also said that volunteers have completed “phase one,” consisting of demolition, flooring salvage, wall drying, and sanitization, and are now moving onto the “rebuild, refurbish and refresh of all of the walls and flooring.”