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Guthrie Center Times

October 17, 2007-  Ten years after an arsonist's gasoline and matches left a a fire-ravaged shell, there's new hope for the former All Saints Catholic Church in Stuart.
      At a meeting in Johnston last week, The Vision Iowa Board approved a grant of more than half a million dollars for the rare Byzantine-style church.
      The official grant application was the Stuart Entertainment and Economic Development Project. Total projected cost was $2,477,567 with a grant request of $544,937. Vision Iowa awarded $545,000.
      The fire-damaged and partially-restored historic All Saints building, formerly a church and now a meeting space, will be restored into a community cultural center able to hold up to 500 people for concerts, theater, meetings and weddings. It also will house the Institute of Religion and Peace, which seeks to promote awareness and understanding of the world's religions in order to avoid the violent tragedy that befell the building.
      "The Stuart project is a wonderful story of triumph over tragedy," said Vision Iowa Board Chairman Andy Anderson. "After a devastating fire, it would have been easy for citizens to give up on this building. Renovations will ensure that the former church will continue to serve the town. The dome component will be an incredible asset to the structure."
       Des Moines resident Charles Willard had issues with the Catholic Church when he decided to torch All Saints in Stuart. Engulfed by flames were a 90 foot copper dome, ornate stained glass windows and hand crafted European items and church accessories.
      The grant is contingent upon passage of a $1.7 million local bond referendum and the inclusion of the dome component to the restoration of the Historic All Saints building.
      The bond issue will be on the municipal election ballot November 6.
      Tom Smull, Des Moines and a Stuart native, has worked with The Project Restore Foundation since it was established in 1996. He said private donations total $232,000.
      The foundation has restored a section of the building that includes a small chapel, meeting room, kitchen and restrooms.


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