Building from the rubble: Mt. Tabor Baptist Church pastor planning family life center after tornado

Polk County

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Some people would let a tornado defeat them but the pastor at Mt. Tabor Baptist Church sees it as an opportunity.

The church was badly damaged by October’s EF-2 tornado. The ministry center, which housed the food bank, was destroyed.

“It was 14 to 16 hour days for weeks on end,” said Pastor Matt Gilmore. “Time has passed and we’re getting our feet back underneath us again.”

The roof has been covered by tarp for nearly three months and will be replaced on Jan. 13.

Other repairs are ongoing, including on windows and the front porch.

The real change is yet to come as Gilmore is embracing the silver lining and making a dream become a reality.

“I see that God removed a house and a tree so we could place a building,” he said. “That building will be a greater place of ministry than we’ve ever had before. It’s always something this church has dreamed about.”

He’s calling the project “2020 Legacy.”

The pastor is planning to build a playground and new family life center, which will include the new food bank, storage, open air space, and volleyball and basketball courts.

“This place is not just surviving, but it’s a thriving place for ministry for many many generations to come for this community,” Gilmore said.

Gilmore estimates it will cost half a million dollars to make all the repairs and build the new family life center.

He was disappointed when county commissioners declined to waive a $3,700 construction permit fee.

“I got the message that they weren’t here for us and that was disheartening, other than Commissioner John Hall,” he said.

Gilmore is making it work with insurance money and tens of thousands of dollars in private donations.

“We’ve had people send checks, we’ve had people walk in the door and write checks to us that we don’t even know who they are. They just show up and say ‘we want to help you out’,” he said.

Pastor Gilmore hopes to have the family life center open by summer.

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