LAKEVIEW — You wouldn't be able to tell from the outside, but for more than 40 years, Lake View Presbyterian Church has been more than a house of worship.
It's been a home to Lake View Academy, an alternative high school for Chicago Public Schools dropouts that's graduated more than 360 kids over the years.
Without a sign on the building at 716 W. Addison St., mostly only people working with high school dropouts know about it, said the Rev. Joy Douglas Strome, the church pastor.
"It's not an evangelical effort," she said. "They're not church programs we're planning. They're community programs we feel called to do as members of this church. We've always had a heart for this community."
Serena Dai chats about Lake View Presbyterian Church and its many community programs:
Now the church wants to double the capacity of the program by demolishing its western building and building a new one — one that's twice as tall and more accessible for all the church's community programs.
It's already raised $500,000 for the $6 million project, Strome said.
"We’re going through a whole list of 'Who do you know?' until we’ve told the stories enough times that we can find people who are interested in investing in it," she said.
Besides the diploma program, the building acts as a community space for others, too.
The church serves about 5,000 meals to senior citizens each year, most of whom are not members of the church. Hundreds of LGBT youths have flocked to the church each Friday night for food, movies and dancing.
In total, the church's estimated total value to the community is $875,000 a year.
A new building would increase space for students, including adding a daycare or playgroup area to help both teen parents at the academy and local single parents. Additional room would allow them to add a second service night for LGBT youths.
And the building would add a new coffee shop, which would act as a community space and as a job training spot, called "Third Space."
"It's this term in sociology that says you need three spaces to be healthy," Strome said. "You need a job, a home and a third space where people know you, and you're not anonymous. The coffee shop will be the third space for everyone coming to the program. "
As the community work has grown, so has the congregation. In the past 17 years, the number of people attending the church as quadrupled.
Updating the amount of space for community programs, Strome said, has been an ongoing goal.
"We’ve had it as a dream for a long time," Strome said.
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