WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — A church that has stood in downtown Wichita Falls for well over 130 years broke ground Thursday on making some improvements to better their parish hall and hopefully the community too.

While the church is 137 years old, they built the parish hall in 1926, so it’s safe to say focus on accessibility has increased in the last 100 years, and they want to correct that.

“I just can’t get this smile off my face because of the fact of all of the help from the church, the donors, the money that came in – it’s a blessing; every bit of it has been a blessing, so I like this smile, I like to smile a lot,” Church of the Good Shepherd Parish Administrator Pop Crase said.

Those smiles were contagious in downtown Wichita Falls at the Church of the Good Shepherd as they officially broke ground on the elevator addition to its parish hall.

“You know, back then they weren’t thinking about accessibility, and today we are,” Father Brian Chase said. “We want to make sure that our church is accessible to every single person in Wichita Falls, and we are thrilled at being able to take the first steps to make that happen.”

The lack of accessibility is a problem everyone’s noticed over the years, like long-time member Carol Janecka.

“The parish has gotten older over the years, and we’ve had people who couldn’t come to events because they couldn’t get into the building,” Janecka said.

Especially with the current set up, the only option is to take the stairs – with the lift on the outside no longer working – something Father Chase said they found to not be suitable for the building.

“It ended up breaking down, and one older parishioner got stuck in it – a matter of fact, so it’s stories like that made this really matter to us,” Father Chase said.

Those stories are what kept this project alive for the last four years, so after raising $300,000, Crase said the groundbreaking makes it all worth it.

“It’s been a long process, but like I said, today is the day that everything has come together,” Crase said.

The church is ready to offer this accessibility to parishioners, but it is also ready to see it go way beyond the doors of the church.

“It means that we can open up our parish hall to the whole community, from blood drives to vaccinations to community events as a venue, there’s so many ways we can contribute to the community now that we didn’t have before,” Father Chase said.

With so much right now, they are anticipating inflation on some aspects of this project, so they are fundraising another $80,000 to offset those costs.

For more on how to help and the project, click here.