Where is the First Street Church?

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Where is the First Street Church?
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More than a year ago, Evan Almighty director Tom Shadyac bought a grand old church on First and Market streets for the purpose of transforming the lives of the homeless and otherwise disadvantaged. A year later, construction has yet to start. “I don’t think we had a real grasp this wasn’t going to be an overnight experience,” says PACEM’s Adriana Nicholson, who is on the church’s steering committee.

According to the church’s newly hired project director, Janet Matthews, groundbreaking should finally take place sometime next month. “The building has been prepared for renovation,” says Matthews, who occupies a similar role for the Virginia Film Festival (which is where she met Shadyac). As such, her task is to coordinate among the many different organizations, volunteer and otherwise, that are involved in the planning, construction and operation of the church.


Tom Shadyac’s church may break ground next month.

“It is my job to make sure there is a smooth transition from construction to completion,” she says.

When the church is finished—it is hoped, in time for Thanksgiving—it will be a “one-stop shop” for job counseling, Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings, social services, mental health counseling, and essential medical services.

“Tom would like to have the community become involved on various levels,” she says, echoing the expressed wishes of the director himself. Hired three weeks ago, Matthews is currently hammering out the “strategic planning process for programmatic needs.”

Presumably, one of her chief challenges will be finding someone to run the day shelter that will occupy the lower level of the church. “We’d like to have a group of community organizations step up,” she says, to fill this void. As soon as she completes the job description, they will begin the search.

Matthews says that, in the meantime, new windows have already been installed and construction contracts are being lined up. “The bureaucratic wheels are turning.”

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