Spring Garden Church forges ahead during uncertain future


Vera Dereskavich has been going to St. Michaels All Angels Lutheran Church for more than 70 years, and for her the place is filled with fond memories. She remembers a bustling hub of activity, with everything from girl scouts and weddings, to neighborhood events. For more than 120 years, the Church has been a gathering place, where people go to worship and to seek help during tough times.

Perched near the top of Homer Street and resting along the side of Spring Garden Road, St. Michaels All Angels Lutheran Church has changed over the years. With a chapel in one neighborhood and a church with full facilities in another, the parishioners are struggling with rising costs in an area where people need help the most.

St. Michaels currently operates $25,000 into the red each year, forcing the Church to dip into its savings to continue vital programs such as food relief, group sessions of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous and various other charitable activities. Parishioners know that their savings will run out, and have acted proactively – scheduling a variety of fundraisers and figuring out new ways to make money – with ideas like renting out their meeting hall and seeking outside sources of funding.

Dereskavich has complete faith in the ability of her church and its parishioners to make a comeback, and knows that despite the current outlook their situation will improve.

“We’ve gone up and we’ve gone down over the years,” Dereskavich said. “With faith we always come back again, that’s the thing.”

Pastor Patricia Bonds, known affectionately by her parishioners as “Pastor Pat”,  has been with this particular church for a year now, and has seen the central role it plays in the lives of so many in the neighborhood.

“The Church has a long history and a good reputation in the community and it’s important to the people of Spring Garden and Spring Hill,” Bonds said.

But faced with declining revenues and savings account, Bonds sees about two to three years to turn the situation around. And the congregation has come up with ideas that range from lotteries, brick engraving to solicit sponsorships, rummage sales and more. These will all help deal with a problem that the congregation has decided to tackle head on.

“That’s where we are and we need to face it,” Bonds said. “We have two and a half, three years to turn it around.”

St. Michaels All Angels Lutheran Church provides a variety of services. More than 100 people use their Alcoholics Anonymous program. Another 20 use the Narcotics Anonymous program. More than 75 families use the food bank run out of the Church, a number that is only growing. There are 60 people served by the meals on wheels program the Church helps support and the meeting space is used by various groups, including the Community Alliance of Spring Garden/East Deutschtown.

Bob Herbert runs the local food bank out of the Church in Spring Garden. They pay rent, share resources and support needy families in the community since they moved into the church in 1981.

“We use St. Michaels because of the name and that everyone knows where the Church is. It’s the community recognition,” Herbert said. He runs the food bank with his wife and about four volunteers.

But for now, the parishioners continue to work on ways to improve the community around them, and their year is only just beginning.

The first of their events is a rummage and bake sale scheduled for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on March 28 and 29. There will be a variety of items, including household goods, and baked treats as well.

For more information call, 412-321-2183 or email stmichaelallangelslutheran@verizon.net.

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