Vail Chapel capital campaign now past the halfway mark |

Vail Chapel capital campaign now past the halfway mark

50th anniversary campaign goal is $9.2 million

The Vail Interfaith Chapel needs work, which is being funded by a $9.2 million capital campaign.
Daily archive photo

The Vail Interfaith Chapel was unique when it was built. But it’s going to be expensive to ensure the facility can serve the community for decades to come.

The chapel is now more than a year into a 50th anniversary fundraising campaign. Work so far has included repaving the parking lot, replacing the roof, new windows and improved accessibility to meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Solar panels and electric vehicle chargers have also been installed.

Coming work includes replacing the elevator, renovating the Sacristy, renovating the lower level and improving the outdoor space between the chapel and Gore Creek and updating the chapel’s security and technology systems.

Construction this year will start just after Easter Sunday — April 17 — and last until Thanksgiving of this year. There will be breaks for weddings, of course.

The campaign started with a $10 million goal. That’s been reduced to $9.3 million. Pastor Tim Wilbanks of Covenant Presbyterian Church is the current head of the Vail Religious Foundation.

Wilbanks said the fundraising goal has dropped a bit due to some “pencil sharpening” on improvement costs. Even with the lowered goal, the campaign still includes line items for a $1 million reserve maintenance fund and $2 million for an endowment fund.

Gifts large and small

In addition to hosting religious services for six congregations, the Vail Interfaith Chapel hosts dozens of community groups and serves as an emergency shelter when Vail Pass closes. The facility has also hosted countless weddings in its history.
Daily archive photo

The campaign has been marked by some large gifts, including a $1 million contribution from longtime residents George and Betsy Wiegers. But, Wilbanks said, the campaign has also seen a host of smaller gifts, some as small as $5.

The town of Vail has pledged $500,000 to the effort, but with a caveat that gift would come at the end of the campaign. The Vail Town Council Tuesday agreed to immediately provide half of that gift. Council member Kevin Foley added he hopes the town will contribute more to the effort.

The campaign has helped in the ministry of the chapel, Wilbanks said, sending a message that the chapel is “not just a place for those who can give half a million — we need everybody.”

Katie Santambrogio is running the campaign for the Vail Religious Foundation. Santambrogio said the campaign has seen “hundreds” of contributions.

But there’s still a long way to go.

“We need to keep pushing,” Rev. Brooks Keith of the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration said.

The chapel needs to be preserved and updated because “What I’m hearing is the deep need we have for the chapel,” Keith said.

Ground is broken April 5, 2021, at the Vail Chapel for the first phase of renovations, which ncludes an updated parking lot and new roof.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily archive

Keith praised the progress so far, noting that it’s come in the teeth of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Improved safety

The pandemic has had an effect on planning improvements.

Rabbi Joel Newman of B’nai Vail said beyond the basic improvements, the changes being made are “extremely important.” Coming work will improve the air filtration system, helping create a “new, safe environment in the COVID age.” Newman also noted that adding cameras and other systems for security can help make the chapel safer for its parishioners and those who use the facility for community meetings.

“Everything they’re doing is going to make (the chapel) better for the community,” Newman said.

Those involved in the campaign are looking beyond immediate improvement to the future.

Wilbanks said he’s heard enthusiasm for the project from people at weddings. He replies that “We’re trying to set up for your granddaughter in 50 years.”

That resonates with Wilbanks, who’s a relatively grandparent himself.

And there are countless stories about the chapel’s significance.

“Everybody we talk to shares a story,” Santambrogio said.

Santambrogio is the subject of one of those stories. During Tuesday’s presentation to the Vail Town Council, Susie Davis, Santambrogio’s mother, said right after her daughter was born, she had to be flown to Denver for emergency care. Before driving to Denver, Davis stopped in the chapel for a few moments of reflection and prayer.

Other stories are more simple. The chapel once served as the home for Vail Mountain School.

Vail Mayor Kim Langmaid recalled attending classes at the chapel, noting, “I learned to tie my shoes there.”

By the numbers

$9.3 million: Vail Interfaith Chapel total fundraising goal.

$4.9 million: Contributions so far.

The money will be used for:

$6.3 million: Construction and campaign costs.

$1 million: Reserve maintenance fund.

$2 million: Endowment fund.

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