Vail Interfaith Chapel launches $10 million capital campaign
It took a concerted community effort to build the Vail Interfaith Chapel, now 50 years old. It’s going to take a similar effort to keep the chapel vital for the next half-century.
Supporters have launched a $10 million fundraising campaign for the chapel, which includes a lot of immediate work, money for a new roof in a few years and, importantly, a reserve fund.
Katie Campbell, who’s running the campaign, said the reserve fund of $2 million will keep up with maintenance over the next 25 years.
Another $6 million to $7 million will help replace the roof, the current heating system — which is original to the building — and re-pave the parking lot.
The parking lot was re-paved with a snowmelt system during the last renovation in the 1990s. But the snowmelt system failed about seven years ago, and there was no money to replace it. That project will include the parking lot, the walkway and chapel steps. The roof is wooden-shake shingles, and no longer meets town codes. The project also calls for replacing the chapel’s windows, also original to the building.
The immediate project also includes landscaping for the property running down to Gore Creek. That area is frequently used for weddings, and improvements will mesh with the town of Vail’s “Restore the Gore” campaign to improve water quality in the stream.
Rod Slifer was in charge of the original campaign to build the chapel.
“The line I used was, ‘It’s going to be a nondenominational church; if you give, you’ll have a better chance of going to heaven.’ Nobody turned me down,” Slifer said.
The idea then, as now, was to provide one home for many different faith families. Even 50 years ago, Vail was short on land for community amenities such as churches. Pastor Don Simonton and others decided that several congregations could share one space.
It’s a unique idea. While military facilities serve different faith groups, very few communities have shared chapel spaces.
The idea has worked well over the years.
Pastor Carl Walker followed Simonton as leader of the Mount of the Holy Cross Lutheran congregation, and was chairman of the Vail Religious Foundation for 14 of the 15 years he was pastor of the church.
In that role, Walker led the fundraising for a chapel renovation in 1990.
Now retired and living in Gypsum, Walker is working again on this capital campaign.
“There’s been a lot of interest, but we still need some major donors,” Walker said. “We’re working on that.”
That interest comes because the chapel remains a “really good idea,” Walker said. “It’s kind of the soul of the valley.”
While Walker likes the current campaign’s chances of meeting its goal, he added that times have changed in recent years.
Fewer people are attending church these days, he said. Still, the chapel is well-used for weddings, and the facility serves many community needs, from several Alcoholics Anonymous meetings every week to classical musical performances during the Bravo! Vail music festival. The chapel also serves as an overflow shelter when storms close Interstate 70 over Vail Pass.
Walker still marvels at the cooperation between the congregations that call the chapel home.
He noted that he had a medical emergency on a trip to Africa several years ago. On his way back, “I think I got more calls, cards and expressions of support from B’Nai Vail (the Jewish congregation) than I did from my own.”
Walker added that it’s been a challenging year for the congregations that use the Vail chapel, with little in-person use.
“In spite of that, we’re going ahead, Walker said. “We have the vision, and this is the time to fix it up for the next 50 years.”
Slifer said the campaign hasn’t really started rolling yet. But, he added, “I hope we can get a meaningful amount (of donations) during the holiday season. Christmas is a good time for giving.”
And, while the chapel campaign can be explained in lengthy presentations, the mission is simple, Slifer said: “Send money, send money.”
6: Congregations that use the chapel in Vail, including Catholic, Jewish, Lutheran, Prebyterian, Episcopalian and Baptist.
34,000: Residents and guests per year that attend worship services at the chapel.
10,000: People per year that attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings at the chapel.
100: Families in the past five years who have used the chapel as emergency shelter during winter storms.