Local masons Travis Combs, of York, and Jeff Combs, right, team up to do the brick work on the front of the new parish hall at Exeter’s St. Stephens Catholic Church.
The new parish hall at Exeter’s St. Stephens sits back from the church and once finished, the architecture at the social hall will complement the historic church.
Construction began this summer on the new social hall at St. Stephens church which will replace their current social hall which is located in downtown Exeter, quite a distance from the church.
“This will be easily used for wedding receptions and parish activities. The other hall didn’t meet our needs anymore and we had accessibility issues there as well,” explained Father Tom Kuffel, "It has been a long desire for us to have a church hall on the property,”
Members of the congregation serve on the building committee to oversee the construction project. Members of the committee are Bob Dumpert, George Erdkamp, Barry Murphy, Gerry Geiger, Mark Becker, Bob Mueller, Vicki Geiger and Ranell Odvody.
The congregation raised about one third of the cost for construction and the rest of the funds were donated through wills and bequests to the project. Committee members Mueller and Vicki Geiger are thrilled with the new project, “It’s a much nicer facility with better spaces for our CCD classes, bigger bathrooms. . .it has a much larger capacity with better and more parking available. Just not having to climb stairs will be a key for most people, along with the fact that the upkeep should be easier with a new building.”
“The building meets all ADA requirements and it is designed to match the church,” said Kuffel, “Two of the old stained glass windows from the school that once stood nearby have been refurbished and will be placed in the front entrance area of the social hall.”
The only part of the project that is left to plan is the kitchen. The budget did not include finishing the kitchen so the congregation is still looking for donations to be able to complete that part of the building.
The exterior will have a brick and siding finish and Kuffel estimates that it will hold around 150 but doesn’t have an official capacity yet. The group also hopes to incorporate the bell from the school into the new building somehow. The hall doesn’t have a name yet, but there is still plenty of time for that.
“We hope to be able to have coffee and rolls here after services. We want to have pancake breakfasts, chili feeds and fish fry. We want this to be a regular part of the community and host funeral dinners, prenuptial dinners and small wedding receptions,” said Kuffel.
The new construction is set back from the church to make sure that the church is prominent. Kuffel explained that they hope to landscape the front of the hall to make a courtyard area connecting the two buildings.
The interior will have four classrooms, two of which will have a divider wall that can allow it to be a larger room, a very large kitchen and bathrooms. Kuffel reports that much of the interior finishing work will be completed by volunteers from the congregation.
Rogge Construction out of Lincoln is the main contractor but many of the subcontractors are local. “Rogge built the hall in Utica and they knew what we were looking for, They are using as many local contracts as they can. Exeter Lumber has been a good resource for us,” said Kuffel.