Former and current military service members, their families and crowds of volunteers packed into the Dobbins Chapel on Sunday at its new home at Clay National Guard Center for a dedication ceremony.
When the 63-year-old chapel originally constructed at Dobbins Air Force Reserve Base became in line to be torn down, the Dobbins Chapel Foundation stepped up to save the 4,000-square-foot church.
“It was scheduled to meet the wrecking ball,” said John Powers, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel who led the charge to save and restore the chapel.
Dobbins Chapel is closed to Powers’ heart. He oversaw it as a support group commander while in the Air Force and was married in the chapel about 44 years ago to his wife, Ann, who sat beaming in the first pew of the church Sunday while John Powers welcomed guests inside and thanked volunteers for their hard work.
“I was thinking that she thought I was back on active duty and deployed,” Powers joked about his long days working to restore the chapel.
Progress was slow, Powers said, for the foundation formed in 2005, until an anonymous donor offered in January 2013 to pay for the expense of moving the building from the air reserve base to the Clay National Guard Center.
The chapel took about a year to restore, Powers said, and countless hours of volunteer support. A Home Deport grant also helped the restoration become reality.
“They are doing to use this chapel for many years to come,” Powers said.
A group of churches known as The Covenant Churches began working on similar projects in 1999 throughout Cobb and lent their help to the cause. The Covenant Churches are Mt. Zion United Methodist Church, Catholic Church of St. Ann, Episcopal Church of St. Peter and St. Paul and Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, all in east Cobb.
Jack Gibbs, of Mt. Zion, said it just made sense to get involved when his church heard about the chapel. He said the church has been active in Habitat for Humanity projects, which builds homes for low-income residents, and supports military members.
“The churches have been supporting soldiers who have been deployed,” Gibbs said.
Adjutant Gen. Jim Butterworth of the Georgia National Guard attended Sunday’s ceremony and said the service members at Clay National Guard need a place to worship.
“Our team has a lot of challenges,” Butterworth said. “We have a thousand people deployed right now.”