“She looks pretty rugged right now, a little worn around the edges,” said retired Air Force Reserve Col. John Powers, chairman of the nonprofit foundation. “But you can assure that this chapel foundation is committed to making sure this chapel looks good again.”
Moved for security
After Col. Tim Tarchick, commander of Dobbins Air Reserve Base, received proper clearance, the chapel was off on its two mile journey across the complex’s runway to a spot at the Clay National Guard Center. The John Deere 544K loader carrying the 60,000-pound building made quick work, taking the church nearly out of sight within minutes.
Tarchick told the audience of about 50 people that the chapel had to be moved because of post-Sept. 11 security demands that Dobbins build a new access road right where the building had been located since 1950. Since no federal funds can be spent on a chapel at a reserve base, that left the building’s future in question.
He called signing the papers to build the road among the toughest decisions he’s had to make.
Tarchick praised the seven members of the Dobbins Chapel Foundation, a group of retired air reservists, for their work in raising money to move the chapel and keep it from demolition.
“To many who have been a part of Dobbins over the years, the chapel was a spiritual home, where prayers were prayed, marriages began, children were dedicated and loved ones were said goodbye to,” he said. “I knew the chapel roots were deep, I didn’t realize how wide they were.”
Powers thanked an anonymous donor who earlier this year pledged $80,000 to the nonprofit foundation that allowed the building to be moved.
“Had it not been for that donor, I would not be standing here today,” he said. “That chapel would be a pile of ruble in a landfill somewhere.”
But work remains on the chapel. The chapel foundation, which bought the 4,000-square-foot white church from Dobbins for $1, has a year to bring the building up to military code, which would allow it to host services again.
Powers said the work, which will require new siding and air conditioning and plumbing systems, will cost $50,000.
While the foundation had already raised $20,000 of that, he said much of that went toward unexpected costs of $3,500 to cut trees on the Clay side of the base and $11,000 to a Georgia power company to move power lines.
Both those alterations were required in order to move the chapel.
“It’s a sticker shock that we have to pay so much money,” Powers said. “Since we are a 501(c)3, we thought that would get us some breaks.”
Powers said he’d never seen anything like the church being towed across the runway.
The process of moving it was expected to take between four and five hours.
“To stand here and watch that chapel go across there it really is unbelievable — once in a lifetime,” he said.
Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin, who sat in the front row at the ceremony, said it always gave him a good feeling to see a church at a military base when he drove by the building along Cobb Parkway.
“I think it says a lot about the intangible side of our military,” Tumlin said. “They’ve got to make decisions for strategic reasons, but to let the people who love the chapel have input into saving it, it brings a lot of pride to me … I’m glad we can’t sequester the spirit.”
Want to help?
For information on donating to restoring the Dobbins Chapel, call (770) 455-3094.