After making renovations last year, members of St. John's United Church of Christ in Union said they saw an increased interest in the church.
To fix the hail and storm damage and enhance the property, renovations were made to the church, including: installing storm windows; a new sign; new doors; fresh paint; paving and expanding the parking lot; making the church handicap accessible; installing new lights; and re-doing the outside, said Rev. Frank Szewczyk, pastor and teacher of St. John's UCC.
"A lot of people knew the church and would drive by it all the time," Szewczyk said. "Now, it sort of pops out. We get a lot of compliments on the church now."
The renovations took about six months and totaled approximately $130,000, he said. Costs were shared by insurance and by the congregation's savings. The M&M's, a group within the church, also produced a cookbook for the church's 115-year anniversary, Szewczyk said.
"We've taken in about eight or nine new members for the year," he said. "That's a good number for a small church."
Szewczyk said the numbers in Sunday School also grew.
He said the church has members from all different religious backgrounds and how long they have attended the church.
"One of the things the UCC has been all about is an extravagant welcome, welcoming everyone," he said. "We embrace that, and we feel good about the new people that have joined us and the new energy."
The church also participates in community events each year, such as the Union picnic, and offers activities for the children, Szewczyk said. Last year, the church held a Twinkie-eating contest at the picnic; and this year, will most likely hold a bake-off, he said.
Margo Whited, a Marengo resident and public relations person for the church, said she has been a member for about two and half years.
"It's a small church, but it's like a large family," Whited said. "You're never feeling alone."
Paula K. George, a resident of Woodstock, said she started attending the church in January 2011 and became a member on May 15, 2011.
"I had been a member of UCC in Algonquin while kids were growing up," George said. "My husband past away in October 2010, and feeling lost in life, I knew I wanted to return to the church. From the first day, Rev. Frank and the members welcomed me in with loving, caring arms."
Brenda Moehling, a Union resident, said she grew up attending the church and was confirmed and married at the church.
"Everyone's very kind and cares about your life," Moehling said. "If you have a problem, everyone helps you out."
St. John's UCC is located at 17824 Jefferson Street in Union. For more information, call the church at 815-923-4203.