Thanks to pastor’s vision, church revives bakery, builds childcare center in Marlborough district
By Kathy Feist
In the foyer of the Evangel Spiritual Temple, a 14-year-old plant and nearby ivy have grown the height of the ceiling and is now spreading outward.
One could say the church it is growing in is doing the same. The church, built at 85th and Flora around 15 years ago, has had remarkable growth in membership and is now branching out into the neighborhood to help save it.
In the past year, the church has revived a bakery/deli at 80th and Paseo and is on the brink of building a new childcare center at 86th and Flora.
The church, the future childcare center and especially the bakery/deli are located in the Marlborough district, an area that runs from Gregory to 89th St and 71 Hwy to Troost.
And the person responsible for the church’s up and outward growth is Hubert McDonald, Senior Pastor at Evangel Spiritual Temple, also known as EST International Ministries.
In 2001, Pastor McDonald stood at a light pole near 85th and Flora and stared at a vacant plot filled with trees. At the time his growing congregation of 75 members was renting space near Meyer and Rockhill Rd in Brookside.
“The Lord impressed upon me to start looking for land,” he recalls. “He brought me out here. He showed me this vision.”
By 2005, the plot of land contained a two-story wooden church, painted a crisp white with yellow trim. The nondenominational church has since grown to 200 members.
The Childcare Center
Soon, a childcare center was established by the church in a nearby rental home. When the house fell into disrepair recently, church members decided to relocate the daycare to the church basement and sanctuary while they took out a loan to build a new center.
“The state has given variance predicated on getting the new building up the street at 86th and Flora,” says McDonald.
There are about 30 children enlisted in the daycare and the before and after school programs. McDonald’s wife Barbara oversees the daycare along with several helpers.
When the Sweet Chariot Childcare Center is built, it will consist of eight classrooms, a commercial kitchen, playground, covered drop-off area, a nature walk, and pear and apple trees. It will be open to ages 0 through 12. McDonald hopes to keep the costs affordable as well as take in state-funded students.
The childcare center will be an added blessing to the neighborhood which has seen the closing of two elementary schools as well as a parochial preschool.
Vee’s Sweets & Treats
With the recent closing of Sav-A-Lot grocery store on 85th and Holmes and the once popular Mexican restaurant Mama Tio’s on 80th and Paseo, the neighborhood has become a food desert. A lonely bakery and deli called Vee’s Sweets and Treats on 80th and Paseo, closed its doors in June 2019. The church purchased the business a few months later. After a thorough cleaning, the shop was reopened in February 2020.
“I was glad we opened it back up,” says McDonald. “When we opened on the first day, there were lines going around the corner.”
Former owner Vee Tony stayed on to teach the new owners the ropes and how to make her freshly baked sandwich bread, donuts, pastries, cookies and cakes. (Vee retires at the end of the year. The church is currently seeking a part time baker.)
The bakery and deli have gained a wide following, with customers arriving from as far as Lawrence, Excelsior Springs and Shawnee.
The freshly baked round sandwich bread contains a selection of deli meats and cheeses shaved thin and piled high. Lunch combos include a cookie or glazed donut, chips and a drink.
A church-run eating establishment is a unique idea, but to McDonald, it was a natural evolution. “The idea was dropped on me by the Lord,” he says. “He told me a few years ago we were going to have a restaurant like Subway. He talked to my spirit.”
“When he tells me something, I say OK.”
The church added canned grocery items for sale to further the shop’s service to the neighborhood.
The Marlborough Community Coalition
In 2007, McDonald helped form the Marlborough Community Coalition, which consists of representatives from five surrounding neighborhoods in the district. Since then, the Coalition has saved the city-run Community Center from shutting down, added artsy street signs and murals, and received funding for a Nature+Play park on 82nd and Troost, which includes art sculptures, new playground equipment and an amphitheater. Earlier this year, the city initiated a tax incentive plan for Marlborough home and business owners who improve their property. Already, developers are interested in buying a school building and turning it into market rate apartments with commercial retail space.
“The Lord has given me a vision that the area is just getting started,” says McDonald. “It’s turning into a gold mine.”