“You give one million dollars, and I’ll shave my head.”
Father David Allen, priest at Holy Family Catholic Church in Port Allen, said that once the words left his mouth several months ago on a Sunday morning from the pulpit, he realized what he had done – and that he couldn’t take back what he’d said.
In November 2011, Fr. Allen helped organize a campaign to raise money for renovation on the campus – specifically the church’s worship space.
“As the campaign was going on earlier this year, we got a good start and then it slowed down, and I was kind of wondering would we make that goal,” said Fr. Allen.
That goal, he said, was between $1 million and $1.2 million.
Fr. Allen caught the attention of the parishioners of Holy Family when he made his head-shaving promise. He later added to his pledge that he would shave his beard as well if they could reach an extra $100,000, making the total $1.1 million.
“They clapped and got excited. So, there’s no going back on your word,” he said.
The campaign, “The Jubilee Campaign: the next steps,” is a continuation, of sorts, from a campaign the church held in 2000, “The Jubilee Campaign,” which raised enough money to procure a block of property on Jefferson Ave. that includes the current Jubilee Hall, Marian Hall and the lot of land behind it.
Church officials planned to continue with the project at that time, addressing physical needs of the church, but funding fell short.
“We’ve gotten a lot of service out of that property,” Fr. Allen said. “But also, it didn’t leave us enough to fully address what was needed in the church.”
He said that major renovations were needed in the church’s sanctuary, and officials want to convert Marian Hall into an administrative complex after the office building and adoration chapel were recently torn down after being condemned due to contamination.
So after months of planning, “the Jubilee Campaign: the next steps” began.
In mid-October, a few months after Fr. Allen’s promise, word spread that the million-dollar challenge had been met.
“A million dollars in this economy,” Fr. Allen said. “I think is amazing and says volumes about the quality of the people that we have in this church community.”
Shortly after receiving word of the mark being met, Fr. Allen set the date to go through with his end of the deal.
“We set November 18 as the day after the last service, that on the plaza right in front of the church, one of the parishioners would shave my head,” he said.
So Phyllis Barlow, a member of the campaign committee and hair dresser at Port Allen beauty salon Cut’n’Curl, buzzed away her priests hair as many gathered around to watch, cheer and photograph the promise being fulfilled.
“People are giving, not out of surplus, but out of their want… and I am humbled by it. I’m honored by the sacrifice they’re making,” Fr. Allen said. “Therefore the commitment is that the money be used well and wisely to accomplish what they hope with the worship space and the new office complex.”
Fr. Allen said that the money raised, along with money the church had saved will be used to make improvements to the carpet and floors in the sanctuary, as well as lighting, sound equipment and stage architecture.
He said they plan to add more handicap accessibility to the church, add windows to the sanctuary and renovate the restrooms.
“We hope to do a project that will probably be $1.5 million, which will be renovation of the church, renovation of Marian Hall to an administrative complex and a nice meeting room or two.”
Fr. Allen said that though his promise was to shave his head at the $1 million threshold, the campaign’s goal was to reach $1.2 million, so he’s still pushing to raise more money for the church.
“We’re still about 80 or 90 thousand (dollars) short of getting the beard off, but I’m hoping that goal will be reached,” he said. “Our plan is, God willing, in 2013, we’re going to be moving ahead and trying to get the ground broken to do what we need.”
He said he knows it will not be easy, but he is making a consorted effort to ask area businesses to help by donating.
Fr. Allen said he hopes to begin renovation next year, adding that though he has only been the church’s priest for three years, he knows that many parishioners are ready to see renovations taking place.
“People have waited an awful long time here. So it’s way past due,” he said.
He said that he would eventually like to see renovations done to Holy Family School as well.
“The next stage is sinking money into addressing needs at Holy Family School. That’s the third stage,” Fr. Allen said.
But for now, Fr. Allen will proudly sport his smoothed scalp knowing that Holy Family Church is one million dollars closer to getting the long awaited renovations and attention it deserves.