Volunteers help turn Phil Long center into sanctuary

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News this week that the Colorado Springs Housing and Building Association landed a new spot for its home show served as a reminder that the Phil Long Expo Center will no longer be available for trade shows.

The Springs Church purchased the building in October, and has already begun services at the 90,000-square-foot space.

The church hired one of its members, Monument-based Steiner Construction owner Ro’i Steiner, to convert the former expo center into an establishment that that will seat thousands.

So what’s the biggest challenge in converting an expo center into a mega-church?

“Managing all of the people who want to volunteer,” Steiner said.

That’s nice to hear. But seriously?

“I’m serious. I’ve done some church work and usually the volunteer is a member of the church with no real construction skills — they’ll offer to hold something or sweep,” he said. “We’ve been getting electricians and mechanics that aren’t even a part of the church. We’re putting in new HVACs and one company came in and removed all the old swamp coolers free of charge. Every night families come in and help us clean up. It’s a great problem to have.”

The rabid community involvement has helped Steiner hit the church’s aggressive deadline schedule. Services have already begun at the new building, and Steiner expects to complete the renovation in March — just three months after construction started.

“I’m used to a lot of pressure working on restaurants, stores and military recruiting centers,” Steiner said. “There’s always stress when you’re on a deadline, and we’re trying to do this in just three months. But we’re right on target and there hasn’t been an ounce of stress.”

The Springs Church was formerly located at the Jericho Center off Research Parkway on Chapel Hills Drive. Steiner said the congregation has grown from 40 to 1,200 in the last two years, which had the church on the look-out for a new place to rent when the Phil Long Expo Center fell in its lap.

“We got this building for $5 million. I wouldn’t have been able to build the shell for that price, let alone purchase the property,” Steiner said. “It came with a fully developed parking lot and land space. We did some fund-raising and were able to put $2 million down. Our mortgage is less than what we would be paying in rent.”

The new digs will help the church meet its growing demand for youth services. The renovated building will have a puppet theatre, and numerous grade-school rooms with full stages and theater lights that can double for seminars.

I told Steiner that it sounds like his church hit the jackpot with its new building.

“That’s not how we see it. It’s providence,” he said.

Top 10 scams

From the saints, we move on to the sinners.

I talked to the Southern Colorado Better Business Bureau’s Director of Media Relations Katie Carroll about the top 10 scams of 2010.

From the sound of it, if these hucksters could redirect their creative energies from scamming, we’d have sturdier bridges and could look to end world hunger.

The bottom line: You likely don’t have a cousin in Yemen, and if you do, he’s not looking to help you out.

The list:

Advanced Fee Loans: These “lenders” ask for an upfront fee in order to process your loan. You wire the fee money and never see the loan.

Auto-Service Contracts: The consumer purchases a phantom warranty, or a warranty with so many caveats that it’s rendered useless.

Door-to-Door Sales: The consumer gives out financial information for a magazine subscription or construction work that never materializes.

Free Trial Offers: The company bills you when the product was supposed to be free, or continues to bill you after you’ve cancelled your subscription.

Family Members in Distress: The victim receives a letter from a family member who is out of the country and in need of immediate cash.

Lottery and Fake Tax Scams: If you didn’t enter the contest or buy the lottery ticket, you didn’t win anything and don’t owe taxes on those “winnings.”

Job Hunting Scams: People who are desperate for a job give out background information based on an offer of employment received over the phone.

Mystery Shopping Employment: A company sends you a bogus check and asks you to wire a portion of the funds back to evaluate the wire service.

Fishing Emails: You click on a strange email and the scammer invades your computer to mine for private information.

Work-At-Home Programs: Carroll said the BBB has almost never heard of a legitimate work-at-home program.

Jonathan Easley can be reached at jonathan.easley@csbj.com or 719-329-5235. Friend him on Facebook or find him on Twitter.