The Oneness Center at 6875 Ridge Road is now open and accepting reservations for gatherings up 100 people. Free-will offerings for the use of the facility will fund further improvements to the property. (DHI Media/Nancy Spencer)
The Oneness Center at 6875 Ridge Road is now open and accepting reservations for gatherings up 100 people. Free-will offerings for the use of the facility will fund further improvements to the property. (DHI Media/Nancy Spencer)
ELIDA — Peace and tranquility.

That’s what Bernie Schnipke hopes others find at The Oneness Center located in the old Ridge Methodist Church building on Ridge Road.

“I looked at the place and God spoke to me and I knew I had to buy it to provide a place where everyone can come together as Christians and enjoy each other in unity with the spirit,” Schnipke said.

Once he had made up his mind, the next question was where would the money come from?

“I talked to Barb Warren about my vision. She had been a life-time member of the Ridge Church until she married. Then she presented me a check for roof repairs and some toward the purchase of the building,” he explained.

Schnipke spent last summer replacing the roof by himself.

“People would ask me what in the world I was doing,” Schnipke recalled. “I had all summer to do it and it took all summer.”

The building is available to host parties, with Easter and birthday parties already booked.

“We are a non-profit so I can’t charge but free-will offerings are always welcome,” he said. “Sometimes people just a need a place to gather and can’t pay and that’s OK, too. I wouldn’t turn anyone away.”

An ice cream social is planned for the spring.

Schnipke has a permanent tenant — the Sew Helpful group — who gathers at the old church each Monday to sew sanitary napkins for young girls in Kenya, Africa. The group helps pay for the utilities.

“The work they are doing is wonderful and I’m grateful to have them here,” Schnipke said. “I understand the gentleman who usually takes their handiwork to Kenya may be quitting and I’m hoping I can find a way to help them continue their mission.”

On the grounds, Schnipke’s next project is to install a mediation garden, children’s playground and petting zoo.

“I want to provide a safe, peaceful place for children and their parents,” Schnipke explained.

Local landscaper Clint Gable has worked up the plans and the Grounds and Maintenance Department at Vantage Career Center is preparing a 3-D rendering.

Long-term plans include the addition of 12-15 rooms on the west side of the building for overnight lodging during “Life in the Spirit” retreats.

“That is really where my heart lies,” Schnipke said. “Bringing people closer to the spirit.”

The Oneness Center falls under the non-profit Living Branches.