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North Hall church revamps old building into house of worship
Lanier Hills Church purchases facility after 2-year lease
Pastor Trent Dollyhigh, center, leads the “worship team huddle” Sunday in preparation for the day’s ceremony. - photo by JOSHUA L. JONES

Lanier Hills Church is settling into its newly purchased home off of Mount Vernon Road, after almost two years of extensive repairs and renovations. Now, the Sunday services have breathed new life into the previously unoccupied building.

The church leased the location in 2011 to create a campus in North Hall County, but a faulty air conditioning and leaky roof equaled a lot of work.

“It sat empty for about five years before we leased it, and we have put a lot into it,” said Trent Dollyhigh, the pastor of the new location. “It’s a great location for the North Hall community, which we want to serve.

“The facility has tons of potential and we still aren’t using all of it yet.”

After the move, the congregation rallied to perform the repairs, including removing and insulating the roof, replacing all of the windows in the 30,000-square-foot facility, extending the stage in the main auditorium, repairing the sewage and septic system and repainting the walls. The church invested about $100,000 and many hours of volunteer work into the facility. In July, the church purchased the building.

“It stretched us financially, but God has really provided for us,” Dollyhigh said. “We took a risk, stretched ourselves and stepped out in faith, and we’ve seen a lot of rewards because of it.

“We’ve had more life changes and baptisms this year than ever before.”

The community reception has been positive and each week the location attracts about 225 people to its 11 a.m. service, up from 125 in 2011. Aside from its Sunday service, the church hosts a youth ministry on Wednesdays, a free summer camp for kids and a men’s outreach program. The Gainesville Homeschool Academy also meets at the facility three times a week.

“When we came here, we had a hundred people who attended services,” Dollyhigh said. “We’ve more than doubled in growth in two years. The community has been very pleased and excited.”

The church has hosted a number of community events, including weddings, a North Hall High School pep rally and a number of local sports teams have used the facilities for practices.

The congregation has also organized a number of charity events such as food drives for the needy, given Christmas stockings and gifts to underprivileged children, given away free Thanksgiving dinners and fed a hundred orphans at a children’s home in Uganda.

Though the majority of the renovations were finished during the two-year lease, the work isn’t over. A 10,000-square-foot gym on the property is not insulated, heated or lit. It is currently being used for storage. Dollyhigh estimates it will take another $30,000 to $40,000 to repair it enough for general use.

The next immediate step for the facility is to replace the carpet in the main auditorium, which has been there since before the church moved in.

The North Hall campus is closely connected with the church’s main campus off of Duckett Mill Road. Lanier Hills senior pastor Randall Popham works closely with Dollyhigh, and the two meet once a week to plan sermons.

Recently, the church hired Executive Pastor Mike McCord to help promote cohesion and coordinate events between the two campuses. Twice a year, the two campuses come together for a dinner and a service. The North Hall campus hosted the dinner for the first time in September.

“We have one church, one vision and one leadership at both locations,” Dollyhigh said. “We want to create an environment where you are loved and accepted and can meet Jesus Christ.”