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Adventists open temporary home

Thu., April 9, 2009, midnight

Fire destroyed headquarters Dec. 28

When the headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Upper Columbia Conference on south Grove Road burned down Dec. 28, it wasn’t only office space that was lost. The regional organization also lost the popular Adventist Book Center and space that housed a television station and a radio station.

“We worked out of Adventist churches in the area,” said communications director Jay Wintermeyer. “We were scattered all over.”

What made the difference, however, was the computer servers rescued from the burning building. Conference staff was up and running within 12 hours of the blaze, Wintermeyer said. “Our IT department has just outdone themselves,” he said.

The building is still a charred hulk, but the group is now working out of temporary headquarters at 15918 E. Euclid Ave. in the Spokane Valley Industrial Park. The 45 staffers who work in the office are putting aside e-mail and cell phone communication in favor of being under the same roof. “It’s a real blessing to come back together again,” Wintermeyer said.

Staff will work out of the building until the headquarters is rebuilt at 3715 S. Grove Road in the West Plains area. The conference is still working to determine how much the insurance company will pay to replace the building and what it might cost. A committee will be formed soon to select an architect and move forward with rebuilding, which is expected to take two years.

The fire that destroyed two-thirds of the 1977-built structure drew 55 firefighters from Cheney, Airway Heights, Spokane and several Spokane County districts, and still took five hours to extinguish. The cause hasn’t been determined.

“The fire was so hot that the Fire Department was unable to find any evidence,” Wintermeyer said.

The fire is believed to have started in the attic above the bookstore. The store and its contents were destroyed. The store has been reborn in the new location, but it is much smaller. “This is just a little more than half of what we had,” store manager Herman Schreven said.

Gone is the large card selection. The large number of felt figures that were used to illustrate stories are gone, too. The bookshelves are cardboard and take up a lot of room without offering much display space. Schreven said he went with the temporary shelves rather than spending money on new bookshelves that might not work in the rebuilt headquarters building.

“They’re extremely cheap and we can throw them away in two years,” he said. “Permanent shelving is very expensive.”

The store also carries a selection of vegetarian food, from imitation turkey to imitation duck. The religious store carries the products because Seventh-day Adventists are encouraged to be vegetarians, though it’s not required.

“That’s smaller, too,” Schreven said. “We had a lot of specialty food items we just don’t have room for.”

There is also no room for the radio and television stations. They will operate out of two church facilities until the new building is complete.

Still, everyone seems to be making things work in space that is 14,000 square feet smaller than the previous headquarters. “We needed a place where we could have office space and retail space,” Wintermeyer said of the decision to lease in the Industrial Park. “It just offered the best facilities and parking for the cost.”

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