Donations Help Church Bring Services to At-Risk Neighborhood - 8 News NOW

Donations Help Church Bring Services to At-Risk Neighborhood

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LAS VEGAS -- A once rundown church in the heart of an area once known as Naked City has undergone a big change.

Casa de Luz has been a beacon of light for many in the area struggling with addictions and poverty.

Thanks to some generous donors, the church will now be able to help many more.

Philanthropists with two different groups, Moonridge Group and the Greater Good Council joined forces to give $500,000 to keep the church open.

Julie Murray and Tom Thomas are among the donors who stepped in to help.

"Not only was it operated in the highest at-risk neighborhood in the valley, but they knew that their collective impact funds would make the biggest difference here, right in the heart of Naked City," Thomas with the Thomas & Mack Company said, "They need to have walking distance efforts, and they need to have goods and services brought to them, because the people are not going to travel out of that community."

Their donations were enough to perform a full overhaul of the building, replacing the electrical system, plumbing and walls.

Pastors Chris and Laura Chapel say Thursday's ribbon cutting is a dream come true.

For nearly two years, they have watched their church take on a new form.

"There are a lot of people in the Naked City that are hungry for hope," Chris Chapel said.

The Chapels' mission to spread hope began in 2009, but their building had its fair share of limitations.

"Walls were falling apart, the roof leaked more inside than outside when it rained," Chapel said.

With the $500,000 donation from nearly 20 philanthropists, Casa de Luz is newly repaired and restored. Their commercial kitchen can feed hundreds at a time. Casa de Luz estimates it will give away roughly 5,000 pounds of food a week and feed about 1,800 people a month.

Small classrooms offer a place for kids to spend time after school, and a new courtyard is a place for quiet reflection.

There are now endless possibilities because of the renovations, especially when it comes to the youth, Chapel said.  

"Four years ago, they were running around in the streets. They were dealing dope. They were out all night. Their parents we absentee. There were internal struggles and a lot of abuse and now that has changed because this is truly a sanctuary," Chapel said.

Charlie Olivares says Casa de Luz showed her the way during a tough time, but she credits the church with changing her life.

"My family was broken, homeless and hungry. The whole gambit," Olivares said. "You will never experience anything like you experience here, they restore your life."

Chapel says during the last four years, violent crime has dropped 64 percent and the homicide rate has been cut in half in the neighborhood.

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