Timothy's House of Hope is serving its last breakfast Thursday.
The ministry of Compassion Church that ignited fierce controversy a year ago when it opened at 1602 Washington St., Davenport, is ending because it doesn't have the money to keep going, Pastor Jim Swope, ministry founder, said Wednesday.
The end of breakfast will be the end of a nearly nine-year run of helping the homeless and hungry. Timothy's operated in rented space at 1407 W. 4th St. for about eight years before moving to Washington Street.
Factors for its demise include high winter utility bills, health issues that prevented Swope from fundraising for about eight months and last year's legal battle with the city of Davenport, Swope said.
While Swope said he expected winter heat bills in the $1,000 range, one monthly statement was for $2,600 and, all told, winter costs totaled about $8,000, he said.
"We can't take the church down," he said, referring to Compassion Church, formerly known as Word of Faith Tabernacle Church at 3414 Rockingham Road, where he was pastor. "We can't go into next winter with $8,000 in bills. That's why we have to be pro-active and put the building up for sale."
On Wednesday, Swope held out a glimmer of hope that the ministry could continue if funding came forward.
"You talk about cleaning up Davenport; we could do that here," he said. "It's a sad ending. I'm disappointed. But it's money. We can pay the mortgage, and we can buy the food. But with seven furnaces, we need help that way. I'm just getting on my feet. If this is it, this is it."
In early summer of 2017, Swope was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that caused the growth of a 12-pound tumor in his abdominal area, he said. He was treated at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
In addition to removing the tumor, doctors also took out his right kidney and gall bladder. "I went through the wringer," he said. "I lived up there for six weeks, and my presence was out of here (the Quad-Cities) for seven or eight months. I am the force of it."
The church's fight with the city also detracted, he said.
Swope moved to the former Turner Hall on Washington Street because he needed more space, he said.
But on April 19 of last year, the city issued a cease-and-desist order, stating a zoning change was needed to serve food in that location. That stance changed in May after the city attorney determined the meal fit normal church activities and was permissible under existing zoning as a general commercial district.
City officials weren't the only ones concerned, though.
Many residents and business owners protested the homeless outreach that they said was bringing undesirable people to their neighborhood. They cited concerns about increased crime, littering and loitering, and there was a packed house at the mid-May meeting of the Historic Washington Street Business Association held at Johnnie's General Store.
Alderman Ray Ambrose, 4th Ward, was roundly criticized for how he characterized some of the guests.
Although the church was allowed to continue serving, it filed a lawsuit against the city in August, claiming "unauthorized acts under city code, unconstitutional acts pursuant to the Iowa Constitution, and the United States Constitution and violations of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act."
Settlements were reached in November and December, respectively, in which the city agreed to pay the church $15,000 for the 27-day shutdown, plus $18,500 in attorney fees.
Swope said the settlement money plus a $30,690 grant from the Regional Development Authority went to install a roof over the portion of the building where breakfast was served and where he envisioned the installation of a "humongous" food pantry to serve the surrounding community.
"We were doing pretty good up here until we caved in," he said.
The 12,000-square-foot building was listed for sale in April for $139,900 with Ruhl & Ruhl.
Because the historic property is such a dominant presence on Washington Street, Ambrose said he already has reached out to some of the parties that had been interested before Compassion Church bought the property to see if they might still be interested.
The old Turner Hall is an "iconic building" that has been "an anchor for Washington Street for a long time," he said, adding that he would make every effort to see that it finds a new owner and a successful use.
"It's important that that location continue to be an important, stabilizing part of the neighborhood," Ambrose said. "It will take a lot of work to find someone interested. We'll see what happens. But the city of Davenport is a can-do city and hopefully there will be some interest."
Steve Stoltenberg, longtime owner of Northwest Music Shop, 1411 Washington St., said he'd like to see a community center targeted toward children. "It could be a place where kids could go after school," he said. "It's the perfect place. It's got a gym, a dance hall."
Matt Mendenhall, president and CEO of the RDA, said that because his organization awarded the grant that helped pay for new roofing, he hopes that the building can serve "some sort of social service function."
The church fulfilled all the terms of the grant, he said.
For his part, Swope says the building has "lots of potential," but that it would take $250,000 to $750,000 to get it in top-notch condition, including the installation of fire sprinklers.