KLONDIKE - As Christmas approaches, members of one church scarred by arson have one of their wishes fulfilled.
A new steeple is under construction at the Klondike Community Church.
The nearly 100-year-old Oconto County structure was severely damaged this past spring.
"The community is about the people and it's not about the building. There are many times we have to remind ourselves that," said the building's owner, Theresa Schaut.
Owners of the Klondike Community Church say it's been a slow rise from the ashes of arson that ravaged the house of worship in March.
"I think it's come a long way since the very beginning, where we started from. Little by little we're coming a long way," said Schaut.
Budgets have been tight. And many people have donated time and materials to clean the building.
"It's truly an honor to participate in this right now," said Don Holtger.
Life-long Klondike resident Holtger has volunteered countless hours to help repair his church.
He gave FOX 11 a tour of the progress, which is only about halfway complete.
"What we're trying to do now is take the old steeple down so the new roof will fit on at the level it was built for. The structure lumber is all burnt, and so to try to pick it up we're just afraid it will crumble," said Holtger.
Holtger says carpenters have constructed the new steeple to the exact dimensions of the old one.
"To build that replica, they're about three, three and a half weeks into building that," he explained.
Holtger and the rest of the crew say they hope to have the full steeple up by the New Year.
That includes this reconstructed cross. It, too, is an exact replica of the one damaged by the fire.
Church members say restoring the church to its former glory has restored their faith in one another.
"It's been a journey. An experience, good and bad. But we look at the good at what we're creating here, and in the end, it will be a beautiful thing," said Schaut.
And while they're still holding Christmas Eve services in the basement instead of the pews, the faithful at Klondike community Church say they'll find joy this holiday just by being together through it all.
The Oconto County District Attorney has charged 28-year-old Drew Christensen with starting the church fire.
In October, the Suring man confessed to the arson, along with setting five other area fires.
Church officials say the total cost of the building restoration could top $700 thousand. You can donate to a fund at the Peshtigo National Bank Coleman Branch.
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