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Greenfield - Visit Milwaukee, the Milwaukee-based convention and visitors bureau, reported that the nearly 1,200 volunteers who helped build a church here are having a $2.15 million impact on the area economy.

Visit Milwaukee provided the economic-impact statement based on the event-impact calculator of the Destination Marketing Association International, a resource for convention and visitors bureaus. Churches have been the targets of criticism because congregations declare non-profit status, exempting them from paying local property taxes.

The nearly 1,200 volunteers are coming to Greenfield through the national Builders for Christ organization. They are building a 22,000-square-foot church for the Layton Avenue Baptist Church at 9600 W. Layton Ave. Nearly 1,000 have already worked on site this summer and 200 more are expected this month.

Builders for Christ selects only one church in the nation to work on – and this year, it chose Layton Avenue Baptist.

Over the 14-week build, Builders for Christ members from 77 churches and from more than 20 states come on their vacations, pay for their own food, gas, hotels and transportation. They go to local restaurants and grocery stores and even attend Milwaukee Brewers baseball games.

$1,792 per person

The calculator estimates an economic impact of $1,792 per volunteer.

"That sounds great," said Greenfield Mayor Michael Neitzke. A lot of that probably is spent where the workers are staying and eating out, he said.

Whatever the local economic impact, Neitzke said he is happy to have them in the city.

"There's a lot of criticism of churches' impact on the tax base. But they are good people who work hard and contribute positively to society," he said. "It's amazing what they've accomplished there."

Worker backgrounds vary from doctors, lawyers, school secretaries, nurses, computer specialists, insurance salesmen, truckers, college students and construction trades. The makeup is 16 to 80 years old.

More to do

After Builders for Christ leaves, the local congregation will have a significant amount of finishing work to do. They hope to hold their Christmas service in their new church. They sold their former building at 92nd Street and Layton Avenue to the developer of the 84South complex of stores, offices, restaurants and multi-family living units.

“Watching the building go up this summer has been like watching a time-lapse video in real time,” Layton Avenue Baptist Church Pastor the Rev. Keith Cogburn said in a news release announcing the project's economic impact. “The progress has been that dramatic."

Builders for Christ project director Lawrence Corley said the Layton Avenue Baptist project is different than others the group has done because of its large fellowship hall area.

Milwaukee-area construction contractors have been hired to take care of key construction tasks.

Layton Avenue Baptist leaders say the ability for their small membership to build the $3.8 million facility on a new 5-acre site is nothing short of a miracle.

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