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Chapel Center receives facelift

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- It is said that strong reasons make strong actions, and when Chaplain (Col.) Randy Robnett, 60th Air Mobility Wing chaplain, arrived at Travis in the summer of 2003, he had reason to take strong actions to renovate the Chapel Center.

“I was appalled,” he said.

He explained to the leadership that the chapel really was in need of repair.

The roof had leaked for 20 years and everything was far overdue for renovation or replacement, even the carpet and walls were mold damaged and the whole building had a unpleasant odor, he continued.

Like most problems, the solution came down to money. For the chapel, financing comes from two locations, the Chapel Tithe and Offering Fund donations and appropriated money. The latter, meant to cover operational and maintenance costs, was completely used up hiring contract personnel to supplement the shortage of Travis chaplains and a priest constantly tasked with deployments.

The Chaplain fund, which had excess funds, had its limitations. A policy only allowed the funds to be used for religious education and resources, youth programs and training, it could not pick up the appropriated money shortfalls.

Even with a significant amount of these generous donations donated to charities, the fund still had money left over.

“Parishioners are very generous [with their donations],” said Chaplain Robnett. “And I think they deserve a nice place to worship.”

Chaplain Robnett convinced the AMC Chaplain Division to allow him to spend some money out of the Chaplain’s fund for necessary improvements.

The chaplain had no problem finding areas that needed improvement, buying printers, a few computers, fax machines, a baby grand piano and other needed equipment.

Although a considerable amount was used for improvements, the chapel still wasn’t up to standards.

“I would acquire [unwanted] furniture around base and take [the pieces] home and refurbish them on my own time,” said Chaplain Robnett. “My wife would say I have quite the extensive woodshop at home.”

The chapel also received assistance from elsewhere on base.

The Civil Engineer Squadron, especially Mr. Perry Owen, took the little money that CES had and really stretched it, Chaplain Robnett added.

“I can’t say enough about [Lt.] Col. [Richard] Houghton [60th Civil Engineer Squadron commander] and his people,” said Col. Robnett. “They really went above and beyond.”

The renovations didn’t come without their problems.

When the new roof and guttering was built, a gap between the guttering and the wall was created. Within days, several thousand bats made the space home.

“I like bats,” said Chaplain Robnett, “just not in the building.”

A bat wrangler was contracted and he used material that allows bats to get out, but not back in. A bat box was put up and is now their new home. The box will be moved further from the building, keeping the bats at a safe distance from the Chapel Center.

Along with the improvements and everything else on their plate, the chapel continues adding new programs and services. Soon the chapel will host a Friday prayer for Muslims [Salatu-l-Jumu’ah] at noon and a new Protestant service named “Sanctuary” for the Generation X-aged population on the dorm campus. The first service is Sunday at 11 a.m. in Bldg. 1333.

The chapel continues to make improvements even with constant manning shortages. The next step will be a major landscaping project.

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