Sparkle Cleaners

Dear Friends,

FPC is finally out of the dry-cleaning business! You may or may not have been aware, but for the past 52 years, FPC has owned the property at 319 East Main—the site of Sparkle Cleaners.

In 1971, Mr. R.H. Trigg willed this property at 319 East Main to the Board of Missions of the Presbyterian Church US—the former “northern” church headquartered in New York City. The gift stipulated that the property was to be rented and all proceeds were to be forwarded to the Board of Missions. First Presbyterian Church would oversee the property and keep one month’s rent each year as an administrative fee.

While this was an extraordinarily generous bequest, this congregation was never really in the position to be a property management agency. The rent for this property never changed from the original $300 a month. The tenant was responsible for all maintenance, insurance, and taxes for the property.

During my twelve years as pastor of First Presbyterian Church, I have urged the Session to sell this property. Financially, it was not a good arrangement for the congregation or the denomination. There were also concerning liability issues. In addition, over the years, we spent an inordinate amount of time in Session meetings addressing the property—time that we could have spent doing other things.

Several attempts were made over the years to sell the property to the owner of Sparkle Cleaners, but these negotiations fell through. Finally, in the Fall of 2022, the owner retired and closed the laundry. Shortly after that, a local business made an offer of $150,000 dollars which the Session accepted.

Unfortunately, an outright sale was not possible due to the stipulations of the will and the fact that the property was deeded to the Board of Missions, an entity which no longer existed. In 1981, the northern and southern branches of the Presbyterian Church reunited to form the church we know today—the PC(USA). The former Board of Missions existed only as a legal entity known as “A Corporation.”

Selling the property with a clear title required getting the approval of A Corp and also going to court in Tennessee to acquire a cy pres ruling in order to change the stipulations of the original gift.

Earlier this year, with deed signed and paperwork filed, a check for $150,000 was cut, and FPC was now out of the dry-cleaning business.

Finally, it must be said that none of this would have been possible without the tireless work of David Foutch who expended enormous effort over the past couple of years to work through the endless legal wrinkles of the sale. The church is in his debt.

Lastly, to make the story even better, when I wrote to ask where we should send the check, the national church informed us that the A Corporation “disclaimed its beneficial interest in the property.” In other words, FPC can keep the proceeds from the sale of the property!

Easter Blessings,

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