In February this year, we purchased a property in Old Church, Virginia, just east of Richmond. We knew that the buildings were in a state of disrepair and would need some work before they would be usable. We did not fully realize the extent of the damage to the buildings or the complexity of repairing old buildings (the main structure was built in 1820). We have made significant progress in renovations, but as we have addressed many of the problems with the structures, we have found many other problems which still need to be addressed. As of September, 2016, we have made a great deal of progress, but still are not able to use the main building for housing or for our work. Swamiji and four dedicated volunteers moved to the property in February, and since that time we have taken in one more full time volunteer. Due to limited funds, we have had to do most of the work ourselves. None of us are licensed contractors and none of us have any previous experience fixing buildings. We have taught ourselves how to repair lath boards and to patch old plaster walls. We are learning now about old mortar in order to repair the broken bricks which used to support the mantel in the master bedroom. Of the eleven rooms in the main building, we have completed work in two.
Though we had previously thought we would be done with a major portion of the renovations by now, work has gone slower than we had expected. The work has been significantly more difficult than we had expected, and many necessary repairs we were unaware of have come to light as we have been working. As we have chipped at plaster to patch it, we have found termite damage and rot to the frame of the house. As we have removed overgrowth from around the foundation to the house, we have revealed leaks and damage to the foundation. A lack of needed funds has slowed progress to a halt at times. We have done an incredible amount of work and been very resourceful to make the most of our limited resources, but many times more work still remains to be done. Our current estimate is that we may have the majority of the work in the main building completed by the end of 2017 and the work to the old kitchen where Swamiji is living and to the cottage were volunteers are living completed a year later. At the rate the work is currently progressing, we expect to be done with renovations by the end of 2018, though unforeseen challenges could again set back this date.
Of course with the many unexpected repairs needed to be done, we have incurred many numerous unexpected expenses. Many people donated a large amount of money as we moved here and we had a bit of money saved up, but the money we saved has been spent and donations have slowed down. Around June, our work slowed to a halt due to a lack of funds. At that time we decided to try to get another loan on the property. Unfortunately, we got a good deal on the property, and the value of the property (according to the lenders) is created by the sale price (and not its actual value). About 5 months from now we may have the option to refinance. We were seeking a loan for about 60 thousand dollars, which we believe would cover our expense to finish most of the work. We were only able to get a small loan for 12 thousand. This smaller loan has very bad interest rates, but it has enabled our work to continue. In order to make the most of this smaller loan, we have redirected our efforts away from the expensive repairs which will make the buildings here safe and usable, and toward cheaper cosmetic renovations which will increase the appraisal value of the house. Whereas an appraiser may not be much concerned with a little bit of chipping paint or a collapsing frame hidden behind siding boards, they do take note of cosmetic improvements which increase the perceived value of a property. Our intention is to work to raise the value of the property so that we can apply again in a few months for a much larger loan which we will use to pay off the smaller loan and to complete the necessary renovations. Money remains very tight and we are continuing to seek donations to help reach our goals more quickly.
Donations are coming much more slowly now than when Swamiji was able to do prayer and counseling services for people in the past. Since we took on the project of renovating these buildings for use, Swamiji has has assumed the task of planning and managing the renovations. The immense amount of work involved in this project has diverted Swamiji's attention almost completely from his work of performing prayer services, counseling individuals, teaching classes, writing articles, and publishing video teachings. We had hoped it would be possible for Swamiji to return to his work of serving the people by this time. We are still working to ready space for Swamiji to use for this work and still seeking donations and volunteers to help the renovations to be completed more quickly. We did not know when we took on this project that it would divert Swamiji from his service of the people for many months or years, but it is the Lord's will and so we accept this reality. Where we have estimated a two year time frame for the renovations, this could be accomplished much more quickly with additional volunteers or if we hired contractors to do the work. However, where we have projected a 50k budget for the repairs, this amount would be perhaps 10 times greater if we hired contractors (especially because it is very specialized work dealing with a 200 year old building). Since finances have been limited, we have had to do almost all of the work thus far ourselves. We are putting off several important jobs for which contractor's are required until funds can be secured. Certain jobs will require that we hire qualified contractors, but to make the best use of the resources available, we are doing as much as we can ourselves. But we are only 6 inexperienced but dedicated people working here full time and the amount of work is overwhelming and the living conditions are still very challenging.
We would like to thank the many people who have volunteered and provided advice and assistance toward the work we are doing here. We thank those who have helped us to feed, cloth and provide medical care for our volunteers. We thank those who have made large and small donations and those who contribute monthly. We thank all for their patience with us as we continue to focus on this huge and elaborate project. We continue to need volunteers to help with the work here and we need help to help spread the word about this exciting project. If you have time to come visit the place and help out, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please help us to share our posts on the blogs and on Facebook. Please donate what you can and encourage others to contribute also. We are prepared to spend many long hours working here to get this place ready, but with more people helping this work will become quicker and easier and we will be able to return to our regular spiritual services sooner than later.
We look forward to a day when these renovations are behind us and we can focus again on teaching about Yoga, Ayurveda, and serving the community by performing pujas ceremonies for the benefit of society. We are very excited for the day when we have the blessings of the county and community to welcome the public to this special and beautiful historic site, aptly named Quietude by James Wade in the 1850's. We have all been challenged by this project and have had a wonderful opportunity to look within to develop new strength and to overcome shortcomings. We encourage everyone to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity for self-betterment by helping in whatever ways they are able. We thank everyone who has helped and encourage you all to contact us to learn more about the project and to offer your help in whatever ways you are able to assist. May the Lord bless the people with peace and joy; health and prosperity.