More than 250 bidders turned out Saturday for an auction of what once had been the last remaining assets of the First Family Church in Overland Park.
The megachurch collapsed last year when a lender foreclosed, alleging the church owed more than $14 million in mortgage payments and other costs. The Blue Valley School District purchased the 51-acre property, and all of its furnishings and equipment, in April.
Al Hanna, the district’s deputy superintendent for administrative services, said workers spent the spring and summer organizing the equipment and furnishings, which were displayed Saturday in hallways and classrooms at the 125,000-square-foot campus at 7700 W. 143rd St. in Overland Park.
“It was quite staggering when we realized how much there was,” Hanna said. “It’s very hard to quantify how any items are here.”
Handsome executive office furniture, displayed with a stand-up shoe buffing machine, shared floor space with more pedestrian shelves and cabinets used in more modest offices and classrooms. Theatrical lighting, a studio camera crane and commercial TV cameras dominated the main entrance, the last remnants of an ambitious television ministry that the church once supported.
Before the auction, teachers and district staffers were allowed to pick through the bounty to find items that could be useful in their classrooms and offices. Elementary teachers found prodigious quantities of children’s art supplies, and middle and high school drama teachers found lots of useful props and costumes. District sports programs won’t need to buy coolers for a while.
Some furnishings were held back for the building’s new primary purpose, as the new consolidated home for the district’s early childhood special education and Parents as Teachers programs. The old sanctuary will be converted to a conference and training center for teachers and staff.
District spokeswoman Kristi McNerlin said the classroom programs will be focused on special-needs children and the new location will eliminate the school-to-school travel time that some district staffers have had to build into their schedules.
“We’re very excited about what this building will become for our youngest students,” McNerlin said.
The district also hopes to partner with the Blue Valley Recreation Commission to create a gym complex that would allow the facility to be active during the day and evenings.
The district paid $9 million for the complex and anticipates an additional $23 million in renovation costs. No one Saturday was quite sure just how much the auction would raise to defray those costs, but officials expect to hear solid numbers next week.
But as a bidder snapped up a box of wireless microphones for $130 and another man pondered his bid for two dozen restroom soap dispensers, one category of goods was in very short supply: religious items.
Hanna said the district made a conscious effort to give away explicitly religious goods to churches, rather than sell them at auction.
More than two dozen churches have contacted the district and some have received Bibles, crosses, hymnals, pews, artwork, communion pieces and collection plates.
“We didn’t want people to think we were auctioning religious artifacts,” Hanna said. “We knew this was a place that was very special to a lot of people, so we wanted to be sensitive to that.”