Constituents and friends of John L. Coble Elementary School (Calhoun, Ga.), gathered on Feb. 22, 2014, for a mortgage burning to celebrate the school’s debt retirement.
The current 95-student school sits of the same land as Georgia-Cumberland Academy, where the Hurlbutt Farm School first opened its doors in 1915, with A. W. Spaulding as principal. Later, in 1964, the Academy Elementary opened after the Hurlbutt School closed in 1959. The next year, John L. Coble became the principal and served in that capacity for 23 years. In 1993, Coble received the honor of having the school renamed after him. A groundbreaking in 2006 for the new John L. Coble School took place and the following year, students occupied the 26, 500 square-foot complex.
On hand for the celebratory event were officers of the Georgia-Cumberland Conference, with Kevin Kossick, vice president of education, presenting the main address. Kossick commended those who helped erase the school debt.
“At a time when finances are the biggest obstacle to accessing Christian Education, the Calhoun Seventh-day Adventist community has re-energized their commitment to children by retiring this debt and tangibly demonstrating their continued support of Christian education,” Kossick said. “This debt retirement is a perfect example of a community of believers coming together to assure the future of local Christian education.”
“In addition,” Kossick said, “children are great imitators, so the retirement of this Coble School debt gives them an example of healthy stewardship to imitate for life.”
Church and conference officers signed the mortgage document in September 2007, following more than a $1 million dollar fundraising effort—and this mortgage burning of a $2.1 million dollar debt resulted just six-and-a-half years later.
“This mortgage burning is an opportunity to honor God because the gifts (money) came from Him,” said Ric Stizer, current school principal since 2000.
Gary Rustad, senior pastor of the Calhoun Church enthusiastically noted, "This is a day we have waited for! It happened because of the Lord's blessings and faithful friends and members of the Calhoun and Georgia-Cumberland Academy Seventh-day Adventist churches who sacrificed."
Rustad pointed out that one of the aids that enabled members to be aware of the school debt-reduction’s progress were posters that provided visuals of the school layout. As funds were brought in, it helped to have appropriately drawn rooms and filling them in with colors, indicating the countdown to the debt payoff. Students colored in the rooms on Sabbaths mornings.
“It constantly put the mortgage in people’s minds as they came to church each week,” Rustad said. "Christian education is of vital importance to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and to be debt free enables us to do more for our students and the Calhoun community.”
The mortgage-burning event included the Coble Kids Bell Choir and the Bel Canto Choir. In addition to the conference officers who were present, former students, teachers, and principals attended.
One of the factors that helped erase the school debt was that Coble School entered into a leasing license with the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) and was able to garner extra funds by selling to cell companies.
Stitzer echoed other speakers of the event—that the students, teachers, and volunteers are all school assets, and that one of the pluses he sees in the school’s graduates is that “they’ve gone on to have their own strong Christian families.”
by Betty Kossick
photos by Dennis Starkey