Mariano Rivera rescues, renovates church in Westchester - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

Mariano Rivera rescues, renovates church in Westchester

Posted: Updated:
Mariano Rivera (AP photo/Kathy Willens) Mariano Rivera (AP photo/Kathy Willens)
Mariano Rivera (L) cuts the ribbon outside a newly renovated church in New Rochelle, N.Y., that will be home to Refugio de Esperanza congregation led by his wife, Clara (R), the pastor. Mariano Rivera (L) cuts the ribbon outside a newly renovated church in New Rochelle, N.Y., that will be home to Refugio de Esperanza congregation led by his wife, Clara (R), the pastor.

JIM FITZGERALD | AP

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. (AP) — Being retired hasn't stopped Mariano Rivera from picking up one more save.

A crumbling and long-vacant church on Thursday became the new home of a ministry led by the wife of the New York Yankees legend, following a $3 million restoration project funded by his foundation.

For years, Rivera had been crediting God for his skills on the field, where he tallied a record 652 saves before retiring last season. Now his foundation has poured about $3 million into restoring the 107-year-old church for Refugio de Esperanza, or Refuge of Hope, the Pentecostal Christian congregation led by his wife, Clara.

"It has been a privilege to fulfill a dream that God put in our hearts," Rivera said after the ribbon-cutting.

"We have prayed, we have worked and patiently we have waited for the exact moment when God has given the order to be here in this building," Clara Rivera said, addressing the crowd in Spanish accompanied by a translator. "On this day, it now becomes a reality."

The wildly popular former Yankee, 44, had been quiet about the project. Most residents walking by earlier this week did not even know he was involved.

But he briefly mentioned the opening of the church after receiving a humanitarian award from the Jackie Robinson Foundation on Monday.

"You don't do it to be recognized," he said. "You do it because it comes from the heart. You want to please the Lord."

The gray stone building had been a Presbyterian church but was abandoned in the 1970s and was eventually bought by New Rochelle, a diverse city of about 77,000 just 6 miles north of the Bronx. The church is next door to the police and courts headquarters, and police had used some of the space to store evidence, said architect Jonathan Villani.

Meanwhile, his wife's congregation had been outgrowing its meeting place — the Rivera home. Rivera told New York magazine last year, "We only fit like 50 people, 60 people tops."

"We have whites, we have blacks, we have Hispanics," he said. "We have all kinds. It doesn't matter. As long as you love Christ, we in it. And if you don't love him, we will work with you so we put you on the right path."

The congregation's website says it "felt the need to organize a local church that would not only present the message of salvation to its attendees, but also provide programs that would meet the needs of the less fortunate in the community." Plans call for a "learning center" that will provide education, sports and other after-school programs for children.

"He's doing something not just for his faith but at the same time setting up a place where he can help kids," said Brandon Steiner, a Rivera business partner whose sports memorabilia firm is headquartered in New Rochelle.

Steiner said he's never seen Rivera so focused on a project.

"He was like the general contractor," Steiner said, laughing. "He was in there directing painters."

The city agreed to sell the building to Rivera for $1 in return for his promise to rehabilitate it. One opponent at the time, City Councilman Louis Trangucci, said Wednesday he still feels the city should have tried to get more for the property. But he said the project has only enhanced the area "and I support what Mariano had done with the church."

Mayor Noam Bramson said the city did not have the money it would have taken to save the building.

Villani said the church needed plenty of work: The bell tower had begun collapsing, and a new front wall needed to be built and new stained glass windows installed.

"We loved the stonework, and some of the inside beams were still in good condition," he said.

Across the street at Kenny's Barbershop, Carlos Sanchez has been watching the renovation every day.

"It looks a lot better," the barber said. He even met Rivera at the site several times.

"He's a cool guy," Sanchez said. "And look what he's doing, a new church in the neighborhood."

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • New York State NewsNew York State NewsMore>>

  • Hudson River Sloop Clearwater

    Pete Seeger's environmental legacy lives on

    Pete Seeger's environmental legacy lives on

    Friday, July 25 2014 6:16 PM EDT2014-07-25 22:16:30 GMT
    American folk singer and activist Pete Seeger's passion for music and the environment embodied who he was every single day of his life. In 1966, Seeger co-founded the organization Hudson River Sloop Clearwater. Ever since, Seeger's 106-foot-long sloop, Clearwater, has been sailing up and down the Hudson River to educate and inspire children to protect the environment.
    American folk singer and activist Pete Seeger's passion for music and the environment embodied who he was every single day of his life. In 1966, Seeger co-founded the organization Hudson River Sloop Clearwater. Ever since, Seeger's 106-foot-long sloop, Clearwater, has been sailing up and down the Hudson River to educate and inspire children to protect the environment.
  • Prison officers block news crew from tourist site

    Prison officers block news crew from tourist site

    Friday, July 25 2014 5:25 PM EDT2014-07-25 21:25:19 GMT
    An upstate New York TV crew was threatened with arrest by corrections officers as they filmed at a public historic site on the grounds of an empty, soon-to-be-closed state prison.
    An upstate New York TV crew was threatened with arrest by corrections officers as they filmed at a public historic site on the grounds of an empty, soon-to-be-closed state prison.
  • New York suggests summer shutdown for Indian Point

    New York suggests summer shutdown for Indian Point

    Friday, July 25 2014 3:08 PM EDT2014-07-25 19:08:24 GMT
    A state agency is suggesting summer shutdowns at the Indian Point nuclear power plant in the New York suburbs. The idea is to protect migrating and spawning fish who might otherwise get sucked into the plant. Indian Point takes 2.5 billion gallons a day from the Hudson River to make steam and cool its two reactors.
    A state agency is suggesting summer shutdowns at the Indian Point nuclear power plant in the New York suburbs. The idea is to protect migrating and spawning fish who might otherwise get sucked into the plant. Indian Point takes 2.5 billion gallons a day from the Hudson River to make steam and cool its two reactors.
Powered by WorldNow

KTTV FOX 11
1999 S. Bundy Dr.
Los Angeles CA 90025

Main: (310) 584-2000
News Tips? (310) 584-2025

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices