The 4,000-square-foot Dobbins Chapel is being moved from near the entrance to the base, on Cobb Parkway just south of South Cobb Drive, 2 miles across the complex’s runway to the Clay National Guard Center. The move of the 60,000-pound building, scheduled for March 16 and 17, has been in the works since 2005.
The chapel has to be moved because Dobbins is looking to build a new road and parking lot where it has stood since 1950, said retired Air Force Reserve Col. John Powers, chairman of the nonprofit Dobbins Chapel Foundation.
“We tried our best to get them to build the road around it,” Powers said. “But they wouldn’t agree to that.”
As recently as January, it looked like the chapel might be demolished. But an anonymous donor came forward and pledged $80,000, allowing for the building to be moved.
Dobbins spokesman Capt. Patrick Simmons said that because Dobbins is a reserve base, it isn’t eligible for federal funding to move the chapel.
“We made every effort to find alternative dispositions for the chapel other than demolition,” he said.
Even though the chapel avoided the wrecking ball, it isn’t safe yet. In order to host religious services in the future, it must be brought up to military code, which the chapel foundation has been given a year to do. Members estimate it will cost another $50,000 to $100,000 to do that.
The chapel was originally built at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, N.C. It was moved to Georgia and dedicated by Army Chaplain James O’Neil, famous for writing a prayer for good weather at the request of Gen. George Patton. The chapel has been used by men and women who served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East, for services including weddings, funerals and retirement ceremonies.
“We use it for all kinds of things,” said retired Brig. Gen. Scott Mikkelson.
The group started looking for ways to save the chapel in May 2005, meeting every other month. They say they tried numerous ways to get funding to save the chapel.
Retired Chief Master Sgt. Dick Roberts, an ex-officio member of the foundation, said they reached out to 24 local churches, but only the relatively small Elizabeth Baptist Church responded.
“I was surprised at that, considering the magnitude of some of the megachurches,” Roberts said. “Being that this is a military church, we thought they would want to help us out.”
Powers said he will be happy to have the ordeal with the chapel behind him.
“I’m retired — I do very little for a living,” he said. “I love the golf course. I am ready to get back to normal retired living.”