The birth of the building at 1036 5th Street stemmed from the vision of Mr. Max Williams. Max was born in Utah. He came first to Prineville and then opened the first Latter-Day Saints (LDS) temple in Bend. At that time, the local LDS community provided 30% of the funding, and the Mormon Church paid the balance.
As President of the first LDS congregation in Bend, Max spearheaded the construction of the 8750 square-foot building at 1036 5th Street, which was dedicated in 1953. Prior to the construction of this building, the LDS congregation was meeting in an abandoned mortuary at the corner of Hill and Irving so the building provided a significant upgrade. The former mortuary no longer exists but the church that Max and his team built, lives on.
Accompanied by his wife Joyce, and original congregation members Dennis and CaRene Heap, the foursome stopped by the building this spring and shared the can-do spirit and sense of community that characterized the early days of people in the building.
The construction of the building was not without its memorable moments. According to Max, one of the basement’s storage rooms was made by a man who was “good with powder.” That man managed to set off dynamite charges in the basement and blasted out the room without breaking a lightbulb!
Members of all ages contributed to the effort. Boys from the congregation carried buckets of broken rock upstairs to help clear out the blasted storage room. And when an out-of-work church member needed help, Max arranged a credit at the local store, and the parishioner paid Max back by painting the basement rooms. Bend had 10,000 people when Max came to Bend, but the closure of the Shevlin Hixon Mill cut the population down by 2,000, making finding work a real challenge.
At the Council on Aging, we have always felt that the building has “service in its bones.” Meeting Max, Joyce, Dennis, and CaRene confirmed that it was built from a pioneering and community spirit to which we aspire today. We are so grateful to them for generously sharing their stories with the staff of the Council on Aging.
Thanks also to the Deschutes Historical Museum for connecting the Council on Aging with these amazing early pioneers and a shout out to our partner Max Williams Jr., CEO of Oregon Community Foundation, for his insights into the building and the work of his father. The Oregon Community Foundation has supported our Phase I renovation as well as the significant expansion in our work feeding and supporting older adults during the pandemic.