When St. Joachim Church in Costa Mesa opened its doors in 1965, the congregation was small.
The restrooms – two small bathrooms in the rear of the church, each one able to accommodate one person at a time – were adequate at the time.
But as the population in the surrounding community grew, so did the parish.
The one-room school on the parish grounds also expanded and more families with young children were attending church, Parish Director Ree Taylor said, and a pair of single-person bathrooms was no longer enough to serve the burgeoning congregation.
“We’ve known for some time that we needed a different arrangement for restrooms,” Taylor said.
Fr. Mike Hanifin, pastor of St. Joachim, said the restrooms are comparable to “gas station bathrooms.”
“We really haven’t been able to accommodate our parishioners for one thing,” Fr. Hanifin said. “For present day building specs, you have to have more stalls and we haven’t had that, so that has been a real challenge.”
But on Sunday, Jan. 8, after 10 a.m. Mass, shovels were ceremoniously dug into a patch of dirt behind St. Joachim Church, commemorating the construction of parish’s new restrooms.
The new 62 by 20-foot building will have men’s and women’s restrooms, featuring five stalls in the women’s restroom and two stalls and three urinals for the men.
ST. JOACHIM PARISH CONSTRUCTED A WOOD-FRAMED BANK, CONSTRUCTED TO LOOK LIKE A MINIATURE OUTHOUSE, WHERE PARISHIONERS CONTRIBUTED EVERYTHING FROM SMALL CHANGE TO LARGE BILLS TO FUND NEW PARISH RESTROOMS.
The facilities will feature baby changing stations, touchless fixtures and be ADA compliant.
“It’s a miracle for one thing,” Fr. Hannifin said. “It is long overdue. I think it will be a big draw for our parish.”
Considering the some of the setbacks that occurred during the process of raising funds for the restroom project, the word “miracle” is not an exaggeration.
Early 2019, St. Joachim hired a Catholic fundraising firm to conduct a feasibility study to determine if the estimated $600,000 cost of building new restrooms could be raised from within the parish community.
When the answer was yes, the parish kicked off fundraising campaign in February 2019.
St. Joachim hosted invitation-only events for donors who pledged to make significant contributions over a three-year period.
The campaign was going well.
PARISHIONERS ENJOY MARIACHI MUSIC DURING THE RESTROOM GROUNDBREAKING AT ST. JOACHIM PARISH ON JAN. 8.
But nobody could have predicted what would happen next.
In March 2020, the COVID-19 struck and shut down the world.
In person Masses were restricted for months, with limits on the size of the congregation inside the church. But people could still make donations online.
Then came another setback, when St. Joachim was victimized by a ransomware attack on its computer servers, resulting in the loss of financial records, including records related to the restroom capital campaign pledges.
“We had a lot of pledges,” Taylor said. “The pledges told us we would reach (the goal), but the money wasn’t coming in.”
When parish leaders realized not as much money was coming in from the capital campaign as they’d originally hoped, the parish shifted fundraising efforts to a grass roots level.
In 2022, to coincide with St Juaquin’s 75th anniversary, the parish ran its “$75 for 75” campaign, asking each family to make a $75 donation towards the restroom project.
The effort has raised $25,000 and is still going, Taylor said.
From November 2021 to January 2022, a second basket was passed around the congregation during Mass specifically for the restroom project.
That effort raised another $24,000 towards the campaign.
The parish also constructed a wood framed bank, constructed to look like a miniature outhouse, where parishioners contribute everything from small change to large bills.
Individual ministries within St Joachim, also organized their own fundraisers.
But none on a grander scale than Comite Hispano, a ministry encompassing the leaders of 12 smaller ministries within the parish’s Hispanic congregation.
Comite Hispano groups sold tacos and other items after Mass, prompting the unofficial catchphrase, “One taco at a time, we’re going to get that restroom,” Taylor said.
The group also gave 100% of the money raised from the one-day Mexican festival honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe called Kermes to the restroom campaign.
“They are happy to do that,” said Alma Cortez, leader of St. Joachim’s Comite Hispano. “They feel part of it. They know they are collaborating with this very good project.”
By April 2022, the restroom campaign fund had taken in $645,000, more than enough to go forward with construction based on the initial estimate.
However, when the parish sent out RFP’s (requests for proposals) from construction companies, estimates from companies had spiked to more than $900,000.
The $300,000 increase from the initial estimates were due to a variety of COVID-19 related issues, Taylor said.
The church’s finance council also approved transfer of funds from its saving account to the restroom building fund.
But the bulk of the extra $300,000 was donated by three nearby parishes in Newport Beach – Our Lady Queen of Angels, Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. John Vianney Chapel.
There were some in the parish who didn’t think the $1 million goal would ever be reached, Taylor said.
But the majority knew they would, she said.
“Most of us just have a lot of faith in our parish, in our community and help,” Taylor said. “We’re very humbled by the generosity of our parishioners.”