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Aurora Christian families rejoice over Sullivan Road campus refinancing

AurorChristian School supporter Dennis Duehning says special prayer for school Sunday November 4 2012 AurorChristian School AurorIL.  | Terence

Aurora Christian School supporter Dennis Duehning says a special prayer for the school on Sunday, November 4, 2012 at Aurora Christian School in Aurora IL. | Terence Guider-Shaw~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 6, 2012 6:07AM



Members of the Aurora Christian School family gathered in praise Sunday evening as their year-and-a-half-long financial battle drew to a close.

Administrators weren’t handing back tuition deposits but handing out balloons instead, as they announced the refinancing of the school’s Sullivan Road campus, and the end of their financial obligations to Fifth Third Bank.

“Probability was not in our favor, but God was,” said Superintendent Collette House as she stood in front of nearly 100 supporters who turned up for the celebration. “So many little details came together to make this happen, it’s amazing.”

In 2011, Fifth Third Bank filed a lawsuit against the privately funded school for defaulting on a $250,000 loan. The school was in debt to the tune of $18 million after renovating the Sullivan Road campus less than a decade ago. The bank action meant the campus was on the verge of being lost.

As uncertainty loomed, administrators went as far as to return deposit and tuition checks to parents of more than 600 students who had already enrolled for the upcoming 2011-12 school year. Administrators began searching for alternative locations to hold class.

It was just weeks before classes started that administrators announced students would remain on the Sullivan Road campus for another year as negotiations with the bank were under way.

On Sunday, any financial fears the families continued to face were washed away. House announced that the school has no continuing debt to Fifth Third bank, after an East Coast lender helped refinance the campus for $8.9 million.

“It’s still a big number,” she said. “But it’s less than half of our previous debt.” House said that with a 610-student enrollment, the school will be able to handle the loan payments in a very secure fashioned.

Currently, the school serves about 620 students, but administrators hope that Aurora Christian’s new financial security will help fill the halls to its 950-student capacity.

“I fully believe we’re going to grow,” she said. “We’ll be bursting at the seams.”

Help from elsewhere

The road to this juncture, however, wasn’t smoothly paved. It took strangers coming together from across the country to make this dream come true, House said.

Eighteen months ago, a man in Florida was sitting in front of his computer when he came across a small Christian school in Illinois in need of a financial adviser. Tired of the banking industry, which he’d been a part of for 28 years, John Warren felt called to do something more meaningful with his life, he said.

“I felt maybe the reason God has me come across Aurora Christian School was so I could help and be of some assistance,” he said — and he was. Warren worked tirelessly with Aurora Christian’s board of advisers to help rectify the school’s financial burden. Yet, despite their persistence, doors kept closing, he said.

It was when he elicited the help of an East Coast friend and financial lender that things began to turn around. That man, also a man of great faith, visited the campus, and within hours decided to lend a hand and financial assistance.

A year and a half of searching for an answer suddenly came to an end.

“God worked in so many ways,” Warren said. But, if it wasn’t for the Aurora Christian families — who never wavered in their faith — the financial reprieve would never have been possible.

“Without you, the financial ratios would have worked,” he said. “If just a handful of you would not have been so dedicated,” the school wouldn’t have “gotten through these challenging times.”



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