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Jamaica dry cleaners becomes church

"God moved this building from cleaning clothes to cleaning souls," Crutch said.Crutch, 38, is pastor and founder of the Anointed Praise and Worship Center, which opened its doors at 105-15 177th St. in Jamaica last August, he said. Since it started last year with just a handful of congregants - mostly family members of Crutch and Assistant Pastor John Nicholson - it has grown to welcome about 40 members, Crutch said."We want to be a community church," he said. "People have just started coming in. We know we're still growing."Crutch opened the church in August 2003 after months of renovations, he said."It was horrible," Crutch said. "It looked like couldn't anything be done with it."The site, a former dry cleaning shop, had rubble, broken walls and animals all over, Nicholson said."We had to kick all the cats out," he said.A small crew of volunteers, including the few congregation members, worked hundreds of hours to clean up the narrow building, installing bathrooms, new walls, a stage for the services and a wooden pulpit built by Nicholson, Crutch said. A fresh coat of paint, new carpeting and a sound system from the CUNY Law School in Flushing - which just overhauled its audio setup last year - completed the job, said Crutch, who works as a peace officer at the law school.But when the time came to open the doors for the first service, there was still come cleaning that needed to be done, Crutch said."One woman came in here all dressed for church and we told her we were still cleaning," Nicholson said. "She went home, changed, came back and helped, went home to change again and brought her husband and son to church."The church has become a fixture in the community in its short time there, Crutch said."This community is in desperate need of refurbishing," he said. "Now everyone in the neighborhood comes by and cleans up in front of the church."Crutch grew up in the community and still lives in the area, and many of the people remember him from the days when he was young, he said. That connection has helped him draw people into the church, he said."People look at me and say, 'wow, you came back and started a church here?'" Crutch said. "They say, 'if God saves you I know he can save me.'"And as the church grows, Crutch and Nicholson have big plans for the community. Last Thanksgiving the institution gave out 20 turkeys and food packages to needy families. This year Crutch hopes to reach 100 families and he would like to start a soup kitchen, he said."This community is not where it should be," Crutch said. "If you run from the community because of what the community needs to have, it will never change. I am destined to see change and I'll be here until I see productive change."Crutch also has talked with lawyers graduating from the CUNY Law School about starting a Community Legal Research Network, where people can get legal assistance on real estate, criminal situations, wills and more. He also wants to focus on youth programs.As for the church's first anniversary, Crutch does not have plans for a celebration, he said."You can celebrate for everything," he said. "If we can affect a family, can reach the men out there, that's my anniversary gift. To know that I've reached someone."Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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