Apr 5, 2014 1:45 AM by Sam Salzwedel
TUCSON - Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church is relocating sooner than their congregation had planned.
Most of the property near Fort Lowell Road and Mountain Avenue was unusable after a fire last May.
About 400 families worship there. It is also the home of the Greek Festival and The Salvation Army's Thanksgiving Day dinner.
The congregation bought an 8-acre property near River Road and Dodge Boulevard in 2007. Their current lot is about 2.5 acres. They wanted to pay off the new land before building, but the fire has forced them to move more quickly.
Jimmy Gekas was baptized and married in the burned sanctuary. He has also been a church employee the past 10 years.
"I don't call it a job," he said. "It's something I enjoy coming to every day. And I like working for my community, my people."
His sister, Genie Gekas, was also baptized and married in the church that has been around since 1948. She said the fire brought the congregation together.
"Every time I thought about it, I cried," she said. "And then I really realized how important this church and this building is in my life."
Father Earl Cantos hopes to break ground some time around the end of the year and worship in the new building in 2015.
"We're still working with the insurance company," Cantos said. "It's been very tight getting through and surviving, but the community has been beautiful."
The church leadership has been working with an architect on the new plans. Cantos said everything is running smoothly.
"They've been wonderful," Cantos said. "The County Board of Supervisors, the county staff has been really great to work with so far."
Jimmy Gekas said, despite the sentimental value, he is looking forward to making new memories.
"Now it's our turn to leave a legacy for our children," he said, "our children's children for the next 50 to 60 years. Let's hope it's longer."
The Greek fest was cancelled in 2013. It will return the last weekend of September this year.
The church will probably sell their property on Fort Lowell Road.