Former Strip Club Owner Closes Up Shop; Re-Opens Building as Church and Community Outreach Center

Elke Zeuner reads in her Bible while pastor Rob Cowles delivers his sermon to a full church at The Genesis Project Sunday, May 29, 2016. (Photo: Chelsae Ketchum/The Coloradoan)
Elke Zeuner reads in her Bible while pastor Rob Cowles delivers his sermon to a full church at The Genesis Project Sunday, May 29, 2016. (Photo: Chelsae Ketchum/The Coloradoan)

On the north side of Fort Collins (Colorado), amid the poverty and industry of the Mulberry corridor, stands the pale yellow building that once held Fort Collins’ only strip club.

Nearly three years after A Hunt Club shut its doors for the last time, the aromas of perfume, booze and cigarettes are a distant memory in the building.

Today, souls filing into 400 S. Link Lane are in search of a higher calling. The building has taken a 180-degree turn since its owner found God and sold it to Timberline Church in September 2013. Timberline later transferred it to The Genesis Project, a church startup led by Timberline’s former executive pastor Rob Cowles.

Genesis Project opened its doors on Feb. 8, 2015. Genesis Coffee followed in November. On Sundays, 400 people flood the building’s three services, more than quadruple the church’s founding group of 80 to 90 regular attendees.

Stripper poles and stages were torn down to make room for an auditorium where grandmas and grandpas sit next to bikers, recovering alcoholics, drug addicts and a handful of A Hunt Club’s former entertainers.

“We’re pretty big on the idea that there’s no us and them,” Cowles said. “There’s only us.”

It’s that philosophy that helped Shannon Kull, 37, find a family in the church’s membership after 26 years of meth and cocaine addiction. Kull had moved to Colorado from Texas to “get a better start” and move beyond addiction, which had cost her custody of her three children.

She was living in motels along the Mulberry Corridor when a couple extended an open invitation to Genesis Project, offering the carless woman a ride. She was shocked to find nothing but “love” inside the church’s walls.

Nearly two years later, Kull is a regular at Sunday church services and weekly activities. She’s been clean for two years, found housing and has regained custody of her children. She “feels so loved.”

“They don’t care if you haven’t changed clothes in six days and smell to high heaven,” she said. “They just hug you and welcome you in.”

If the building Kull now considers a second home could talk, it might also tell a story of restoration and love. Following a transformation that cost roughly $600,000 and years of effort, Sunday school classrooms are held in a space occupied by the strip club’s VIP area for nearly 25 years. Where the bar once stood is Genesis Coffee, open daily during the week.

The transformation from “a building in shambles,” as Cowles described the property in August 2014, to a community life center and church would have been more costly if several businesses and well-wishers hadn’t donated or discounted their services.

“It took a while to figure out how to remodel it,” Cowles said. “We weren’t even sure we could remodel it. It was in a really bad shape.”

Though Cowles is happy to see the ministry grow, he’s careful to point out that Sunday mornings are a small piece in the building’s weekly life.

During the week, Genesis Project is home to a second community life center for The Matthews House, a nonprofit serving at-risk youth and families in Fort Collins. Genesis Project volunteers support the group “by loving on the people that come through these doors.”

An Alcoholics Anonymous group offers community to those battling addiction.

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SOURCE: Sarah Jane Kyle, [email protected] 
The Coloradoan