The birth of West Orange (WOCOC) was partially due to difficulties brought on by the hardships of the Great Depression. The only local congregation with a permanent meeting house identity was located in Orlando on Jefferson Street. Meeting became difficult due to cost of transportation and time. In 1930, many families from Montverde, Beulah, Oakland, Ocoee and the Winter Garden area met either at Jefferson Street in Orlando or in local homes. They assembled and voted to look for a West Orange county meeting location. This would allow them a local identity and to have more involvement in the work of the Church.
1932 arrangements were made with the local Primitive Baptist Church which met in Winter Garden to rent their building when it was not in use. The Primitive Baptist Church only gathered together one week each month. The Sunday they met, arrangements were made with the American Legion Hall in Winter Garden to use their space. This arrangement continued through 1943. In 1937, WOCOC appointed it first group of Elders and Deacons to oversee and serve the church family. It was in 1940 WOCOC decided to purchase land at the corner of Dillard Street and Florida Avenue located in Winter Garden. In early 1943, the construction of their first church owned building began and was completed in December.
January 1944 thru August 1967, “The Dillard Street Years”
1/02/1944 was the first Sunday of the New Year and it was also the beginning of the Dillard Street history which continued until August 1967. In 1947, WOCOC purchased an empty lot located on the north side of the Church property to be used as parking. This was also when the Church purchased a house on Florida Avenue to house the preacher and his family. In 1949, the adjoining property on Dillard was purchased or acquired by trade, which gave the Church a total of 204 feet of Dillard Street frontage. 1966 Growth in the West Orange County area was hot news, due to the development and planning of our new neighbor, Disney World. The Church crossed highway 50 to the south on Daniels Road and purchased a 4.64 acre tract of land in Orange County. The property would soon be rezoned and annexed into the city of Winter Garden for a new home for the growing WOCOC family. The land was purchased for approximately $9,000.00. The Church floated a $75,000.00 bond program. This was used to construct a 250 seat auditorium, ten classrooms, study, children nursery, two restrooms and a small storage closet. In September of 1967, the Dillard Street family made the move into their new Daniels Road facility.
1968 - 1994
In 1972, the Dillard Street facility at the corner of Florida Avenue was sold. In 1973, WOCOC helped to finance and assist with a new congregation in Groveland, Florida and in 1974 The Church launched a bus ministry. The church purchased 4.7 acres of land covered in pine trees in 1985 on Daniels Road just north of the present building. The main building that we meet in today was built on the new land purchase. The Church formed a future needs and property use committee in 1988 and in December of that same year, a 9.5 acre orange grove became available and was purchased, rezoned and annexed to be added to our present location. The land has frontage on Highway 535 and today is used for an entrance road that cuts thru from 535 to Daniels road. 1988 also saw an expansion program which increased the old building seating capacity from 250 to 350.
South Seminole Church of Christ was selling portable classrooms used in their school in 1990 and the decision was made to purchase 3 of these portables to help with our need for classroom space. These portables have served us well and today are used by the Matthew Hope Ministry located on the south side of our older building. The next year WOCOC combined our outstanding land and building debt into one bond offering of $366,500.00. This allowed friends and members to have a safe investment into the future of God’s work. 1994, the back wall of the foyer was removed to allow more space in the growing auditorium and in 1995 the decision was made to rework the existing restrooms, add a quiet room for the nursing mothers and remodel the baptistry changing rooms.
Funds were raised to start on the first phase of our present main building. The building was built along Daniels Road because it was believed that the main traffic pattern would be there. In addition to being designed for easy expansion outwards, the building had a high roof line which would allow for a second floor to be constructed at a later date. The present building was ready for use and contained a great amount of needed space but some of our new building was left as open shell space. The new building was financed with a combined in house bond programs, and bank loans.
1997 thru 2005
The Church had steady growth and saw that new ministry would require more space. The decision was made to lease temporary portable office and classrooms during our phase two expansion. The offices and classes were housed in the rented portables with very little problems. Before phase two of construction began, the old building, “Jackson Hall” was remodeled to have a kitchen and large gathering area for future events. The Church had a two year capital fund campaign to consolidate all debt but due to the changing economy over the next few years we found it necessary to acquire bank financing to complete the project.
2007 saw additional plans for a third phase of construction which included the addition of a second floor, numerous classrooms, a children’s wing, indoor playground, café and “Odom Hall”, a fellowship hall which could also be used as three large classrooms. This was also a time when many members lost work due to the slow economy and had difficulty meeting the pledges they desired to make. However, we also had many who were blessed and gladly stepped up to help meet our obligations. God has always blessed this congregation and we have much to be thankful for. During this time, the City of Winter Garden was in need of storm water runoff storage. WOCOC had a very unsightly retention pond located at the entrance of our property on Daniel road. We reached an agreement with the city and traded 1 acre of our most unusable property to the city for all future underground construction needs, a new retention pond capable of handling our future growth which would be maintained by the city at no cost to us as well as the removal and filling in of the aforementioned unsightly pond at our entrance. To handle traffic during a road construction project, the city needed the Church to allow the public to have use of a cut thru street for public use for one year. The City agreed to build and permit the road at their cost in return the Church would cooperate and allow a one year use of the road. We own the private road and have chosen to keep it open to the public.
God has blessed this family of Christians for almost eighty three years. One example of this happened in 1995-1996 during planning for the present building. We were not allowed to build without city water and sewer services. The City of Winter Garden had no service on Daniels road. The only sewer available was on 535 and it required a new $50,000.00 lift station and an agreement with the Catholic Church on 535. The station would require all maintenance to born by WOCOC. However, coincidentally, the Daniels Crossing project across the street from our front entrance was beginning. The project engineer offered to connect our new building sewage needs to their system for the cost of materials only and we would never have any future maintenance costs. The total cost with permits was less than $9,000.00. This was one of the many blessing God has sent to WOCOC.
In 2013, we took advantages of today’s low interest rates and made arrangements to acquire 10 year fixed financing with a low interest rate to help insure we meet our outstanding obligations. This is just a small part of the physical history of the WOCOC. The real history is in the spiritual lives and good works that this group of God’s children has been able to accomplish in West Orange County.