Downtown Wheeling may have its troubles - but rather than run away from them, as others have done, the Rev. Michael Cogley chose to greet them with open arms.
When Cogley, a 35-year veteran of ministry, decided to start the Harvest Community Church, he saw it as an opportunity to plant a seed for revitalization, and the formerly empty 1320 Market St. building at one of downtown's busiest intersections - formerly King's Jewelers, an appliance store and later a health food market - just felt like home.
"People think downtown's being neglected, so we just wanted to be a positive influence in the heart of town. ... If you're going to go fishing, you need to go where the fish are," Cogley said.
The non-denominational church has received a positive response since opening in mid-January, Cogley said. The interior remains a work in progress, but things are coming along. And while attendance got off to a slow start - bad weather was to blame, Cogley believes - each week there are new faces in the crowd, popping in to check things out and say hello.
"We've got a small congregation, about 18 faithful members. ... We're really laid back, very welcoming. We pretty much accept people for who they are," Cogley said.
Worship services at Harvest Community Church begin at 10:45 a.m. each Sunday. The church holds evening Bible study at 6:30 p.m. each Tuesday, and Cogley said they've recently started opening the church for prayer at noon on Thursdays, giving people a place to relax in the middle of a busy day.
"The biggest thing with us is to meet people at their point of need. ... Life happens, and they need to know there's somewhere they can go," he said.
Cogley has been a pastor for 35 years, spending part his career in a traveling ministry and even hosting a radio worship program broadcast in 84 different countries. But there was something about the Wheeling area, he said, that made it seem like the perfect place to settle down.
"We've been around, we've done a lot," he said. "We came to the Ohio Valley about 17 years ago. We were just drawn to it. We love it here."