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Miracle at 576 Grant Street
Church countered housing gloom & doom
Place of Refuge Pastor Mike Dillman, left, in front of “Manteca’s Extreme Makeover” house at 576 North Grant Street back in January of 2008. - photo by HIME ROMERO

It stood as the poster home for Manteca’s growing foreclosure crisis.

Police were responding to transients and drug users breaking into the house at least twice a week. Holes had been punched in walls to steal copper wiring. Graffiti was throughout the home. Human waste was in some parts of the house as was rubbish from squatters. They even were tearing apart built-in shelves for firewood.

The house at 576 Grant Street represented all of the darkest fears many Mantecans had in January 2008 about the mortgage meltdown that ultimately triggered The Great Recession. A 22-year low of 402 existing homes sold within Manteca’s city limits in 2008 while 2009 started with a near record inventory of 581 unsold homes.

That is when Pastor Mike Dillman and the congregation then known as First Assembly of God committed what some critics at the time contended was nothing short of economic blasphemy. They bought the house from the German bank that ended up with the loan. The plan was to fix it up and sell the home  to raise funds for the Manteca Christian School that is part of The Place of Refuge campus on Button Avenue.

The home sold within three months in perfect timing with the start of a buyers stampede that saw 1,165 existing homes sell in 2008. The school ended up earning a tidy sum and residents in the 500 block of Grant Street got their neighborhood back.

Looking back at the sale two years ago this month of the home they gave what was dubbed at the time as “Manteca’s Extreme Makeover”, Dillman said he never had any doubts having bought and sold nearly 50 homes personally at that point in his life.

He said he originally was going to buy and repair the North Grant Street home on his own when he thought it would be a good way to bring people together in his congregation to make a difference in a neighborhood as well as benefit the Manteca Christian School.

Dillman said he based the decision two years ago on a passage from the Bible.

“I’d stake my life on Biblical scripture,” Dillman said.

His reference point is in the Book of Genesis where the passage “the evening and the morning were the first day.”

“The light begins in the darkness,” Dillman noted.

Dillman believes that the economic downturn has done a lot of good in addition to damage. He pointed out it has gotten people to put things in perspective and to place less emphasis on the things that don’t matter as much in life such as having the biggest house one can leverage.

“There were too many people who bought a house but couldn’t afford a can of chili,” Dillman said. “Now that they’ve gotten rid of mortgages they couldn’t afford and are renting at much lower monthly costs they are able to afford things.”

Dillman noted that people are learning to manage money and to keep things in perspective.

He equates it with how we deal with tragedy whether it is the loss of a loved one or some other traumatic experience.

“It ultimately makes us stronger,” Dillman said.