Members of the leadership team for Vineyard North Church, located in the former Monaco's Palace and Catering building on Cleveland Avenue, have simple, straightforward reasons for launching the congregation in the Northland area.

"The need," said Akwasi Boakye, pastor of the church that began meeting in June 2013 at the nearby Vineyard Northside Food Pantry.

"To give people hope," said Dave Holdren, who teaches youth programs. "A lot of people don't have hope these days."

"I feel like God has called me to do this kind of work," said Chapel Presson, marriage and family life pastor.

The building was started as a restaurant by an Italian immigrant in 1981 but eventually became a banquet facility for wedding receptions and similar events, including quarterly luncheons of the Northland Area Business Association. It has not yet undergone a lot of physical changes. The front gate and front doors still say Monaco's.

Boakye said the building is once again available to community groups and for wedding receptions.

"We are now ready to serve the community," he said. "Except we don't do catering."

That's because one of the first major projects in the building calls for converting the kitchen area into classroom space for youth programs.

"Children are one of the most important parts of our church," Boakye said.

The building at 4555 Cleveland Ave. was purchased from the last owner of Monaco's Palace, retired veterinarian George Norris, March 17 for $650,000, according to Franklin County Auditor's Office records.

The location, Boakye said, will enable church officials to try to meet the needs -- social, spiritual and economic -- of the large immigrant and refugee population in Northland.

"The international community in this area has their own peculiar needs," he said.

"We've very multi-faith-based," said Cynthia Lay, who handles communications for Vineyard North.

The first service was held in the building July 23.

Lay said the homeless population in the Morse Road and Cleveland Avenue area will be a major focus for the church.

"The most important thing is reconciliation between men and God," Boakye said.

"The next things are the physical needs, caring for the hungry at a food pantry, paying bills for our community. "People need hope. People need vision."

"You just see hope that they now have that you didn't see before," Holdren said.

"Here we build relationships with one another, and relationships with God," Boakye said.

Boakye said Sunday services are at 10 and 11:45 a.m. Various small groups, mostly focused on Bible study, meet throughout the week.

kparks@thisweeknews.com

@KevinParksTW1