In November of 1964, a small band of twenty-two believers, along with their pastor and his wife, Trinity Gospel Temple at 5th and High Avemet for their first service. Arrangements had been made to purchase the building where they were meeting, the former Jehovah’s Witness Hall located at 416 High Ave SW in Canton, Ohio.
Little did anyone in this small humble group know of the illustrious future that was in store for them.
By February of 1965, the Trinity Evangelistic Association was approved as a non-profit religious organization with a broad base for the future expanded ministries.
Two years later, with the attendance at nearly 100, The Hour of Power weekly radio broadcast was born in May of 1967. (Because of a national program by the same name, the program is currently known as Brother Dave and The Hour of Power Singers.) By November of 1967, The Hour of Power became a daily program.
In October of 1971, the Trinity Day Care Center began with about a dozen preschool children. By 1977, the Day Care Center was the largest federally approved program in the state of Ohio. Approximately 125 children were enrolled, including an enrollment of 50 in an after-school program, and the center had a long list of children waiting to get into the program.
In 1974, the radio outreach expanded to include a weekly television ministry. At its peak, the program was on the air in Canada, Pan America, the Turks & Caicos Islands, the Dominican Republic, the Virgin Islands, South Africa, and Italy, as well as its presence on over 1200 U.S. cable stations. Presently, Brother Dave and the Hour of Power Singers enjoy a daily radio presence on four different stations as well as a weekly telecast on local and cable programming and TBN’s national Church Channel.
During this time, a 30 acre parcel of land in Navarre, Ohio, located off Route 21 and near Route 30, was donated to the Trinity Evangelistic Association by the late Ethel Jacobs. In a short time, Camp Trinity was born. The camp currently boasts a large 8,000 square foot Assembly Hall with full kitchen facilities as well as a boys’ and girls’ dormitory. In addition to these buildings, the camp operates a large swimming pool, a lake, a playground, and a full-size outdoor basketball court. A landmark of the camp for years was a barn that was converted into a classroom on each of two floors. Stables also housed horses for the enjoyment of campers during a period of time.
In August of 1975, Brother Dave and Sister Meralene noticed the vacant building that formerly was occupied by the Shoppers Fair discount store. Faith for its acquisition was ignited. After three months of extensive negotiation, the building was purchased from its owner, a real country gentleman from Roanoke, Virginia, Mr. Paul Wood, for $1,150,000 on a long-term mortgage held by the former owner.
The remodeling cost of approximately $500,000 was raised from the congregation and friends without the aid of an institutional loan. About 40,000 man-hours of labor were donated during the remodeling program that took one-and-a-half years to complete.
The present auditorium in Trinity Gospel Temple measures 150 feet wide and 135 feet deep, over 20,000 square feet. The initial church sanctuary in 1977 was filled with permanent theater-type seats totaling 2154. After a remodeling project during the mid-1990s, the present total number of seats is closer to 1800. The large 1,250 square foot altar area, along with musicians and choir members remaining on the platform, allows for an extended seating capacity of many more.
After the 1977 renovation was complete, the entire building was 1 ¾ acres under roof, or 72,000 square feet. In addition to the sanctuary, the building included at that time a large kitchen and banquet hall with a capacity of 650, a Day Care Center, Sunday School classrooms, a 60 by 30 foot youth chapel, a, fully-equipped print shop, two large nurseries, a bookstore, and over 3,000 square feet of office space. A 4 ½ acre immediate parking area at the time accommodated nearly 800 cars.
On August 14, 1977, Trinity Gospel Temple held a dedication service in its new sanctuary, newly renovated from the former Shoppers Fair Discount Store. Sister Meralene Lombardi and Brother Stanley Morse directed the Hour of Power Singers and Orchestra in a concert of songs, beginning with the church’s trademark song, Jesus is the Light. Following were Great is the Lord, You Can Depend on Me, Soon and Very Soon, The Sounds of His Coming, Come On, Let’s Praise Him, and I’d Rather Have Jesus. Special guests, including Reverend Tom Dooley, Pentecostal Church of Christ; Harry Donovan, CPA; Pastor Robert Graber, Bethel Temple; Dr. C. M. Ward, President Bethany Bible College; and Reverend C. Herschel Gammill, Canton Temple, helped welcome Trinity’s new location into the Canton community.
At the time of dedication in 1977, Trinity’s radio and television ministry were producing on some days in excess of 100 response letters per day. The television program had just been invited to be a part of the PTL Club’s 24-hour satellite ministry, and the Hour of Power telecast was seen across the nation from New York to California. Cadet Camp at Camp Trinity brought in an enrollment of 153 campers. Average Sunday morning worship attendance was over 1,300 people, Sunday evening’s services totaled about 950 people each, and Wednesday evening’s services brought an average just shy of 500 people.
In 1978, the former Garfield Grade School was purchased from the Canton Board of Education, and Trinity Christian Grade School was founded and put into operation in September of that year. Though the school ceased operations in 1985, the building is still owned by the Trinity Evangelistic Association. The building was utilized by the Stark County Mental Retardation Association and then by Head Start for a number of years, and is now used as a charter school called Hope Academy.
Camp Trinity expanded in 1978 with the purchase of an 85-acre farm from Mr. John Frigeli. While most of the farm was soon sold, 20 acres were retained for camp facilities.
Also in 1978, a Sohio station on a nearby corner was purchased and transformed into the Trinity Service Station. Through the years, the station has served an enormous purpose in maintaining all of the church vans, buses, trucks, and camp equipment. At the present time, the service station is preparing to move into a new facility adjoining the church building.
In 1979, a 17,000 square foot two-story Christian Education Annex was added to the main building. The annex is home to all children’s programs, as well as Trinity’s Sunday School program.
That same year, five homes and a large building directly across the street from Trinity were purchased and turned into an auxiliary parking lot for church services and events.
In 1980, a 40,000 square foot addition was added to accommodate the Trinity Christian High School.
After several years of small-scale food distribution to the poor, the church branched out into a full food program. The former location of the congregation at 416 High Ave SW was turned into the Trinity Benefit Food Store with hundreds of elderly and low-income people as customers. Food was sold at a very low price, providing a beneficial saving to each shopper.
An offshoot of this program was a free food giveaway each Thursday, benefiting approximately 100 needy families per week.
The Food Store was later closed, and the building was then used as the Jesus Christ People Care Center. The Care Center offered free distribution to needy families, a clothing giveaway and a food giveaway on the second and third Thursdays, respectively, of each month. Thousands of clothing and food items are given away each year thanks to the many donations of Trinity’s congregation.
The Care Center now operates from its new home in the Trinity Dream Center. A new federal building is being built downtown at the former location of the People Care Center, also the original location of Trinity Gospel Temple.
Trinity expanded its ministry outreach yet again in 1997 with a new presence on the World Wide Web. For the first time, Brother Dave and the Hour of Power Singers could be seen online. People from all over the world soon began to write, asking for prayer or requesting the free sermon cassette offered online. In addition to general information, the website offered a host of songs by the Hour of Power Singers as well as prayers from Brother Dave on various topics.
In 2003, after a long period of praying and planning, construction began on a new Trinity Dream Center. Not only is the People Care Center operated here, but the complex houses a full-size gymnasium and weight room. The gym is used to conduct Christ-centered sports leagues for inner-city kids, and is also used for various church activities involving all ages. Free hair cuts and styling are also offered to those in need.