When Mariano Rivera’s knee gave out chasing a practice fly ball in 2012, he took it as “a signal from God” that it was time to do something new, says a longtime friend.
So that summer, Rivera set to work rehabilitating a crumbling Presbyterian church in New Rochelle for his charity foundation. On Thursday, he unveiled the product of his labor: a $3 million restoration, led by Pastor Clara Rivera, Mo’s wife.
The 107-year-old church, long called the North Avenue Church, was renamed Refuge of Hope.
“You don’t do it to be recognized,” the ex-Yankee closer, now 44, told the Associated Press. “You do it because it comes from the heart. You want to please the Lord.”
Rivera, a certain Hall of Famer, retired after last season.
Brandon Steiner, a business partner who helped him raise money, says Rivera chose the church as the place to house worship and charity outreach services because it sits near the core of the community and because it had charm. Plus, the city sold it to him for $1. But it still wouldn’t be cheap. The building had been vacant for decades.
“This is on the highest level of fixer-upper that you can get,” Steiner told amNewYork. But Rivera took on the project anyway, refusing to hire a management company and overseeing all the contracting and permitting himself.
“The great ones,” Steiner said, “they dig in.”