Popular Avon Wedding Barn Donates Percentage of Profits to Missions Organizations
Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Darinda and Jim Dragon were sitting on their front porch one Sunday afternoon when a car pulled into their driveway. The passengers rolled down their window and asked, “Hey, any chance we could hold our wedding at your barn?”
The Dragons chuckled until they began fielding the same request time and again from multiple sources. Finally, Darinda turned to her husband and said, “Maybe we should consider doing this.”
In 2010, they renovated their century-old barn and started booking nuptials. The third one they held was for their daughter. Following that celebration, the Dragons got flooded with requests.
“It spread like crazy because back then we were one of the first barns in the state holding weddings,” Darinda says.
Now that rustic ambiance is in vogue, however, the competition has turned stiff. Still, wooden rafters and stacks of hay does not an authentic barn make, and many venues are newly-built structures. Not so of the Dragons’ property. The 103-year-old barn is rich with history.
“This used to be an active dairy farm,” Darinda says. “Where the brides get dressed is where the milking station used to be.”
Later, the barn housed Belgium Draft horses. Craig and Nancy McKinney, who lived on the property prior to the Dragons, let the horses run free on the pasture land.
“For five years after we bought the place, mowing the yard was a major pain because it was super bumpy due to massive hoof dents,” Darinda says.
James Hornaday’s home was located where Kingsway Christian Church now sits. But his grandparents (the Ferrees) lived down the street at the Dragons’ place and were the original owners who built the homestead. Because Hornaday (who is now 68) liked to help his grandpa with early-morning farm chores, he pretty much lived on their property. And who can blame him? The place feels magical.
Darinda has noticed that when guests file into the barn prior to the ceremony, they often look up at the rafters, their mouths agape, as they take in the beauty of this structure, which was erected in 1914 by the Amish using hand-hewn timbers and large pegs rather than nails.
Nine times out of 10 when she asks these guests if they have a barn in their history, they nod and say, “Yeah, I grew up on a farm,” or “Yes, my grandpa was a farmer,” or “Yup, my buddy and I used to play in a barn.”
Darinda also hears from a good number of local male guests who claim they used to work in this very barn. It seems a lot of local boys were once hired by Mr. McKinney to do landscaping or help with the horses.
“It’s like the community barn,” Darinda says.
The Dragons understand others’ admiration of the barn because they, too, grew smitten when they first laid eyes on it — and each other.
“Our third date was at a square dance in this barn,” Darinda says. “Fifteen years later when the place came up for sale, my husband said, ‘We’re buying that barn!’”
For a time, the Dragons used the building to store their RV as well as some medical equipment for FAME, a nonprofit organization on the east side of Indy that partners with international missionaries and churches to empower medical evangelism worldwide. It’s an organization that’s dear to their hearts as the couple is passionate about mission work worldwide. That’s ultimately why they decided to repurpose the barn. They realized it was a great way to generate revenue that could go towards missions.
“We give a lot of our profits to missions who focus on evangelism,” says Darinda, noting that they donated a large chunk of their money to start Light and Truth, a theological school in the Dominican Republic.
“We pay for lights, books, rent, salaries,” Darinda says. “A huge amount of money goes there every month to keep that college rolling.”
Eliezer DeLeon, a professor at the college, is grateful for the ongoing support.
“[Our] students are very poor but [are] full of desire to make a difference,” DeLeon says.
Darinda acknowledges that on days when work is demanding and all-consuming, she focuses on the students in the Dominican Republic.
“I think of those college graduates and what they’ll do with their lives,” says Darinda, her voice breaking with emotion. “That’s what keeps me going.”
The Dragons also provides funding for a hospital in a rural area of Mexico that serves the forgotten people in small villages.
“The Dragons’ [aid] has been instrumental in changing the lives of thousands of Mexican people,” says Esly Fuentes, who spent his teen years in Avon and attended Avon High School before becoming a doctor and working in the hospital the Dragons helped build. “We are blessed for the continuous encouragement and financial support of Jim and Darinda, who believe and see the blessing of building a hospital in Mexico that will continue to impact and share the love of Jesus to our patients.”
“There are many great organizations in the world, but we want to donate to ones that teach people about Jesus,” says Darinda, who notes that they also support missionary work in India and Nepal as well as through local organizations like Hope Healthcare Services and Get REAL, a non-profit ministry designed to empower fourth-grade through college-aged girls via peer mentor groups.
Years ago, Annette Oeschele and her family traveled with the Dragons to Mexico where they witnessed, firsthand, Darinda and Jim’s commitment to loving others and contributing globally. Therefore, when their son got engaged last year, the decision about where to hold the ceremony was a no-brainer.
“Jim and Darinda’s passion for missions is such a beautiful testimony,” Oeschele says. “For us, the decision was perfect, undeniably so, because we knew the money we invested had a double purpose. It was a glorious wedding experience but also [an opportunity] to love others and bring souls to know Jesus.”
For more information, visit avonweddingbarn.com.