Efforts to repair the church are led by the Ozark Riverways Foundation. Founded in 2020, ORF is a nonprofit partner of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks and the Dent County Community Foundation.
ORF serves as the friends group to ONSR, which protects 134 miles of the Current and Jacks Fork rivers as they flow through south-central Missouri. Established through congressional legislation in 1964, ONSR was the first national park to protect a river system. The park also serves to protect the cultural history of the area.
“The historic Mount Zion Church is a physical example of that culture, a community icon that is still revered today even though the communities have dispersed,” says Barbara Ostmann, president of ORF. “The church's church’s cobblestone exterior is a good example of typical Ozark construction techniques. Its history illustrates how people in the river communities came together to build something for the common good.”
While the building remains beloved by those from families who once called Akers home, the list of issues is significant. There are large cracks in the north, south and west walls. Upgrades to the electrical system are needed, as are repairs to the roof and steeple. The ceiling requires replacement, and the floor refurbished. In addition to the building itself, other needs include outdoor toilet facilities, outside lighting, safety provisions, and improving the parking lot.
In 2020, at least $60,000 was necessary to stabilize the building and help prepare it for the future. ORF established a separate fund for the work at Mount Zion.