Athol Daily News – Seeking to revitalize the community center, Friends of Wendell Meetinghouse launches GoFundMe
WENDELL – Built in 1846, the Wendell Meetinghouse was once a bustling home for religious and social gatherings, the performing and visual arts and more before closing in 1990 as the church congregation dwindled.
Now, together with the Friends of the Wendell Meetinghouse, owners of the building at 3 Morse Village Road, the nonprofit hopes to restore the venerable hall to its place as the center of town life and destination for residents. from Pioneer Valley and North Quabbin. With this vision in mind, the non-profit organization launched a GoFundMe to raise funds for the restoration work.
Speaking via Zoom, Friends of the Wendell Meetinghouse chairperson Court Dorsey, vice chair and campaign chair Dr Christopher Queen, and clerk and chair of outreach Debbie Lynangale, said the group was looking to launch a three-phase renovation project, with the aim of opening the doors of the new Wendell Meetinghouse on September 11 and 12.
“This year marks the 175th anniversary of the Wendell Meetinghouse, so part of our fall festivities will be a birthday party and a celebration of the role that New England venues have played in our communities,” said Queen. “We are already listed on the National Register of Historic Places.”
To date, the group has raised and spent over $ 80,000 on restoration, and hundreds of volunteer hours have gone into restoring the roof, doors, windows and belfry, painting the exterior and installation of an American with Disabilities Act (ADA) -compliant. ramp. The group is now seeking additional support to complete Phase 1 of the construction.
On Friday, the GoFundMe “Wendell Meetinghouse 175th Birthday Re-Opening,” found at bit.ly/2QOgWhj, had raised $ 5,500 to reach a goal of $ 40,000 for Phase 1 costs. The Greenfield Cooperative Bank also did a commitment of $ 5,000 for the project. Completion of the first phase will allow limited occupancy for community gatherings this summer.
Phases 2 and 3 will see the installation of a four-season heating and air conditioning system; the addition of toilets, multi-purpose lighting and sound systems; furnishings and landscaping; and connect to the city’s water supply and septic system. The estimated costs for these two phases range from an additional $ 350,000 to $ 500,000.
Queen predicts that the three phases could take up to three years. As the Friends of the Wendell Meetinghouse aim to secure an occupancy permit for the celebrations and a few programs in the fall, Dorsey noted that the facility will not have all-season heating and cooling until the following year. The Friends of the Wendell Meetinghouse is evaluating the historic dining options of the interior of the building.
“We have removed the wonderful pews from the old church, and they are being rehabilitated,” Queen said. “I think people will make colorful pillows for them. But they won’t be set up like a normal church, and they will be able to move. … There will be a stage, so for the evening performances, all chairs and benches will be directed to the performances.
According to Dorsey, the group envisions the existence of “four areas” of the Wendell Meetinghouse: Wendell’s “Living Room”, the performance space, the sanctuary and the “Maker-Learner Center”. The performance space will see scheduled concerts and other events. Wendell’s living room, Dorsey said, will be an “intergenerational meeting space” and community center. The Maker-Learner Center will host workshops and be a space for hands-on arts, crafts and lectures.
“We have a very unique sense of wit – pretty earth-centered, pretty deep and maybe a little offbeat,” Dorsey said of the town of Wendell and its people. “But (this spirit) is strong enough. So we wanted to have an eclectic process of looking at spirituality.
Starting in June, the group will be holding “Spirit Circles,” with different residents of Wendell leading hour-long Zoom sessions every Thursday. The speakers are: Queen, Dorsey, Kai Jud, Joe Laur and Sara Shley. They will share their experiences with spiritual pilgrimages, Buddhism, Judaism and “the 12 mysteries”. More information, a calendar and Zoom links will soon be posted on wendell-meetinghouse.org.
“As the pandemic that has crippled our society recedes in the coming months, the Friends of the Wendell Meetinghouse believe that a revitalized community center will be the cornerstone of restoring its social and economic vitality throughout the city,” wrote the Friends of Wendell Meetinghouse in a three-phase plan announcement. “Judging by the enthusiasm and support we have already received, we are confident that when the renovations are completed our vision can be fully realized.”
Zack DeLuca can be contacted at [email protected] or 413-930-4579.