Middlebury church raises $1.3 million for addition in a month
MIDDLEBURY — Members of the Congregational Church of Middlebury raised a whopping $1.3 million during the month of February to cap a $3.2 million fund drive for a big addition that will begin taking shape at the historic downtown building this June.
Church leaders have spent the past few years actively planning for a new, 8,000-square-foot addition onto the north side of the majestic place of worship at 2 Main St. The Middlebury Development Review Board last November gave its thumbs-up to the proposed project, that would, among other things, include a “youth room,” four classrooms, and a multi-purpose room with a kitchenette that the church could also rent out to other groups.
Plans submitted to the DRB show a two-story addition with a standing seam roof with white clapboard exterior designed to blend seamlessly into the existing church building, which was completed in 1809.
While the plans and permitting have been coming together nicely, church officials were concerned in January that fundraising was still around $1.3 million short of the $3.2 million goal. That goal also reflects $1 million in bank loans.
So members of the church’s building committee met with parishioners in late January to further explain the addition project and the need for more donations and pledges.
“We challenged the congregation,” said Dave Hallam, a parishioner and the project manager.
That challenge included giving parishioners three options for helping out:
• Making an outright financial gift for the addition.
• Agreeing to extend a loan over 10 years that could include a small interest dividend.
• Spreading a gift over several years.
Parishioners responded in a huge way.
“We raised all but $15,000 in four weeks,” Hallam said. “It was amazing. The right people have come together at the right time.”
Church members also recently voted 127 to 17 to definitively pursue the project. Hallam and his colleagues will spend the coming weeks acquiring the few remaining permits needed to break ground on or around June 1.
Plans originally called for a fall groundbreaking. But organizers sought to move up the construction timetable in order to minimize more costly winter-time work. Pushing up the timetable meant reopening negotiations with residents of the church-owned Cobble House next door on North Pleasant Street. The Cobble House — which hosts six rental apartments — needs to be removed in order to provide enough space for the church addition, Hallam explained. Church officials have offered the tenants some incentives that will result in them vacating their apartments before June 1, Hallam said.
The Rev. Andrew Nagy-Benson, pastor of the Middlebury Congregational Church, is thrilled with how his parishioners have responded.
“The money raised exceeded all reasonable projections,” he said. “It was amazing — waves of generosity kept rolling in. As truly grateful as I am for that, I also celebrate the way the congregation moved through a long, complicated process. A team of church leaders worked tirelessly for years to develop the building proposal. And, in the run-up to the vote, church-wide conversations about the project were respectful and clarifying. I am proud of how the church went about its work. Also, the congregation has been talking intermittently about building an addition for more than 50 years. I’m glad to be talking now about how the addition will help our congregation serve our town and the wider community.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].
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