BRUNSWICK — Just a year after a fire ravaged the Unitarian Universalist Church, the capital campaign to rebuild the church has topped $1 million.
On June 6, 2011, firefighters responded to the corner of Pleasant and Middle Streets after a neighbor reported black smoke billowing from the 126-year-old church. No one was injured in the fire, which was caused by faulty wiring, but the church sustained serious smoke and water damage.
Last summer a capital campaign committee was formed to look at the feasibility of constructing a new church and to begin the fundraising for the construction.
“(The biggest thing was) how we were going to pay for the building that we wanted, which was going to cost more than the insurance would cover,” Mike Heath, chairman of the church trustees, said.
The “stretch” goal for the capital campaign was $850,000, and the group had nearly met that goal on May 5 when the campaign opened up to public donations.
“Even before we had the capital campaign committee many people started sending us money right after the fire,” the Rev. Sylvia Stocker said. “We received between $40,000 and $50,000 just that way and also we received a grant from the Unitarian Universalist Association in the fall.”
The campaign went public on May 5 with $750,000 already in the coffers and raised another $250,000 to reach a total of just over $1 million.
“The largest percentage (of the money) is from people in the congregation,” Heath said. “The donations have come in from the outside and the grants add up to a significant amount, but it’s not the bulk of the money.”
The church hopes to construct a new, larger building on the same site.
“The insurance was meant to replace what we had and I think it would have, but the building that we had was too small for our needs,” Stocker said. “But now we recognize we have an opportunity to create a church that better meets our needs as a congregation and also the community needs because our church is so centrally located that it could be a good meeting place for the wider community.”
While the ultimate dream is for the church to be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified, sustainable and meet all the church’s needs, Stocker and Health said they recognize the need to be realistic.
“We want to be perfect,” Stocker said. “We recognize that we may not achieve that goal.”
Part of the plan is also to connect the sanctuary to the religious education building, known as Pennell House.
According to Heath, there will be no total cost for the project until bids come back. A solicitation is expected to go out this month.
“We’re … hoping to get the bids back by sometime in July and shortly after that we hope to break ground,” he said. “But we won’t know that number, the amount that the whole project is going to cost, until we get those bids back and we will look to see how that matches (our plans).”
Stocker said she hopes that everything they want can be included, but that they would love to build without a mortgage. She also said that if they were in a situation where they had planned on new construction, things would have been much easier.
“Because we’re working with a fire and a disruption and something we didn’t plan at all, dealing with the capital campaign and the architects plans simultaneously (has been difficult),” she said. “It’s a lot of guess work … (but) educated guesswork.”
What was left of the Unitarian Universalist Church at 15 Pleasant St. in Brunswick was demolished last June, after a fire bady damaged the 126-year-old building.