Foundation Offering Money to Help Churches Pay For Repairs
By Jodi Weigand
Monday, July 26, 2010
A small Glassport church might have to pay thousands of dollars to replace antique stained-glass windows broken by vandals.
“They were all handmade,” said the Rev. Ira Kelly, co-pastor of First Baptist Church of Glassport. “They’re as old as the church is, and now they’re lying here on the floor in pieces.”
In addition to the heartbreak of losing the four 100-year-old windows in the sanctuary late last week, the congregation is suffering sticker shock. Replacements could cost as much as $12,000, Kelly said. That’s a tall sum for the 25-member church, he said.
In a twist of fate, the vandals hit shortly after the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation announced the revitalization of a program that could help the congregation pay for the damage. After two years of struggling to fund its Historic Religious Properties Program, the foundation said, an influx of donations has helped raise more than $100,000 for grants to assist churches in paying for renovations.
“We all felt it was an overwhelming response from our contributors,” said Carole Malakoff, coordinator for the foundation’s religious properties fund. “We were really thrilled at how this (fund drive) turned out.”
Due to a lack of money, the foundation had not awarded any religious property grants this year and gave just $32,000 in 2009, she said. Typically, the fund yielded about $75,000 a year in grants.
The recent fundraising push began three months after the foundation’s annual appeal netted just $22,000. Two members offered a $25,000 challenge grant, to which the foundation added a challenge grant of $12,500. The campaign ended last week with 288 gifts totaling $62,710.
Churches in Allegheny County that are more than 50 years old can apply for a grant of up to $10,000 to be disbursed in 2011. It’s a matching grant, meaning that if a church gets $5,000, the congregation must raise $5,000 to match it.
Malakoff said she has fielded calls from numerous church leaders seeking money to repair gutters and roofs damaged in February’s record snowfall. The foundation gets about 35 formal applications a year from churches seeking grants.
This year, the foundation has limited the scope of work to exterior renovations, including stained-glass windows, roofs, gutters and masonry work, Malakoff said.
“Those are big issues with historic properties,” she said.
Since 1997, the foundation has awarded about $700,000 in grants, which resulted in about $2.4 million in work on 100 historic religious buildings. Many churches raise money above and beyond the required matching funds, Malakoff said.
The foundation wants to keep the tradition going by establishing an endowment for permanent funding of the religious properties program, she said.
“We look at them as the major cornerstone of a community,” Malakoff said. “Many of these buildings are used for all kinds of community outreach programs. They’re of utmost importance to the community.”
Applications for grants through the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation’s Historic Religious Properties Program are available online at phlf.org.
For details about a September technical assistance workshop for churches planning renovations, e-mail Carole Malakoff at firstname.lastname@example.org.