Although it was completed about a year ago, Knox United Church here is holding an official dedication of the elevator the congregation worked so hard to acquire.
“It’s the fruition of 10-12 years of talking about it and fundraising,” said Randy DeGagne, chairman of church council.
He noted they didn’t have time to put something together last year but now are ready to celebrate.
The dedication service will be held this Sunday (Sept. 11) at 10 a.m., with a lunch to follow.
“We want to celebrate that we have completed Phase 1,” DeGagne said about the elevator and new washrooms.
“The fact that we now have an accessible building,” he enthused.
However, it is not fully-accessible in that there still only are stairs to access the most upper level, which houses a Sunday School room, the Fort Frances Nursery School, the chapel, and a lounge area.
The elevator does help to make most of the building accessible, transporting those with mobility issues from the foyer up to the sanctuary or downstairs to the washrooms, kitchen, and McMillan Hall.
“It’s really satisfying to see the elderly people using the elevator,” said DeGagne, noting accessibility was the driving force behind the renovations.
“Our congregation is an aging congregation and people who wanted to come to church couldn’t come to church,” he stressed.
DeGagne noted Phase 2 is a long ways down the road as they’re still paying for the first one.
In fact, the fundraising effort remains ongoing, with its next event featuring a musical duo named “The Great Plains,” who will perform Sept. 22 at the church.
“For a certain segment of the population, it’s been a really hectic couple of years to get it done,” DeGagne conceded.
“Lots of fundraising efforts; lots of oversight working with the architects and during the construction phase.
“It’s a big building and it’s ongoing,” he added, noting while energy efficiency wasn’t the focus, they took some steps to improve the quality.
“We recently changed all the lights in McMillan Hall over to energy-efficient LEDs,” DeGagne noted, adding they also took out a 50- or 60 year-old boiler and added modern, efficient gas hot water boilers and an air exchange system.
“The building had problems with air quality in some spots, so we’ve gotten rid of that,” he said.
“Plus the sanctuary is now air-conditioned.”
DeGagne noted the total cost of the project was just over $1 million.
“And we know that as membership for the mainline churches continues to fall, that in order to be a viable entity, we need to—and would like to—be more a part of the community,” he stressed.
DeGagne said the church is very open to looking into partnerships with groups that would like to use the facility.
“We’re wanting to get into partnerships to try to use a building that from Monday to Saturday is somewhat under-utilized,” he remarked.
He noted, for instance, they’ve formed a partnership with Fort Frances Little Theatre over the past year.
“And they call our building home now,” he said.
DeGagne stressed Knox United Church is thrilled that it is a facility that can be utilized by anyone now, regardless of physical abilities.
And they’re hoping people will come out this Sunday to help them celebrate.
“Invitations have been sent out to all local churches, user groups that we have, contractors and sub-contractors, and the architects,” DeGagne said.
If people are attending their own worship services that day, they still are invited to come for lunch.
“Everyone is welcome to attend,” DeGagne urged. “We’re inviting people to come and celebrate with us.”
The dedication service coincides with the church’s Sunday School kick-off, and there will be hotdogs, salads, and other goodies to enjoy.
“We’re just so happy that after 10 years of fundraising and lots of soul-searching that we’ve been able to make the building accessible,” DeGagne enthused.