Visitors entering downtown Jamestown via North Main Street recently may have noticed a bit of increased activity, including large heavy equipment near St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. No, it is not a new big box store, or even another drive through coffee shop being constructed on the lot next to the church’s parish house. One thousand tons of soil have been removed from the lot and drainage is currently being installed in the first phase of the creation of a safe and visually attractive parking area and entrance to the church. The new lot will include handicapped parking spaces. The completed entry way will be the first of many improvements to the property as part of St. Luke’s current building project. These upgrades to the church campus are expected to enhance the appearance of the east side of Main Street’s 400 block, and to make it easier for the community to access St. Luke’s buildings.
Meridien Energy, LLC, has donated its services, equipment and all materials to construct the parking area as a gift to St. Luke’s ongoing Capital Campaign. With a thirty-year history of quietly supporting organizations and causes in the region, Meridien’s mission has always been to help wherever they can in the community. The company became involved with St. Luke’s after hearing more about the Children of the Book Reading program conducted each summer at the church for elementary aged students in the city.
“We are happy to partner with St. Luke’s.” says Angela Schettine, Executive Vice President and Counsel for Meridien. “St. Luke’s does so much good for its parishioners and, more importantly, for the underserved children and families in our community. It is with those people in mind that we were pleased to help create a safe parking area for people who access the church daily for various services and support.”
St. Luke’s has nearly reached its primary goal of One Million Dollars for their Capital Campaign, which began in 2016 and is intended to refurbish, preserve, and protect the 1892 historic structure and surrounding property. Along with the parking and entry way improvements, the project’s scope includes the repair and realignment of exterior walls, and windows, creation of handicapped accessible bathrooms on both floors, and the transformation of the basement “undercroft” area into a bright, accessible space for activities, including the creation of modern classroom areas for interactive learning to assist the Reading Camp.
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church has stood as a downtown anchor on the corner of 4th and Main Streets for 164 years of the parish’s 182-year history. Over the years, St. Luke’s has responded to the changing demands of the city, and has steadily expanded and adapted their outreach to meet the community’s needs. It is a place where both parishioners and community members can pray, worship and break bread as well as a host for community groups looking for a place to call home. St. Luke’s has undertaken the challenge of the refurbishment project to ensure that their buildings and grounds are safe, well-maintained, and accessible to all who wish to enter.
“It took a lightning strike on September 1, 2013 to focus our attention on the importance of a more proactive stewardship of our beloved bell tower and magnificent church building.” explains the Rev. Luke Fodor, Rector of St. Luke’s. “Damage inspections and reports at that time confirmed the need for more extensive repairs and updates, the cost of which far exceed the planned maintenance included in our annual budget.”
The original timbers that were installed in the bell tower in 1894 are still in place, holding the bells that chime every quarter hour throughout the downtown Jamestown area. Exposed to the elements for these many years, they are still holding strong, but Fodor and his buildings and grounds committee fear that their stability may soon come into question.
“Although we failed to receive New York State Preservation funding this year to assist with the work to restore the church’s stonework, we have redirected our efforts to the aging bell tower and timbers.” Fodor says. “We are still a bit short on funds to complete all of the renovations, but we are working on securing more donors and grant funding to finish the project. In the meantime, we are very appreciative of the support that we have received thus far from our parishioners, community members, foundations like CRCF and the Jessie Smith Darrah Fund, as well as, local businesses such as Meridien. The City of Jamestown has also been extremely helpful in the permitting process and it’s been delightful to work with them. We are blessed to have so many friends who are willing to help us preserve and maintain our historic building and grounds. We have faith that we will meet our goals to complete the necessary repairs and improvements so that we can continue our mission of supporting and welcoming our community into our church home for generations to come.”
St. Luke’s Church sees itself as a resource to the City, offering up free space to community agencies in need of meeting places. “We are delighted to have so many agencies using our space for peer support, community programming and to serve those in need. We look forward to a future where the renovated undercroft will become even more of a community asset,” Fodor says.
For more information about St. Luke’s programs and services or to make a donation to their Capital Campaign, please contact the church office at 716-483-6405.