A new, two-story addition to the historic Newfane Congregational Church (right, rear of building) includes handicapped parking and a ramp for easier
A new, two-story addition to the historic Newfane Congregational Church (right, rear of building) includes handicapped parking and a ramp for easier access. (Mike Faher/Reformer)
Friday June 28, 2013

NEWFANE -- In March 2012, the members of Newfane Congregational Church launched a fundraiser to pay for a planned expansion of the 174-year-old building.

Their goal -- $250,000 -- was a lofty one for a relatively small congregation.

"Being a church, we took a lot on faith," said Bucky Pelsue, who chairs the church's capital campaign executive committee. "We had faith in our members and the community."

That faith paid off. Not only does the church have a new, two-story addition, but the committee also has realized 95 percent of its financial goal less than halfway into a three-year capital campaign.

From 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, the congregation will hold an open house to celebrate the completed renovation and also to offer gratitude for the nearly completed capital campaign.

"We want to thank all of those who made this project possible," Pelsue said. "We want to thank them and show this to the community."

The congregation dates to the origins of the town in 1774. When the settlement moved to the current site of Newfane Village, the church did, too.

The current building, at 11 Church St., was completed in 1839.

There have been a variety of renovations and modernizations over the years including fellowship hall remodeling completed in 2001, basement work finished in 2007 and steeple repairs that culminated in 2011.


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Four or five years ago, Pelsue said, church members began thinking about a new project primarily meant to improve handicapped accessibility.

"At the end of 2010, we put together a building-needs assessment," Pelsue said. "And we got input from the congregation."

Plans emerged for a two-story, 1,000-square-foot addition to the rear of the church.

The project included a new handicapped ramp outside accompanied by lighting and handicapped-parking spaces. Indoors, there is a new lift allowing anyone to easily access the church's second floor, which houses the sanctuary.

There also is now a second entrance and exit from the sanctuary. And just down the hall is a small conference room that offers "additional educational and meeting room for small groups," Pelsue said.

The conference room is named for Rick Wilson, who served as the project's clerk of the works.

"Rick was one of the people who had an early vision for this," Pelsue said. "He has guided us through the whole process."

Downstairs, there is new office space for the church's secretary and for the Rev. Robert Hamm, who recently was named the congregation's settled pastor after previously serving as transitional pastor.

Hamm said relocation of those offices into the church's addition "effectively enlarges the fellowship hall" for church gatherings and community functions.

"It means the rest of the building is much more available for the use of the community," Hamm said.

He added that the addition is much more energy-efficient, which will save the church money in the long run.

The congregation broke ground last summer, and construction was substantially complete by February save for a few finishing touches. Contractors are recognized on the back of Sunday's open-house program, and they include the project's general contractor, Michael Bates of Athens.

"We were really fortunate with the contractor that we had," Pelsue said of Bates. "He's a craftsman."

He noted that pains were taken to ensure that the addition conformed with the rest of the church building.

"Our goal was to have a facility where, when you looked at it from the street, it looks like it's always been here," Pelsue said.

There will be tours available at the church from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Brief remarks are planned for 3 p.m., and refreshments will be served in the fellowship hall.

Fund-raising continues, as the congregation still needs another $12,000 to reach $250,000. The church took out a loan to pay for construction in the interim.

Given the $238,000 in donations and pledges raised in just 15 months, Pelsue seems confident that the committee will meet its goal.

"We're truly blessed -- the whole project and the result," he said.

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.