OLEAN — Della Moore has waited a long time to share the news of opening a historic church for the newest home of the African American Center for Cultural Development.
Late last week, Moore, director of the Center, finally received the go-ahead to announce that the church at 201 E. State St. would be usable for the organization, as well as a community congregation, thanks to the current repair work on the roof by building owner, Kevin Dougherty.
In July 2018, the state awarded $225,000 in a Downtown Revitalization Initiative Grant toward the renovation of the building to house the Center. Dougherty said the funds needed to be raised by the nonprofit Center for repairs and renovation of the historic church, however, is $103,250 for a total of $312,500 in renovation costs. Until the funding can be raised by the Center, Dougherty plans to repair the building and move his church congregation in to pay the rent while Moore sets up her operations in the space, as well.
“For one thing, we are going to start using the building,” Moore said. “I was so afraid that by the time we raised the monies to fulfill our financial part of the grant, that the building, by simply sitting there empty and at the mercy of the elements, would be so far gone and repairs would escalate.”
They also speculated the roof would not last another winter.
“I’m really worried about that,” Moore continued. “It is a great building and definitely worth saving. “Kevin, bless his heart, came up with a solution.”
She said the solution was for Dougherty to rally help from his contractor friends to repair a section of the roof, and reshingle it.
When contacted Monday, Dougherty, a local contractor, businessman and Olean Common Council member, said a portion of the western side of the roof was torn off, replaced and shingled.
Dougherty said after the center raises its portion of the funds, it could acquire the building and receive tax-exempt status as a nonprofit organization. Dougherty said he will continue to repair the building after it is occupied, with full renovation expected to be completed after the center raises its portion of money and the full grant is received from state.
“(Moore) is still fundraising, she has like $12,000 or $13,000, but the state is giving her some time to raise the total needed,” he explained. “So in the meantime, I’m renting the church to my church (Order of Tempus.) What that allows us to do is to at least open the building temporarily, or permanently until the center can raise funds for its portion of the grant.”
“Della can operate right out of that building so she has a home now,” Dougherty remarked. “Essentially (the church) can host a whole litany of events and Della can do that, as well.”
Dougherty is hopeful the church can open in mid- to late-September and have both entities move in at some point after that.
Dougherty said the nice thing about the building opening is that it will be identified as the African American Center, which will hopefully inspire the community to become involved and contribute or volunteer at the facility.
In other related news, Moore said Rev. Kim Rossi of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on South Barry Street has proposed a partnership with the Center in developing and presenting programs on Black History as well as promoting human rights and racial equality.
“We met recently to talk about ideas and programs we could use to do just that,” Moore said. “We are going to meet this Thursday to continue that conversation. So far we have ideas to fill the 2020 calendar … I am so grateful to Pastor Kim for reaching out.”