Handy Chapel congregation raising funds for restoration work on historic chapel house

Handy Chapel congregation members are ready to complete work that began last spring on the church’s chapel house.

HistoriCorps preservation volunteers replaced the house’s roof and stabilized its front porch during the first week of May 2011. The work was performed three months after Colorado Preservation Inc. added the 120-year-old Handy Chapel and its 97-year-old chapel house to Colorado’s Most Endangered Places list.

There is more work to be done inside the aging chapel house, according to Handy Chapel member Josephine Dickey, a great-granddaughter of one of the men who built the church at 202 White Ave. Dickey said the church would like to have volunteers spruce up the aging structure and turn it into a museum detailing the history of the historically black church and its members.

The church started a fund specifically for the chapel house at American National Bank. People who wish to donate to the fund can deposit a check at the bank, made out to Handy Chapel and specifying the donation is for the chapel house.

The church is no longer taking donations for renovation of the main chapel building. The church recently raised $68,230 to make that project a possibility. Dickey said work will include improvements to the church’s electrical, plumbing and heating systems, plus installation of new windows, doors and insulation and possibly some landscaping work.

The project has a budget of $272,920, and the remaining amount will be paid for by a grant from the State Historical Fund, according to the fund’s preservation communications manager, Shannon Haltiwanger. Haltiwanger said the state fund, which receives gambling tax revenue, awards grants each year to historical-preservation projects based on a review process and how quickly a site needs help.

Dickey said it was a “miracle” the chapel was able to raise the money it needed to unlock the grant within three months. She said former state legislator Tillie Bishop and local philanthropist Herb Bacon helped with large donations, and she appreciated the smaller donations that came from a variety of people, many of whom she does not know.

“I could not believe there was this much love and care,” she said. “With the way the economy is suffering, for people to come forward is on Christ’s shoulders.”

Colorado Preservation Inc. helped Handy Chapel apply for the grant. The group’s preservation programs director, Jane Daniels, said a requirement of the state grant, to raise 25 percent of the project funds, may have seemed daunting to the chapel’s small membership. But the money was raised much faster than Daniels has seen with other projects.

“It’s been really rewarding to see how much support is there,” Daniels said.

Although Dickey predicts project work may begin as soon as April, Daniels said late summer is a more likely target. She estimated the project will take nine months to complete.


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