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Palgrave church members help provide accessibility for all

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  • Palgrave church members help provide accessibility for all

    Palgrave church members help provide accessibility for all

    A young elevator attendant holds open the elevator door at the sanctuary entrance. Through a "Buy a Brick" fund-raising campaign, Reverend Shelly Roberts and her congregation at Palgrave United Church engaged the support of Caledon groups to begin renovations to make their small church accessible for everyone.
    Roberts and members of her congregation took a brave and proactive leap forward when they formed an accessibility committee in March 2004, and a year later, approved renovation plans to make the church wheelchair and walker accessible. The renovations
    that began in July 2005 included an elevator installation, and modifications to the church washrooms and sanctuary pews. The entire project was funded by a creative "Buy A Brick" campaign.
    Church members saved the leftover bricks when contractors knocked down an outer wall to make room for the elevator, and sold them for $1,000 each. They presented the bricks to the individuals and organizations that bought them as mementos of their generosity. The church presented a
    brick to Caledon's Rick Hansen Wheels in Motion committee for donating $2,250 raised by their walka thon last year toward the wheelchair elevator. Palgrave United Women's group and the Palgrave Orange Lodge were among other groups presented with a brick for their donation.
    Caledon's Rick Hansen Wheels in Motion committee chose the wheelchair elevator as their 2005 Quality of Life funding project. This fundraising program dedicates 50% of the net proceeds raised at Rick Hansen Wheels in Motion events every year to projects in event communities. Guidelines dictate that these projects should respond to the needs of people living with spinal cord injury and may include, but are not limited to projects that provide accessibility, personal and technical supports, access to educational, recreational, and cultural activities and employment, as well as projects that provide awareness and information, and support for a person with spinal cord injury to
    participate in an ethically reviewed clinical trial or demonstration project.
    Palgrave United Church's elevator gives people who use wheelchairs and walkers access to all three levels of the church. Visitors enter from the sidewalk and can go up one level to the sanctuary and washrooms, or down one level to the fellowship hall and kitchen area.
    "The renovations have been good for everybody," Pastor Roberts said. "Before the renovations, we used a movable ramp to get a woman in a wheelchair into the building. This situation was far from ideal. Now mothers can get into the building without bumping their sleeping babies in strollers up the stairs. The renovations have also allowed a choir member who had undergone knee surgery to come to practice."
    Although the church building is small, it is used well by the community, notes Pastor Roberts. Community groups such as Mom's and Tots as well as Sparks and Beavers use the church as a meeting place.
    The 125-member congregation are a lively and supportive group of people. Together they raised most of the money for the renovations. When everything is finished, church members will have raised close to $50,000 toward renovation costs.
    Even the youth who attend the church have contributed. Since most seniors find technology daunting, teenagers and preteens are assigned the roles of elevator attendants. Every Sunday they greet people outside the church with "Elevator Attendant" emblazoned on their t-shirts. "The teenagers love it and are good assistants," said Pastor Roberts.
    Most of the major renovations are now complete. Further modifications will be made to the sanctuary where a row of chairs with arms will be added to help people who have difficulty standing up, as well as another row for people with sensation problems.