POLAND -- The process of restoring the more than 140-year-old Poland Historical Chapel is coming to an end with a lot of help from many people an organizations.
"It's been an absolute blessing to watch this happen," Poland Historical Chapel Society, Inc. President Joyce A Smidley recently told The Brazil Times. "There have been so many wonderful people who have helped."
On Aug. 7, a second crew of volunteers from the Terre Haute group of Men and Women Of Action was painting the outside of the building that was intentionally set on fire June 9, 2009.
"This community was violated when this arson occurred. It was a travesty," Project Leader Jake Crafton said before the crew started painting the exterior of the building. "We wanted to be a part of helping to reclaim this church for this community."
Men and Women Of Action (MWOA) is an international Christian organization that allows people "the opportunity to show the love of Christ by participating in hands-on ministry." Volunteers donate their time to provide service "in construction, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance around the world, while enhancing other ministries so they will be more effective, efficient and fruitful."
Although this project was small enough Terre Haute volunteers could handle the job alone, MWOA volunteers from around the Midwest have provided construction services previously in the area at the Friendly Benwood Community Christian Youth Camp in 2005.
For the current project, Crafton explained MAB Paints donated all the project materials (approximately valued at $10,000).
"More than 490 man hours have also been donated to this project by our volunteers," Crafton said about the two workdays and another one yet to be scheduled to complete the painting job. "They are all skilled craftsmen and women who want to help make a difference. What better way is there to being involved with a community than being a part of something like this?"
According to Crafton, Saturday's paint crew consisted of Shady Grove Community Church Pastor Doug Dayhuff, John Brown, Roy Hogue and Jim Waddell. Previous volunteers have included Kenny Kincade, Don Baysinger and Mike Willison.
Waddell and Hogue, of Just Paint It, told The Brazil Times this was their first project with MWOA.
"This is our first time volunteering (with MWOA)," Waddell said while standing on the roof of the chapel with a paintbrush in his hand. "It's definitely not going to be our last, but it's our first."
Being listed as a national historic landmark, special detail had to taken during the repairs. Bruner Design and Construction completed the interior repairs and restoration to the historic chapel.
Wilmadean Schepper helped serve breakfast to the volunteers Saturday and has managed the incoming donations from concerned citizens.
"This church means a lot to a lot of people," Schepper said. "There has been such a huge level of support for this project, it makes you feel good being a part of it."
Schepper said the Clay County Community Foundation helped the cause by purchasing a security system by ADT, while many others have donated funds to pay for expenses not covered by insurance.
"The building was covered, but not the contents," Schepper said. "We recently sent out 94 letters to people who previously lived in the community updating them on what was happening with the project. We received more than $9,000 in support. It was truly amazing."
With several small projects to complete, like installing new carpet and returning the pews to the chapel, the historical society is beginning to plan for the chapel's rededication.
Crafton said a new sign is being designed for the event, which has yet to set a time for the Oct. 13 ceremony.
"It will read, 'Reclaimed From The Flames 2010,'" Crafton said. "That's been the motto of this project. We're giving this church back to the community."
"This church has always been open and here for the community," she said. "It will be open again."
How can you help?
Closed in 1929, the former Poland Presbyterian Church, and the nearby graveyard, was placed on the National Registry of Historical Places Dec. 18, 1990. The Poland Historical Chapel Society, Inc. will continue to accept donations to help restore the facility and make further repairs caused by the arson.
Donations may be sent to the Poland Chapel Historical Society, 112 Park Place Dr., Brazil, Ind. 47834.