Congregational Church of Laconia mounting campaign to raise $750k for building improvements

LACONIA — The Congregational Church Of Laconia, UCC is embarking on a $750,000 capital campaign to modernize and upgrade one of the more prominent buildings in the downtown area.
The campaign, dubbed Faith for the Future, passed by a nearly unanimous vote of parishioners at Sunday's worship service and aims to build a glassed-in connector from the church to the Parish House on Veterans Square under which a lighted walkway will be converted to green space.
The project will also add a glassed-in vestibule main entrance on the Pleasant Street side of the church that will bring the entry closer to the street and create a 7-foot up-to-code platform so people can more easily get in and out of the front door.
Church Council Moderator and Campaign Co-Chair John Walker said the renovation is also meant to give a boost to the Main Street Initiative, which aims to promote the growth and resurgence of downtown. He said the proposed concepts for the improvements have the tacit support of the city's planning director although the final designs have not been created. He also said about 10 percent of the money raised will be given to local charities.
"We are a welcoming church," said Associate Pastor Paula Gile, "We just don't look it (right now)" she said, noting one of the goals of the renovation is to make the church more inviting to the local community so the congragation can grow.
The church building, according to Campaign Co-Chair Sandy Brallier, was built from 1906 until 1908. In 1924, she said the building burned, and was rebuilt in state two years later.
The Parish House next door is home to the church office, classrooms and a number of meeting rooms. The church provides space to Narcotic Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon; and space for Genesis Mental Health professionals and their clients to have lunch each day.
"We host 28 meetings a week," said Walker, noting that as many as 25 people a day will eat their lunch with Genesis employees on the church campus. "We allow them to use our kitchen."
The Congregational Church also provides electricity and bathrooms to the weekly summer farmers market.
Once the renovation is complete, the two buildings will be connected by a second story, glassed-in connector. With the exception of the church offices, all of the first floor will be given over to community activities, about 4,500 square-feet, and the second floor of the Parish House will be used by the church for its own activities.
Walker said the congregation did a feasibility study in January to determine what a realistic fund-raising goal was for the community. Anticipating some support from the community as well as the actual church patrons that number about 450, the study determined the church could raise $750,000.
With Sunday's vote and announcement the capital campaign has officially begun. Walker said the fund raising campaign will conclude on June 16 when the engineering and design will begin. He said the goal is to break ground on the renovations in the spring of 2014.