JOHNSTOWN — Members of a Johnstown community organization cautiously believed they could raise $200,000 for a years-long capital campaign over the holiday season.
But they raised $373,000 instead.
“In the last week, we reached $70,000 and thought ‘wow, we’re doing great’ and then at the end, bam, it really came in, so we ended up with lots,” said Tom Bell, member of One Church Street steering committee. “It’s really fabulous. Happy New Year to us.”
One Church Street is roughly $400,000 away from fully funding the renovation of a three-story community nourishment center.
The project’s price tag has risen from $1.5 million to $2.3 million per inflation. This marks its highest grossing season since facility improvements were delayed at the onset of the pandemic.
“The point that I like to make to people is that this is 100% community-raised money,” said Rev. Laurie Garramone. “It’s not national money. It’s not federal money.”
This year, the St. John’s Episcopal Church group received help from a bevy of new individual contributors, in addition to $100,000 from the Wesson Group construction firm. Other groups including Adirondack Beverage, Brown’s Ford of Johnstown and the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Hometown Association also chipped in.
Stewart’s Shops’ non-profit arm promised to double any year-end fundraising total over $100,000, a pledge the charity has made since 2019.
Much of the new funding will help open up part of the building for kitchen and dining usage. Over the last 30 years, St. John’s has served the community with a free Sunday meal program and food pantry service on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, which is currently run out of a rented facility across the street due to construction.
The rest of the facility, a former YMCA bought in 2013, will eventually hold event space, office suites and a gymnasium. Contractors are currently working on putting an elevator in the facility, one the priciest portions of the overall project.
Bell expects the group to have another fundraiser next holiday season.
“I don’t know if we’re going to top this,” Bell said with a laugh. “But we’re certainly going to try to recreate that sort of attention so that we can knock off the rest of this capital campaign, complete this project.”
Following the wrath of COVID-19 and record-high inflation, more and more residents have flocked to the group for support.
Between 2021 and 2022, they served 52,000 more meals and 1,200 more households. On Christmas Day, the church served 100 dinners after expecting between five or ten guests.
“They were self-sufficient before, but now they aren’t,” Bell said. “They are falling into this food insecure place when they need these kinds of services. It’s a little distressing, but that’s, that’s where we’re at.”
In coordination with Nathan Littauer Hospital, the new site is slated to offer dietary counseling and healthier meal alternatives to rid low income populations of chronic disease.
Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-527-7659 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @TylerAMcNeil