Lift Me Up: Church Dedicates New Platform

The Kennedy First United Methodist Church recently dedicated a new platform lift. Photo by Rose Mary Carver

KENNEDY — The Kennedy First United Methodist Church took time during a recent Sunday morning service to officially dedicate the new platform lift that was installed in their building. This was the culmination of many years of study and fundraising efforts.

Kennedy First United Methodist Church is one of the landmark structures of the town. As such, it was built in a time when no one thought about handicap accessibility. In the early part of this century, the trustees realized that the time had come to try to make the church more accessible. Because of the slope of the land where the church is sited, it was impossible to construct a ramp for access. Although the fellowship hall addition had a ground floor doorway, there was no way to reach the sanctuary or other classrooms except by stairs. At that time, Access Elevator and Lift in Jamestown was contacted, and they came out and found the best location to install a platform lift. Fundraising then began to make this a reality.

For several years, members of the congregation and former members who had moved out of the area made donations towards a lift. Guidance was prayerfully sought as the trustees looked for expert advice for the project.

As they continued to raise funds for this major project through donations, they periodically obtained updated quotes on the cost to install the lift. In 2016, local contractor Mark Cunningham from Cherry Creek was contacted for a quote on the cost to install the lift. Rock Hill Engineering in Panama, worked with the trustees to provide the architectural drawings needed for the project.

At this point, knowing the funding that was needed, and having raised a large amount from the congregation, the church reached out to the community. Residents responded heartily. So many community events are held in the fellowship hall during the year, plus the church reaches out with a food pantry and other projects, that their neighbors were more than willing to help out when given the chance. A pancake supper was held in February 2016. Donations from area businesses were given for a silent auction, monetary donations were received, and over 150 people attended the supper. The results put the church very close to the goal needed for the platform lift.

Trustee Mary Jane Griffith wrote a grant request to the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation. After thoroughly checking the request, this local treasure was able to help with a $2,000 award from the Karl Peterson Fund.

Last summer, work on the project started in earnest. A gas line needed to be moved. This was accomplished through the work of another local contractor, Ridout’s Heating and Cooling of Kennedy. Church members made sure the building was ready for work to be done. In December, the platform lift was ordered from Access Elevator and Lift. In January, Mark Cunningham began work on construction of the shaft needed to house the platform lift. Installation was completed in February, and the lift was used for the first time on Feb. 12.

After many years of hard work and planning, church members are pleased that they have accomplished something that will benefit the church and the community well into the future. Pastor Jennifer Delahoy said, “I have seen God in this project. The money came through donations, the pancake dinner and the Community Foundation. And the project came in under budget. You know, the lift is paid for. To me, that is a God thing.” She said that God worked through all the efforts of everyone who helped with the project.

As those who need a little help to reach the main sanctuary can attest, the new lift is definitely an answer to prayers. Special thanks are given to trustee Stevan Hatfield, chairman of the lift project. Trustee Steve Kimball chaired the pancake supper fundraiser, and Mary Jane Griffith wrote the grant application. The rest of the trustees also did a lot of work to make this project a success. Shirley Leyman, Mel Lindquist, Jack Saboski, Corey Swanson, and Mike and Marti Telford took their responsibilities seriously and worked to make accessibility a reality at the Kennedy First United Methodist Church.

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