Project to provide ‘access for all’

Beacon Falls Congregational Church parishioner Jeff Anderson discusses the church’s ‘Access for All’ building project on Monday at the church on Wolfe Avenue. The project will make the church handicap accessible. –LUKE MARSHALL

BEACON FALLS — The Beacon Falls Congregational Church parish wants everyone to be able to access the church, something that isn’t the case right now.

On Sunday, the parish broke ground on a $750,000 construction project, called “Access for All,” to make the church on Wolfe Avenue handicap accessible.

“The church has not been handicap accessible ever. There are steps every place,” said parishioner Jeff Anderson, who is chairing the committee overseeing the building project.

From outside the church, there are steps leading up to the main landing, the offices and down to the kitchen. Inside the church, there are more steps leading up to the sanctuary and to the bathrooms.

“You got stairs and stairs and stairs” Anderson said.

Once the project is finished, there will be a new hallway to the left of the front entrance that will have an elevator to the second floor, where the sanctuary is now. The project will add handicapped accessible bathrooms and a ramp system to access the church.

The project will also include a walkway to the front door of the church, a pergola in front of the church, a memorial garden and general landscaping, Anderson said.

The project has been years in the making.

The original concept to make the building handicap accessible was supposed to be put into place five years ago when other upgrades were made to the church, Anderson said.

Although the congregation voted in favor of moving forward with the project, the church was unable to make the financial end work because the elevator at that time was too expensive, Anderson said.

The congregation has raised $300,000 and has mortgages totaling $450,000 to pay for the project.

Once complete, the people who have difficulty attending or are unable to attend the church due to physical limitations will be able to make it to services and events held.

If someone in a wheelchair wants to attend the church now, that person has to be carried up to the sanctuary by other parishioners, Anderson said.

“You don’t think of how embarrassing it could be for them to be picked up. Not only that but you have to trust people you don’t know,” Anderson said. “It was time to get into the future. You have an older population that could use it.”

In addition to the parishioners, the United Day School, a preschool, uses the building.

Anderson said construction is expected to continue through the winter and, if everything goes according to plan, will be completed by March.

If the project runs behind schedule and over budget, the church will hold off on the landscaping, Anderson said. However, he is hopeful that everything will be completed without any hiccups.

“Once the walls are open we should know if we are going to hit anything unexpected,” Anderson said.

Anderson said there are some people who currently don’t attend the church now because they can’t make it in. He hopes, once this project is finished, they feel welcomed.

“I don’t know how many don’t come to church because of [the stairs]. I know there are some elderly people who don’t, but there are also young people who might not,” Anderson said. “We are excited about reaching out to everybody.”