Newholm Community Heritage Centre vies for votes
HUNTSVILLE – The Newholm Community Heritage Centre is in the running for votes and funding.
The deconsecrated pioneer church in the centre of Newholm is now in the running for an Aviva Community Fund grant.
Aviva Canada Inc., a national property and casualty insurance company, sponsors an annual competition wherein community members from across the country can submit project ideas for which they need funding. Then the voting begins.
After three rounds of voting, the insurance company awards $1 million in prizes. Supporters of the fledgling Newholm Community Heritage Centre have their sights set on $150,000 in prize money.
John Riviere-Anderson, information officer for the Newholm Community Heritage Centre and Friends of Holy Trinity Newholm, submitted the heritage centre as a contender for the grant.
“We are asking for your kind support in preserving an 1889 landmark of pioneer church architecture. We are now reviving it as our Newholm Community Heritage Centre,” said Riviere-Anderson in his submission.
He wrote about how more than 100 community volunteers had spent countless hours and thousands of dollars restoring the old church in the 1990s.
But the Anglican diocese deconsecrated the rural church last year due to low parishioner numbers and subsequently removed the stained glass windows, church pews and other items.
The removal of the windows compromised the security of the building and thieves broke into the church to steal electrical panels, wiring and hard-carved woodwork.
“Nonetheless, efforts to save it for future generations are again underway,” said Riviere-Anderson.
Community members rallied around the deconsecrated church and created the Newholm Community Heritage Centre and Friends of Holy Trinity Newholm. The group worked with the diocese and the Town of Huntsville to transfer ownership of the building to the newly created charitable entity and sever off the adjacent cemetery.
“Built as an interdenominational mission church, it was the social centre for over 40 pioneer families. Its gorgeous country setting has been used in recent years for services, weddings, concerts, Christmas celebrations, corn roasts, readings, art and puppet shows, youth groups, and for many other happy gatherings,” wrote Riviere-Anderson. “By rebuilding the church as our secular welcoming hall, the community can keep it as its visual and spiritual memorial to those ancestors buried in the graveyard around the building, and can preserve its recognized architectural significance as the last authentic pioneer building in the area.”
But to do that the community group will need financial support.
The group hopes to use the Aviva grant to put the building on a foundation, restore damaged wood wainscoting and floors as well as lath and plaster, and replace the stolen electrical panel, vestry doors and hand-carved friezes. Funds would also be used to rebuild the arched window frames and install windows and washrooms with running water.
The group also wants to install display cases for heritage memorabilia and photos, among other projects.
The building is still windowless.
“As you can imagine, with winter coming on, the plight of this historic icon and heart of our community is both grave and urgent. We appeal to you for your support and generosity,” wrote Riviere-Anderson. “Resources are few; we have only our motivation and courage. We must rebuild our venerable and still beautiful old building. We owe it to our history and to our community.”
The hope of the group is to once again to host meetings, picnics, sleigh rides, children and youth activities, recreational activities, weddings, support groups, studio exhibits, dinners and seasonal festivities at the hall.
Newholm Community Heritage Centre is up against nearly 800 other contenders vying for funding through the Aviva competition. The heritage centre needs enough votes to become one of the 90 ideas that will make it to the semi-finals.
Round one voting ends Monday, Oct. 15. For more information, visit www.avivacommunityfund.org.