|The Rev. Dr. Herman Robertson (left), pastor of Poplar Spring Baptist Church, with Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr.|
After 20 years of fundraising efforts, the congregation of Poplar Spring Baptist Church celebrated the unveiling of its new fellowship hall on Sunday, May 1, along with Liberty University administration, staff and local contractors who donated labor and materials to help the church meet its goal.
The 133-year-old predominantly African-American church, located near Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s farm in Bedford County, Va., had worked to raise $100,000 over two decades for the addition to the building. The church was close to meeting its goal when it was reported that the funds were missing. Instead of losing hope, members turned to their neighbors for help.
“I’ve known the folks in this church since we moved out here 24 years ago, and they’ve always impressed me. They’re hardworking, good Christian folks, and it was just a real misfortune what happened to them after they raised the money,” Falwell said. “I wanted to help them, but it was more than we could do as a university. It was just amazing how these contractors chipped in … it’s just a blessing to everybody, the ones that helped and the ones that received.”
Falwell asked Liberty’s Director of Field Operations Scott Starnes and maintenance coordinator Ed Carton to see how the university could help. Within a couple of days, 45 local and out-of-state contractors and suppliers that Liberty does business with had agreed to donate their services to the church. Construction began in early 2010 and several Liberty students volunteered to help out on the weekends. An offering was also collected for the project during Campus Church.
“It’s just been a blessing. So many people through these hard economic times gave from the heart and really contributed to this fellowship hall,” Starnes said.
The new addition is a much-needed improvement over the church’s basement, which formerly served as its fellowship hall. The new fellowship hall, which is on the first floor, is larger and more accessible to the congregation’s senior citizens.
|This is the old fellowship hall in the basement of the church.|
“When I looked in here and saw everything, I said, ‘Oh my goodness, this is really beautiful!’ … If it hadn’t been for them [Liberty and the contractors] I don’t know when we would have got it done,” said Inez Jackson, who has attended the church her entire life.
Virginia Spinner, who attends the church and has been a neighbor to the Falwell family for 24 years, said she appreciates all the hard work.
“I can’t believe somebody has done all this for us. It hasn’t sunk in. Everything is so nice. … Everything is just in place like we’ve never had it before.”
Chad Conner of Shenandoah Building Supply, a contributor to the project, said the company was willing to help because it wanted to give back to the community.
“We have a really good relationship with Liberty, so I knew that if they were asking us to help out that it was definitely a good cause.”
The following companies and individuals assisted in the project:
Sherwin Williams Paint
Lyon, Conklin & Co.
Old Dominion Landscape
Old Virginia Brick
BAT Masonry (Melvin Hindon)