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CHICO, Calif. - Community members in Chico are coming together to help restore a historic church.
The Bethel AME Church on Linden Street is one of the oldest buildings in town. It was built in 1867.
A few weeks ago there was some vandalism at the church, and several people in Chico decided to come together and raise money to repair the damage. The fundraising escalated quickly, and soon more than $40,000 was raised.
This infusion of donations inspired church leaders and community members to work together in order to restore the building back to its original glory.
Community member Dan Herbert said, "Four to six weeks ago several of us thought it would be positive to assist the African American church to rebuild their long lost steeple -- that was lost back in the 50s." Herbert was one of the community members who was volunteering on Saturday.
Bethel AME's Reverend Loretta Dickerson said, "I want to say thank you to those who have stopped by, donated." She said she is ecstatic about people participating in this project that she believes will have long-lasting impacts.
Ray Watson testified about how the Bethel AME Church helped feed him as a child, with hominy and sausage, on the say to school each day. That ensured he arrived at school with a full belly. "I grew up across the street," Watson said. "My brother and our friends, we would walk to this church and they would serve us breakfast. They made a big impact on my life."
"When I heard this restoration was going to happen, I wanted to volunteer," he said, "after what the church did for me when I was a kid."
The plans include restoring the bell tower. The construction should take from four to six months. Until then, the members of the church will be meeting virtually.
The new goal is to raise $100,000 in order to complete all the repairs and reconstruction. Donations are being accepted through the North Valley Community Foundation.