In November 2014, the stone façade on the St. James AME Church in Larimer collapsed, leaving the structure exposed and destroying the front porch roof in the process. On Sept. 15, the church will host a five-day conference of its regional district, and celebrate the building’s restoration.
But that would not have been possible without people like Chris Floyd who donated his Rug Lab company’s manpower and equipment to steam clean all the carpet in the 30,000 square-foot church. For Floyd, it’s about giving back to the community.
“It’s one thing to claim to be a citizen of the community, it’s another thing to actually take ownership and use the resources you have to help the community,” he said. “If you’re not doing that, as far as I’m concerned, you can’t claim citizenship.”
Floyd said he donates the company’s services to two entities every year. He had cleaned St. James once before, but when Rev. Rodrecus Johnson Jr. called and told him about the collapse, he immediately volunteered his services again, bringing three trucks and six men to the church Sept. 4 to clean the building’s carpet and as well as the seat fabric in the main sanctuary.
“I think it’s a shame that a lot of Black businesses don’t give back to the people who helped them succeed,” he said. “I started with one truck, working 18-hour days. Now I have 17 trucks and 47 employees. It’s actually bigger than I remember; we’ll be here longer than I thought. Normally, this would be about an $8,000-job.”
Reverend Johnson said he was very grateful that Floyd agreed to help, especially since the church’s insurance carrier would only pay to replace the porch roof.
“They said it wasn’t an Act of God, that it was deterioration and age, which they wouldn’t cover,” said Rev. Johnson. “Thankfully, we received donations from parishioners, from the Pittsburgh AME Conference and from the Third Episcopal District of the AME Church. When it’s all said and done the repairs will cost more than $100,000. And it will all be done by next week in time for our district conference with our Bishop McKinley Young.
One of the donating parishioners is architect Marvin Miller, who in addition to designing the remodel also employed a forensic engineer to analyze the structural integrity of the other three walls and the apex of the architecturally unique vaulted sanctuary.
“We decided to rebuild the exterior façade using a manufactured stone veneer panels. They have a metal flange on the back, and you nail them like up like siding. It’s a lot less weight,” said Miller. “It was a crime what (the insurance company) gave us. But we also have a great contractor, who gave us a substantial break. I’ve worked with them before, and they have worked with this material before.”
As part of its crew finished the exterior stone façade, others, high on a scaffold, filled cavities between wooden support beams with insulation from the roof to just below the wall’s stained-glass rose window. They will then cover the support structure with drywall and paint the entire wall.
After the scaffolding is disassembled, Floyd will come back and clean the carpet he couldn’t reach.
Reverend Johnson said it will be nice to get the congregation back into the sanctuary.
“We’ve been holding our two Sunday services in the chapel since January,” he said. “We lost a few members right after the collapse, but since then we gained 20 new members.”
(For information on the activities surrounding the Annual Conference, call the church at 412-441-9706.)
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