A Springfield church, destroyed by arson, gets boost in rebuilding efforts
A predominately Black church in Springfield is receiving $500,000 from the city. It is currently trying to rebuild after what prosecutors call a hate-crime related arson in 2020.
The announcement was made outside the MLK Community Presbyterian Church located in the city’s Mason Square neighborhood on Tuesday while construction work was ongoing. The building, which dates back to the 1890’s, was severely damaged in the blaze.
The funding comes from Springfield's allocation of American Rescue Plan Act money. The pastor at the church, Terrlyn Curry Avery said the project is about more than having a place to worship.
"We are rebuilding this church because we want to focus on mental health, we want to focus on recovery programs, we want to focus on educational program," Curry Avery said.
There are about 40 members currently, but she said the impact of the church reaches a far greater population, given the outreach efforts she mentioned.
The cost to repair the damage from the fire is about $2.5 million, but the church is $1 million short of what it needs to finish the project.
Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno appealed to the community for help.
"I know some individuals, some businesses and some philanthropic organizations have stepped up, but we need more," Sarno said. "We have to send a resounding message that hate, hate crimes, will not be tolerated here in the city of Springfield."
The money from the city will help restore areas of the building which had been used for community outreach activities, including the kitchen and a gathering area in the basement.
The criminal case against the man suspected of setting the fire remains unresolved. Dushko Vulchev of Maine was charged in federal court, but there have been lingering questions as to whether he is competent to stand trial. A status conference is scheduled for October 16.