LOWER TOWNSHIP — The congregation of the Covenant Presbyterian Church had several reasons for wanting to save its original house of worship on Fishing Creek Road.
For one, it is a historic building moved here in 1907 but built in the mid-19th century, though nobody knows the exact date. For two, even though the congregation built a new church next door in 1980, the old church has a lot of sentimental value.
“When I came here in 1974, I went to church here,” church member Marie Pratt-Evoy said.
The third reason was the need to have a community center that could be used by all denominations. The old church is huge. Pratt-Evoy envisions senior citizens using it, teen nights, after-school programs, food and clothing drives, substance-abuse counseling, arts programs, drama clubs and any number of other uses.
The final reason may be the most important. It was the final public-service project of her late husband, Wyn Evoy Sr., before he died unexpectedly last November. While the congregation had received a price quote to tear the building down and was on the fence about doing this, Evoy spent his last summer fixing the building up.
“Wyn was real excited about it. He saw a lot of good potential here,” Pratt-Evoy said.
The church is all in now.
This week, it announced a fundraising campaign to get the project done. It’s starting with about $9,000 given in memory of Evoy when he died.
Pastor Dick Sterling said the church needs at least $60,000 to make the building functional and up to $100,000 for the complete job.
The campaign is not just about raising cash. The church will accept building materials and contributions of labor from tradesmen.
The building is structurally sound and still has a functional church bell, but it has major cosmetic problems. In recent years, it was used for classes for several Christian schools, and then needy families used it. The last one liked to play soccer in the building, and many of the stained-glass windows were broken.
Pratt-Evoy said the building will be open to all community groups, but "there will be no soccer in the rooms."
Sterling said the building needs a roof, and the siding needs to be painted or replaced. Mechanical systems have not been used in several years, so the congregation isn’t yet sure what needs to be done to electrical, plumbing and heating systems. The building has numerous partitions put in for later uses, and some of them could be removed to create larger spaces.
Pratt-Evoy said church members know there is a need, because many churches rent spaces in shopping centers to run programs. The finished product would be renamed the Wyn Evoy Community Center.
Evoy, who ran a funeral home in the township, often supported church and community projects but did so anonymously. Evoy headed up and financed missions to help the poor in the Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky, brought van loads of toys to children in Camden and supported a home for severely handicapped children. He delivered Meals on Wheels locally, sponsored youth sports teams, was a Boy Scout leader and welcomed people with no home to go to into his home for the holidays.
“He was known for his sympathetic and compassionate heart and often provided assistance to grief-stricken families in financial need,” Pratt-Evoy said.
Evoy had been a persistent opponent when there were plans to demolish the church, Sterling said.
“Wyn had this insatiable desire to just help people,” Sterling said.
Demolition would cost $28,000, up from $16,000 when the congregation got its first quote several years ago. Sterling said members also found out wetlands and other issues prohibit building anywhere else on the nine-acre church property, another reason to save the building.
A committee that arose to save building quickly attracted people including Bill March, who finds himself amazed at a structure built before power tools.
“You had trees that they delivered for you to built it. It’s really hard work,” March said.
The church may have originally been part of the Tabernacle United Methodist Church. It was moved to Fishing Creek Road in 1907 at a cost of $3,300. A 1907 newspaper article referred to it as the new Methodist Episcopal Chapel at Fishing Creek.
Those wanting to contribute can contact the church at 609-780-2572 or send a check to Covenant Presbyterian Church, 123 Fishing Creek Road, North Cape May, NJ 08204. Information on the fund drive is to be posted soon on the church’s website.
Contact Richard Degener: