Church steeple drive over the top

A surprise gift of $20K helps preserve the town landmark.

A surprise gift of $20,000 this week boosted Eagle Harbor Congregational Church’s Save Our Steeple campaign over its target goal of $125,000.

The executor of longtime church member Lucile A. Beal’s estate sent a note with the check, saying, “I have been reading in the Review of your need for funding to repair/replace the church bell tower. If you would apply the enclosed to this cause, I am sure Lucile would be thrilled.”

“That’s just tremendous news,” said Reed Price, a parishioner and capital campaign chair.

“We’re grateful to Mrs. Beal’s estate.”

Thanks to the Beal estate money, $25,000 matching contributions from Robert and Jo Anne Hacker and the Bainbridge Island Rotary Club, and “some other fine gifts,” the church has exceeded its fund-raising goal – with more contributions coming in.

“We are overjoyed,” Price said.

Eight contributors already have pledged $2,500 toward the project, which will repair the bell tower and buy a second bronze bell for the belfry to be rung during community events, said Jim Chapel, a member of the campaign steering committee who helps with fund-raising and organization.

Congregants previously raised more than $400,000 to renovate the circa 1896 building, put on a new roof and add a sprinkler system.

As the second phase of fund-raising, the Save Our Steeple campaign sought contributions from the greater island community, to preserve a faltering bell tower that is a downtown landmark.

The drive is set to formally conclude with a community celebration on Dec. 16, and Price said the effort was “well on the way” even before the Beal bequest.

“It means we can go ahead with our plans to repair the steeple and refurbish the bell next spring,” he said. “We don’t know what the cost will be yet.”

Pledges continue to come in and they are very much needed, Price said. Anything over what is used to repair the steeple will go into the church’s building endowment fund for future upkeep.

“It is a 100-year-old building,” Price said, “and it does need work.”

* * * * *

Over the top

Eagle Harbor Congre­gational Church invites the Bainbridge community to a Save Our Steeple “Carol Sing and Over the Top Celebration” at 7 p.m. on Dec. 16 in the sanctuary.

The Rev. Dee Eisenhauer will give welcoming remarks and tell “the Steeple Story.” Soloist Susan Anderson, the vocal ensemble Two Boat Wait and the church choir will perform, followed by recognition of contributors by Reed Price. A candlelighting procession to the lawn will follow. Participants will engage in more caroling and hear the steeple bell ring. Refreshments in the fellowship hall will conclude the event.

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