$71K grant awarded to First Congregational Church of Riverhead

08/08/2016 6:00 AM |

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The First Congregational Church of Riverhead was awarded approximately $71,000 to aid in the ongoing restoration of the historic building through a grant by the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation.

“We are very, very grateful for the help we received from the Gardiner Foundation to help us afford our much needed restoration work,” the church’s pastor, Sean Murray, said.

In 1834, after members of Fanning Church felt two miles was too far of a commute for churchgoers without a horse, the congregation split, creating the First Congregation Church and later constructing the East Main Street building in 1841. It was later rebuilt in 1908 and is still standing.

But now, over 100 years later, the church is undergoing extensive reconstruction after the roof nearly collapsed last year.

To prevent the collapse and restore the building, everything in the church had to be removed last summer — including the pews — and was replaced with eight scaffolding towers that held the ceiling in place.

Although the work on the building is not yet complete, parishioners began worshipping in the church building on Christmas Eve once the majority of the roof repairs were complete.

“The overall cost of what we’re spending is closer to $500,000 by time everything is said and done,” Rev. Murray said. “We’re still looking for help.”

One way the parish is receiving this help is from Kathryn Curran, the new executive director with the Gardiner Foundation. Rev. Murray said that Ms. Curran has been helping the congregation seek out other grant opportunities to help fund the construction.

“That helps so much and we’re very, very grateful,” he said.

Farther east, the Southold Indian Museum was another benefactor of grant money, which will be used to create a digital catalog of thousands of artifacts stored at the museum.

The museum received a $4,300 grant from the Gardiner Foundation, which will go toward the digital catalog project, said Lucinda Hemmick, the museum’s secretary.

“Sharing the images of our extensive collection of Long Island Native American artifacts will reach members of the local community who are unable to visit during our regular hours,” she said, “and will also serve to link us with national and international experts who may want to collaborate with us on various projects.”

The grant money will cover purchasing a computer, editing software, laptops and cameras, among other necessary items, she said.

The project will need to be completed within a year, according to the requirements of the grant. The grant money is awarded twice a year to organizations, most of which are on Long Island, that are devoted to archives, scholarships, historic preservation and educational programs. The latest recipients received their grant money June 18.

The Gardiner Foundation was established in 1987 and promotes the study of New York State’s history, with a focus on Suffolk County. Until his death in August 2004, Robert David Lion Gardiner was the 16th Lord of the Manor of Gardiner’s Island, which his family has owned since 1639. The foundation is inspired by the late Mr. Gardiner’s passion for New York history, according to a press release.

In order to complete its goal, the museum is seeking volunteers to help photograph the artifacts, which includes the largest collection of restored Algonquin ceramic pots and artifacts dating back 10,000 years to the Paleo-Indian era, Ms. Hemmick said.

In total, 18 winners received grant money through the Gardiner Foundation.

Photo caption: Work inside the church last year. (Credit: Nicole Smith, file)

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