St. Hilda’s closes in on $1-million fundraising goal

Parishioners are to thank for the bulk of the $960,000 raised in just over two years to cover the costs of an extensive renovation of St. Hilda’s Anglican Church in Sechelt.

“I honestly didn’t think we’d be to this point as quickly as we have been,” said Capital Campaign Team co-chair Janet McIntosh.

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The significant repairs for the church were initially expected to cost $200,000 but the budget swelled to nearly $1.4 million, due in part to more problems discovered as the renovations began.

The expansion is now largely complete – the transept has been extended, the ceilings raised, walls reinforced and a host of other repairs and upgrades are done.

What’s left is the fundraising. 

The church secured temporary financing from a local business, as well as a zero-interest loan from the Anglican Church, and a capital fundraising campaign was launched in March 2018, with the goal of raising $1 million, “which at the time was supposed to be more than enough,” said McIntosh.

The fundraising team plans to stick with that goal, and once complete, the members will leave the remaining balance to the parish council to continue with loan repayments.

Even at $1 million, the campaign is the most ambitious in the church’s history – which led to experiments in fundraising, some more successful than others. To get through it, McIntosh said she relied on advice from a professional fundraiser: “She said to me, don’t give up. You never know.”

The group managed to secure only one grant – $15,000 from the Anglican Foundation of Canada. They used their records to track down about 40 couples who were married at the church since 1990, to invite them to donate. “If we knew they weren’t together, we didn’t send a letter,” said McIntosh. “It was a fun kind of thing, but out of all that we got one cheque back.”

A Go Fund Me and Canada Helps page allowed people to donate from a distance, but by far the most successful funding source has been local. Donations from the church’s 100 parishioners have accounted for the “vast majority” of the funding, said McIntosh.

The wider public has helped, too. “People who would not normally give a dime to the church gave because of the good work St. Hilda’s does in the community,” she said. The church provided the space and took the lead on operating a temporary shelter for several years before it moved to its permanent location on Wharf Avenue. Community groups use the church as a gathering place, and its acoustics and pipe organ – the only one on the Sunshine Coast – make it a popular music venue.

Despite closing in on their goal, McIntosh said the fundraising team isn’t counting their chickens yet. And heeding the advice of her fundraising mentor, McIntosh has at least one more potential donor in mind, even though he has refused so far.

“I’ve always kept those words that she said to me in mind every time I run into him. I don’t think, I’m disappointed in you. I just think, it’s never too late.”

And just in case, to get across the finish line a public trivia night has been planned for March.

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