Note: Please see information below; the First Existentialist Church is requesting a $4,000 grant from CPNO. We will be voting on this request at the Monday, January 16 membership meeting.
A grant to fund accessibility at First E.
Jonathon A. Nye and Shelby Smith
The First Existentialist Congregation of Atlanta (First E) is asking the Candler Park Neighborhood Organization (CPNO) for $4,000 in matching funds to dismantle the existing wooden access ramp and install a mechanical lift for our disabled and less-abled members, visitors and patrons. First E is an independent member of the Unitarian Universalist Association founded in 1976 by Rev. Lanier Clance. From 1980 to the present, First E has occupied the historic Old Stone Church in Chandler Park, a granite stone building built by the African American community of the Antioch East Baptist Church from 1918-1922. The sanctuary's entrance is 10ft in vertical elevation from the street and accessed by a set of stairs or wooden ramp located on the north face of the building. The ramp was built by congregants/volunteers in 1985 and is showing significant signs of functional and structural wear. In addition, the ramp is causing degradation of the stone mortar adjacent to the structure because of trapped moisture. Because of its age, the ramp does not meet current Title III Public Accommodation Standards of the American Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. Therefore upgrading the ramp would require it to be completely rebuilt. First E is planning to replace the wooden ramp with a mechanical lift.
First E has 65 members, of which two use wheel chairs including one of our ministers, and over 10% are less-abled and prefer alternative access other than stairs. However, congregant use is a small percentage (~20%) of the overall building purpose. First E provides its sanctuary and outdoor green space to the Candler Park community for special events including festivals, social justice rallies/demonstrations, fundraisers, ceremonies, and weddings (20%). Community patronage comprises the additional building usage including the CPNO meetings, theater, musical events, after school children's daycare/educational programs and our new community garden (60%). Many of these events keep the ramp in continuous use, whether it's for those that are physically restricted or for moving large items to and from the building. A new lift will allow congregants and the Candler Park community to utilize the First E sanctuary with the same expectations of access as currently enabled with the wooden ramp.
First E's role in the Candler Park community has always been a reflection of one of its core principles: providing a safe space for socially and economically disenfranchised individuals and groups. We expect the long-term success of this project to enable us to continue our social justice activism without access barriers. Our work has a long and rich history with the neighborhood and included providing space for Circle of Healing (making a nurturing home for people with AIDS), Road Busters (a neighborhood preservation group), Zami (African-American lesbian writers), Latino Lesbian and Gay Association, National Organization of Women (NOW). We have co-sponsored events and benefits such as Men Stopping Violence, Charis Circle, ACLU, Rainbow Poetry Collective and many, many more.
This year, First E has participated in the anti-death penalty movement (particularly surrounding the Troy Davis trial), the Georgia Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (First E has signed on as a "safe sanctuary" for immigrants unlawfully targeted by GA HB-87), LGBT awareness through our Third Friday Night Film series and assisting queer homeless youth by delivering survival supplies to Saint Lost and Found.
First E is proud of it role in the Candler Park community and maintaining its diverse neighborhood function involves eliminating physical barriers to its space. The leaders of the Congregation are dedicated to being responsible stewards when making improvements of this extensive nature. A new lift will be a less obtrusive, less costly and an ADA sanctioned solution compared to rebuilding our current ramp. It will enable First E to continue servicing the Candler Park community as it has for the last 31 years.
First E is a 501(c)(3) tax except organization. If you wish to make a personal gift to help fund out lift project, please make your payment out to First E and date checks to 12/31/11 or earlier to be included on your 2011 tax return. Indicate that your donation is for the lift project. Please stop by First E and watch our progress! We have just finished installing the concrete landing on the east face of the building that will receive the lift. Questions regarding the lift grant proposal can be sent to Jon Nye at email@example.com. Thank you all!