Six months after taking over Yorkville’s Chapel on the Green from the Kendall County Historical Society, Chapel on the Green Historical Society NFP is still building its membership base and exploring ways to raise funds and preserve the county’s oldest church.
But the not-for-profit organization recently wrapped up its biggest, and most pressing, project — replacing the roof on the rear part of the building, which is Heritage Hall.
“We knew the roof was the first thing we had to do, because it has been leaking very badly on the upper floor,” Chapel on the Green NFP treasurer Marcella Culberson said. “That was our first priority.”
The Heritage Hall roof — which board member Joan McEachern said hadn’t been replaced since 1955 — was finished in early June, replacing a roof was infested with asbestos.
Culberson said historical society had been given an estimate of $10,200 to replace the roof, and that the organization had raised $8,350 as of Monday. A large chunk of that money came from a successful May 24 fundraiser with the Boy Scouts of America Troop 40, which uses the chapel for meetings.
The fundraiser was one of the organization’s largest since it took control of the building at 107 W. Center St. in January, bringing in $3,024.50 from a pork chop dinner, desserts and other donations. The group is still $2,000 shy of paying off the roof, but Culberson sounded hopeful that more donations would be coming in soon.
“We do have some other funds. A few other miscellaneous donations that have come in since the beginning,” Culberson said. “So we do have enough to pay for the roof. We’re just hoping to raise the whole $10,000.”
While work on the Heritage Hall roof has been completed, the issue hasn’t been closed completely.
The chapel learned June 14 that the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency had cited the contractor that removed the roof — Advanced Roofing, Inc. of 311 E. Van Emmon St. in Yorkville — for “improper handling and management of regulated asbestos-containing material during renovations activities.”
According to an IEPA press release, an inspector watched as roofing material containing asbestos was transported in open wheelbarrows, dumped in unlined dumpsters and walked on by workers.
“We find this with a lot of construction sites that don’t have an awareness of asbestos requirements,” said Maggie Carson, of the IEPA. “They just take this material and they kind of throw it on the ground and pick up the big pieces and put them in a dumpster or something.
“It lets these asbestos fibers escape, and allows them to become airborne," Carson said. "And that’s when they become a risk.”
Carson said the chapel does bear some responsibility, but that the IEPA only asked the Illinois Attorney General’s office to proceed with enforcement against Advanced Roofing, Inc. Still, the IEPA has no enforcement authority, which means the Attorney General will decide whether or not the chapel ultimately sees any penalties.
“That is totally up to the Attorney General,” Carson said.
For its part, the historical society seems more focused on raising enough money to operate — and improve — Chapel on the Green.
Future projects include the installation of insulation to help stifle the cost of utilities and the updating of the chapel’s kitchen, but raising money for those endeavors won’t be easy. Memberships are a key resource, and Culberson estimates the organization has already sold 95 memberships costing $25 for one year or $300 for a lifetime.
“But that can’t be our only source of income,” McEachern said.
The church does get $400 for weddings — there are three scheduled in July — and also rents out the chapel for baptisms and receptions. The historical society also has a few fund-raising events on the horizon, the biggest of which is a Fourth of July Civil War Sing-a-Long commemorating the start of the Civil War 150 years ago.
“We’re hoping people might give us donations then,” McEachern said. “We’re not charging anything. It’s a free program.”
This summer should be a busy one, and Culberson said it’s too soon for the historical society to know just how much financial support it will need to maintain and operate the chapel. Society president Fred Dickson is paying all the chapel’s utility bills for six months — his personal donation that will end July 1.
Plus, the chapel saw limited use during the winter, keeping operating costs low.
“We hardly used it other than once or twice a month for our meetings and a few Boy Scouts meetings,” Culberson said. “Other than that, we’ve kept the thermostat clear down to as low as it would go.
“When we actually start using it more this winter — more weddings and more everything — we’ll have a feel for what the bills are going to be," Culberson said.
In the meantime, the historical society will continue to explore new uses for a building that has undergone many changes since its construction in 1855.
Chapel on the Green was at one time the Yorkville Congregational Church, until it was sold to the Kendall County Historical Society for $1. The society vacated the chapel last year, leaving the door open for Dickson to put together Chapel on the Green NFP and take control of the building.
“This church — this building — is important to the history of the county,” McEachern said. “We’re trying to encourage use of the building, because that’s going to bring money in."
Editor's note: You also can find Chapel on the Green Historical Society NFP on Facebook here. Also, an earlier version of this article did not properly specify that the roof was replaced over Heritage Hall, not the entire building. Yorkville Patch regrets the error.