Baldwin UMC moves for­ward af­ter tragic fire

De­mo­li­tion is progress, church lead­ers say

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - IS­SUE By JANE BELLMYER

jbellmyer@ce­cil­whig.com

— Although no sus­pects have been iden­ti­fied in the De­cem­ber fire that de­stroyed Baldwin United Methodist Church, the con­gre­ga­tion is mov­ing for­ward with plans to re­build.

The first vis­i­ble sign of that was the start of de­mo­li­tion of the build­ing on Elk

ELK MILLS

Mills Road.

“We’ll take about a week to do what we need to do,” said Dayle A. Charles, se­nior project man­ager for Now­land As­so­ci­ates, the Ne­wark, Del., con­tract­ing com­pany charged with the re­build. “What we’re go­ing to do is take it down so it is safe.”

One sec­tion of the back wall fell sev­eral weeks ago dur­ing that se­ries of very cold, windy days, said Pa­tri­cia Ber­nal, a mem­ber of the re­build­ing com­mit­tee. She was among a group of church mem­bers in­clud- ing Karean Shel­don, Tina Cordill and the Rev. Chuck Ros­siter, pas­tor of Baldwin UMC, who watched and recorded as the bricks tum­bled.

The fire was ruled ar­son by the Of­fice of the Mary­land State Fire Mar­shal, in­di­cat­ing the fire was in­ten­tion­ally set some­where in­side the al­most 50-yearold brick church. Dam­age was es­ti­mated at $800,000.

“We’re go­ing to try to save the foun­da­tion of the

ex­ist­ing build­ing so we can re­con­struct from them,” Charles said Mon­day as he

mon­i­tored the de­mo­li­tion process.

Mark Gosser, site su­per­vi­sor, di­rected heavy equip­ment op­er­a­tors as walls of red brick fell. It will be his job to sal­vage 3,000 of those bricks, which the con­grega-

tion plans to use for a path­way and a me­mo­rial gar­den, ac­cord­ing to Ber­nal.

“We have sev­eral things we can re­use,” Ber­nal said, adding the con­gre­ga­tion would like to re­turn to the build­ing a large cross that

hung over the front door, which was re­moved ahead of the de­mo­li­tion. “Code is go­ing to dic­tate what can and can’t be put back.”

Be­fore con­struc­tion can be­gin, the re­mains of the church — in­clud­ing the 1967 cor­ner­stone and the time cap­sule it holds — must be re­moved.

“We’re go­ing to take the brick and fram­ing down to the top of the (base­ment) win­dows,” Gosser said. “And we’ll re­move the ramp.”

“The goal is to re­assess and then de­ter­mine the best path for­ward,” Charles said.

While a tragedy, the fire has not stopped the small con­gre­ga­tion. Church ser­vices con­tinue to be held at Singerly Fire Com­pany ev­ery Sun­day. The 40 ac­tive mem­bers of the church are wad­ing through all the in­surance re­quire­ments while plan­ning fundrais­ers to cover what the poli­cies will not. Ber­nal said she is not fo­cus- ing on the money, but rather the hope of be­ing back in a church home later this year.

“It will be big and it will be beau­ti­ful just like it was be­fore,” she said.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JANE BELLMYER

Karean Shel­don, a mem­ber of Baldwin United Methodist Church in Elk Mills, records the fire-dam­aged church’s de­mo­li­tion.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JANE BELLMYER

Heavy equip­ment knocks down the front wall of Baldwin United Methodist Church. The Elk Mills church was the tar­get of ar­son in De­cem­ber, ac­cord­ing to the Of­fice of the Mary­land State Fire Mar­shal. The con­gre­ga­tion is hop­ing to be able to re­use the foun­da­tion of the al­most 50-year-old struc­ture.

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