Photo Gallery | West Stockbridge Congregational Church's new social hall
WEST STOCKBRIDGE — The social room in the basement of the West Stockbridge Congregational Church on Main Street hasn't been a very social space in recent years.
"It was getting pretty bad," said Janine Reid, the church's treasurer. "There was a lot of mold on the walls, the cabinets were falling apart and there were water leaks everywhere."
The 1,800-square-foot space, used for after-service fellowship and both church and community events, was created in 1950 and badly needed a rehab.
But that changed this year. With a huge financial boost from a former parishioner, the members of the congregation opened the new, much improved Social Room a few weeks ago.
The room now has a commercial kitchen, new furniture, and new floors, walls and ceiling.
"We've been aware that we had to do something for several years," said church moderator Joanne Wodecki. "The mold situation was getting really bad."
The church, which only has about 62 members, was built in 1881. It is actually the second structure to house the congregation, the first being built in 1833.
The renovation, which cost around $165,000, was extensive. The moldy walls had to come out, as did the ceilings. The cabinets had to be replaced and the storage areas had to be redone. The appliances in the room were so old they were considered antiques, said Wodecki.
Helping to pay for the project was six-figure donation by Laughran "Larry" Vaber.
Vaber, who died in 2011 at age 81, was a highly successful newsman and later, the national corporate spokesman for General Electric. But he never forgot his roots.
"His family has been members of the church for more than a century," Reid said. "He was very, very active in our church."
Vaber presented a gift to the church of well over $100,000, Reid said. The church also benefited from a bequest from the former Housatonic Congregational Church.
The congregation, in the end, didn't have to raise a lot of money, thanks in large part to Vaber's generosity, said Reid.
The work itself took about eight months, Wodecki said. The decision, she said, to replace the old kitchen with a new commercial kitchen already has paid off.
"We have several groups renting it out already," she said, which will give the church a modest revenue stream.
Better, the space can now be used again for community events, according to both women. The town already has had a Halloween party here, as well as a Harvest Supper. And there are other events planned.
"It has become a community resource again," Wodecki said.