Efforts underway to restore dilapidated Reaves Chapel in Navassa

A community volunteer day will be held March 3rd in an effort to restore Reaves Chapel
A community volunteer day will be held March 3rd in an effort to restore Reaves Chapel
Updated: Feb. 25, 2019 at 3:33 PM EST
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NAVASSA, NC (WECT) - Many hands make light work and if you are interested in restoring one of southeastern North Carolina’s oldest churches, a volunteer group is looking for you.

A community volunteer day will be held on Sunday, March 3 from 2:30-4:30 p.m. to help restore Reaves Chapel on Cedar Hill Road in Navassa.

“This church was built by former enslaved people that worked on rice plantations, and it was originally located on the Cape Fear River,” said Al Beatty, who heads up the Cedar Hill West Bank Heritage Foundation.

Beatty said the chapel is one of the oldest AME churches in the region. It was moved to its present location on Cedar Hill Road in 1911 by oxen, and was rolled along by logs. He said parishioners worshiped in the church until 2006 as membership dwindled to fewer than a dozen people.

Residents near the church are descendants of Central and West African slaves known as the Gullah-Geeche people.

“Since 2006 the church has fallen in disrepair," Beatty said. "The first phase is to stabilize the building and then work on the roof.”

The church has partnered with the N.C. Coastal Land Trust in an effort to save the local landmark. Beatty said before Hurricane Florence, the land trust paid to have a tarp installed on the roof to prevent further water damage. He said the end goal is to work with the land trust to buy the land on which the church sits.

“We in the community that grew up around this church know the significance,” said Beatty. “If you look around the area, very few churches like this are still left. We want to preserve it. This church has served as a community gathering place. Prominent speakers have gathered here, bands and much more.”

Donations are welcome during community volunteer day, or you can volunteer your time by helping out with cleanup tasks on the grounds.

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