It will take $500,000 to pay for renovations and a new roof for St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral and, in five months, members of the church have raised only half the money. "We've raised a lot of money, but not enough money to finish the job," said the Rev. Tryfon Theophilopoulos, pastor of the church. "Even if we have to go out and borrow the money, it's a necessity, and we'd have to do it."
Most of the $250,000 collected so far has come from members of the congregation and from proceeds from Epiphany festivals on the Sponge Docks, Theophilopoulos said.
The church has applied for a state grant for more than $100,000 to cover part of the expense, said Kathleen Monahan, the city's director of cultural affairs who has secured state grants for city projects in the past.
The renovation project was recently awarded a $12,550 grant to cover architectural expenses, Monahan said. The grant, given by the state Bureau of Historic Preservation, must be matched by money from the church, she said.
The architectural grant is an indication that state officials think St. Nicholas is important enough to receive financial help and could mean that the church gets more, Monahan said.
"The fact that they got the first grant puts them in good position to get the second one," Monahan said.
Planning for the work has already begun, and Theophilopoulos said the church could begin to accept bids from contractors by late next month.
Most of the work on the 48-year-old church will be done to the roof, congregation representatives have said. Inside, wooden rafters and trusses have been damaged by termites and need to be replaced.
Water seepage has damaged plaster around windows and in other areas of the church and some of that, too, needs to be replaced.
The last time St. Nicholas had major repairs was 30 years ago when the roof was replaced, Theophilopoulos has said.
The church is the heart of the Greek Orthodox faith in the community and is a replica of St. Sophia church in Constantinople.
"It's a historical edifice, we cannot let it go," Theophilopoulos said.