They’re the little church that could: Bedford Park church restores landmark building

Call it the little church that could.

A Bedford Park church with about 45 members restored their landmarked building to its former glory after raising over $80,000 in less than two years.

The Bedford Park Congregational Church is being recognized for their efforts May 6, when they will be presented with a Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award from the New York Landmarks Conservancy.

“This is one of our greatest achievements,” said of the award.

‘Like a family’

Ponnuraj called his small congregation very ethnically diverse, but “like a family,” with some members coming to the church for 40 years.

The church, part of the United Church of Christ, was established in 1889 and built a few years later at 309 E. 201st St. at Bainbridge Avenue. Officially landmarked in 2012, it will celebrate its 125th anniversary this fall.

“This is a very special year,” said Ponnuraj.

In urgent need of roof repairs, the church contacted the New York Landmark Conservancy in 2010 for help.

In September, 2011, the Conservancy pledged a $25,000 Robert Wilson Challenge grant, which the congregation more than matched, raising $44,189, said Elaine Maddux, a member of the church’s board of trustees and its treasurer.

Cake sales

The Conservancy pledged a second $25,000 challenge grant in 2012 for additional work, which the congregation again matched, with another $37,547.

Ponnuraj said that to raise the money in, congregants ramped up their annual Fun Fair and sale, which usually garners about $10,000.

They also held frequent luncheons, cake sales, raffles, lawn parties and a flea market.

“It was not an easy journey,” said Ponnuraj.

He said his congregation members are extremely grateful to those that supported their fundraising, and are incredibly generous to the church themselves.

“Although we are very few in number, people love this church,” said Ponnuraj.

He said the upcoming award means a lot to the members of his congregation.

Organ next

But they already have their sights on their next restoration project: the church’s organ. He said the organ is a 1938 model which has been out of commission for several years.

“Many of the old-timers would like to hear the sound of the organ,” said Ponnuraj. “It gives the life to the church.”

But that project, he said, will have to wait a year or two.

Reach Reporter Jaime Williams at (718) 742–3383. E-mail her at

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