DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (FOX 35 ORLANDO) - It’s been nearly two years since Hurricane Irma, nearly three years since Hurricane Matthew, but the effects of both are still proving devastating at a historic Daytona Beach church.
The Mount Bethel Baptist Institutional Church was severely damaged during the two recent hurricanes, one ripping a large hole in the nearly 100-year-old building’s roof.
According to church leaders, it wasn’t the hole that proved most damaging, but what got in the hole: A lot of rain.
"The water came pouring in like you turned on the faucet,” said church Deacon Andrew Moore. It flooded into both floors of the towering, mid-town church.
The water soaked into the carpets, the walls, the furniture, and after trying to continue on in the building it quickly became clear to church leaders that the damage was far worse than they imagined.
"It's all been impacted by mold and mildew,” said Moore, pointing around the now gutted fellowship hall. “That's why we stripped everything down to the bare core. The sheet rock here has been taken down, all back here has been taken out, all the carpet is gone."
Crews have stripped most of the church’s lower level down to the boards.
In the upper level, where congregations have worshiped for decades, the carpet is gone.
Fixtures and furniture have been removed, and about all that remains are the original choir chairs on the stage and the stained glass windows lining the walls.
Moore said emergency funds and insurance were scarce, leaving the church to look elsewhere to cover repair costs.
Along with a sizeable loan, he said they’ve sold other buildings they owned and received significant donations from their devoted members.
"We're at probably $750,000 at this point,” Moore said.
Still though, he estimates about $250,000 in work remains, including $125,000 for the fellowship hall alone.
So, church leaders are reaching out to the rest of the community and asking for help to save the building that they say isn’t just a part of their history, but a part of Central Florida’s.
According to the church, they were founded in 1885 in their small Daytona neighborhood by a group of black Christians with no place to worship.
The current church was built in 1921 and was the church for several influential African American members of the community, including the city’s first black mayor.
"The oldest black church in Daytona Beach. All of the black Baptist churches came out of this church, a glorious history,” Moore said.
Church leaders are confident that it’s not a matter of if the church will reopen, but when.
For now, their members worship up the street at a neighboring church, but they say with a little help that historic place of worship will once again return to its glory.
The church is asking anyone who wants to donate to contact them directly at 386-255-6475, or at 700 S. Martin Luther King Boulevard, Daytona Beach, FL. 32114.