Church, Shelter Net Unexpected $400k Gift
News of the bequest was made official at the church’s annual meeting in February, but the church’s governing council has been discussing it since December.
The council has put out a general request for ideas from the UniLu community on how to use the money. Yesterday, the committee in charge of soliciting ideas hosted an open brunch for students in the basement of the church, next to the beds and kitchen of the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter.
The committee “is especially interested in hearing from students,” Kari Jo Verhulst, who works with student members of the congregation, wrote in an e-mail to the Harvard UniLu list.
The donor, Phyllis Louise Edwards, had been an active member of the UniLu campus ministry during her years as an undergraduate at Tufts University. After graduating in 1948, she lived in Boston for a few years and then moved to San Francisco.
She continued to be active in the Lutheran church until her death in February 2001, but she lost touch with UniLu. Her only remaining connection with the Harvard Square church was the yearly brochure that arrived to inform alumni about recent news in order to solicit contributions, said Warren Himmelberger, a member of the UniLu congregation who had known Edwards during her years with the church.
The church wants to involve students in deciding what becomes of the bequest because UniLu wants student members to find their time with the campus ministry as memorable as Edwards had, said church council member Susan Worth.
However no students attended yesterday’s meeting, which Verhulst attributed partly to the low number of students who regularly participate in UniLu activities.
The will stipulates that the bequest “be used for renovation projects,” so most of the money will likely be used for building projects and debt reduction, rather than on the expansion of student-related programs.
The church concluded a capital campaign in 1999 that did focus on expanding church programs, particularly the homeless shelter, at which some Harvard students volunteer.
The new money will likely go toward fixing a host of physical problems, such as repairing a leaky and unstable roof and replacing the sanctuary floor, which is currently patched by duct tape.
It could also be used to defray debt incurred as the church worked on projects stemming from the 1999 capital campaign, according to Chris Pollari, head of the committee charged with spending the bequest money.
Though the bequest cannot erase this debt, Pollari said that it would give UniLu some financial flexibility by freeing about $30,000 from mortgage payments to pay for operating expenses.
Final decisions on how to spend the bequest will not be made until the full congregation votes on the committee’s proposal in May, Pollari said.
The church wants to strike a balance between pressing needs and the legal constraints of the bequest, he said. He said they also want to find out more about why Edwards gave her gift and honor her wishes as they spend the money.