Growing need pushes congregation to increase accessibility

The First Unitarian Church of Sioux City, Iowa, installed an elevator and created an accessible restroom out of a closet after someone who uses a wheelchair joined the congregation. The congregation uses a 100-year-old house for offices and has a newer sanctuary attached.

The lay-led congregation, which has 31 pledging units, spent $60,000 on the renovations. Of that, $10,000 came from a Missouri River Historical Development grant, $3,000 came from a Chalice Lighters grant through the MidAmerica Region, a member bequeathed $8,000, and the rest was raised or borrowed by the congregation. The congregation took out a $28,000 loan.

Marty Nash moved to Sioux City from Phoenix. For about two years she attended church by way of makeshift ramps. “Each Sunday we’d have to get out this long foldable ramp,” said Nash. “It was irritating to everyone and the ramp felt uncertain at times. The congregation had discussed this long before I came. They realized that since everyone was getting older, with bad knees and arthritis, this was going to be a continuing problem.”

Nash ended up heading a committee that, over a two-year period, raised or borrowed the money to do the projects. “Almost every member contributed. Everyone wanted this to happen.”

She added, “We had no money to start. We used $50,000 from our estate gifts fund to cover exenses until we raised the money.” She said the project has changed the congregation. “I feel a new energy, and I think that communicates to our visitors.”