ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- An historic St. Augustine church vital to the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s is facing foreclosure. St. Mary's Missionary Baptist Church is trying to raise at least $50,000 in hopes of saving the church and historical landmark.
Local church member Debbie Axen says she was shocked when she heard the news and plans to help in any way she can.
"St. Mary's is a church that had a lot of youth at the time when I started going there," said Axen.
Axen was five years old when she started attending St. Mary's Missionary Baptist Church in historic Lincolnville. Sheremembered she learned how historical her church really was one day when she was cleaning the basement.
"You got all of these great documents that were in there, I don't know if they are still in there, but it was boxes and boxes of documents even with the pictures of some of the founders and the kids that was there before we were," recalled Axen.
In the 1960s, severalCivil Rights leaders marched upthe church's steps andheld mass meetings, and for that, the church calls itself the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement in St. Augustine.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. rallied marchers at St. Mary's and held demonstrations throughout the city; Axen said she was very young, but remembered hearing about Dr. King's visit.
"I happened to be at school that day but they did call me to tell me that Dr. Martin Luther King was in town and he want over to St. Paul's and to St. Mary's," says Axen.
For 30 years Axen was a member of St. Mary's Church, but left the church when she married husband who is a Pentecostal pastor. She's always kept St. Mary's close and said it was hard to take in the news of the foreclosure.
"I'm really kind of destroyed a little, because that was my stomping ground, that's where I pride mysle,f I don't care what church I go to I always go back to that church, St. Mary's," says Axen.
St. Mary's has until February 13th to come up with enough money to cover past arrears and to be in good standing with T.D. Bank or go to another bank that will work with them.
Current Pastor Byron Hodges said he hopes to raise the money through donations, sing-a-thons and other fundraisers.
The church was originally founded in 1875, but moved into its current space in 1920. It was granted a loan from the bank for restoration, but stopped making payments after the 2008 recession and now owes $211,000 more than it originally borrowed due to arrears and interest rates.
If you'd like to help, the church is having a dinner sale and historic walk-thru event Sunday, January 13th at 1 p.m. They are also accepting donations by mail, you can send a check out to St. Mary's Missionary Baptist Church, P.O. Box 130, St. Augustine, FL 32084.
To learnabout more fundraisersfor the church or for more information, you can callPastor Byron Hodges at 904-824-1314.