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Last updated 12:25AM ET
March 6, 2021
Project Aims to Restore Alabama Civil Rights Landmark Church
(APR - Alabama Public Radio ) - Bethel Baptist Church in Collegeville survived three bombings during the civil rights era between 1956 and 1962. It's still standing, but needs some work.

The church has opened a campaign to raise $2 million to renovate and restore the historic building, where leaders such as the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and the Rev. Martin Luther King led rallies.

The Rev. Thomas Wilder, Bethel's pastor since 1988, says the goal is to have the money or pledges for the money by this summer.

Wilder met Thursday with Birmingham City Council members, who said they would work for a $50,000 contribution from the city, split evenly between the council and the mayor's office.

Wilder also met with a building contractor and has been setting up meetings with potential corporate sponsors.

He says the church is ready to begin the $500,000 first phase of renovation this year with electrical work and repairs on the rafters.

One wall that still buckles from a 1956 bomb blast needs to be stabilized.

The church received a congressional appropriation of $215,000 from the Save America's Treasures Foundation that requires matching funds by May. And Wilder says it's extremely urgent to meet that matching requirement.

A not-for-profit agency separate from the church, called the Historic Bethel Baptist Church Community Restoration Fund, will handle donations.

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