Bethel AME Church in Eastville, Virginia, Celebrates Paying Off $125,000 Elevator


Bethel AME Church in Eastville will mark a milestone on Memorial Day weekend, when a special service will be held at noon on Sunday, May 29, to celebrate the final payment on a special elevator that allows access to the sanctuary of the towering building. 

Melvin R. Collins Sr. is one of five siblings who attended the historic church in their youth, before they moved away from the Eastern Shore as adults. Around five years ago the family made a commitment to help purchase the device, called a liftavator, for Bethel AME Church.

“As long as I can remember, grandparents, my mother and father and all of us grew up in that church,” said Collins, a retired U.S. Department of Labor director.

“Back in 2011, we went to the church on a Sunday, as we normally would do,” during the family’s traditional Memorial Day weekend celebration on the Shore, he said.

The family each year invites around 125 people, including senior citizens — “people our parents grew up with” — to enjoy fellowship and a picnic at Kiptopeke State Park on Saturday; then they attend Bethel’s Sunday services together.

They had seen the need for an elevator to provide greater access for senior citizens and people with disabilities to the church sanctuary, which is on the upper level.

“We saw how the seniors were sitting on the lower level, watching the service on a 23-inch television,” Collins said.

Additionally, it was difficult to carry caskets up a set of spiral steps to the second-floor sanctuary for funerals.

The liftavator, which was installed in 2011, is constructed to meet both needs.

The family decided to make the liftavator purchase a priority and has been contributing to defray its cost ever since, along with numerous other donors.

Collins’ sister, upon retiring from her job, decided that instead of purchasing a new automobile, she would help fund the purchase.

“After she made that commitment, the brothers and sisters decided we needed to go in with her to support this project,” Collins said.

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Source: Delmarva Now | Carol Vaughn,