Community spirit is alive and well in Brooks, and this past year townspeople came to the aid of the Congregational Church with donations of time, labor and money to help renovate the roof and steeple.

Ray Roberts, a member of the church board of trustees, said the church had developed a leak, with water finding its way into the steeple and the church attic. The situation, if left unattended, had the potential to create structural problems to the building, while shingles flying off the roof and randomly crashing to the ground were hazardous for people below.

"Shingles were on the ground," Roberts said. "We knew we had to get it corrected."

Early on, church trustees identified the roof, steeple repairs and shingling as a priority but were challenged to find funding for the $13,000 project. They realized this effort could be accomplished only with community support.

Board member Ray Quimby said when contractors began peeling back the roof, they discovered three layers of asphalt shingles over a layer of cedar shingles attached with antique square nails to ancient boards.

Because of gaps in some of the boards and dry rot, Roberts said, the entire roof needed to be covered with a layer of plywood and the steeple with ice and water shield, adding $2,000 in unanticipated costs.

The church roofing project, which began Sept. 21, 2018, was completed this past month.

"The community always responded with labor and discounts from contractors and suppliers," Quimby said.

The Brooks Congregational Thrift Store, operated by volunteers selling donated goods in the basement of the adjacent Varney Building, contributed $6,658.

"Their mission has always been to help families in need facing hardships," Quimby said.

Marsh River Masonic Lodge 102 donated $1,500, and over $5,000 was raised through the church congregation and events that included a benefit supper assisted by the Ladies Fellowship group.

Local contractors also rallied to the cause. Tom Roberts Construction, Darren Mehuren Construction and Bryan Menard Construction all donated significant time and labor to the project. J.P. Wentworth donated the use of a mechanical lift to move materials safely to the roof and Buxton Lumber gave the church a discounted price on all materials.

Quimby said the church purchased the materials, while contractors furnished their services at discounted rates.

Workers also built a storage shed along with a new back exit to the church, and a back deck with an ADA ramp. In the future, Quimby said, an ADA bathroom will round out the church renovations.

According to trustees, the 189-year-old church was moved to its current location at 22 Veterans Highway by oxen around the year 1897, from where it was originally built just up the road beside the railroad tracks.

"I suspect the intent was to free up a rail siding for a higher and better (commercial) use and provide a quieter location for the congregation," Quimby said.

On a curious note, Brooks Historical Society President Paula Miron said during the re-shingling and exterior painting of the bell tower, she had the opportunity to go up in the lift and take pictures of the bell.

The inscription reads "Brooke Union Church, August 1st, 1900," she said. "Yes, Brooks is spelled 'Brooke' on the bell.'"

Miron said according to Seth Norwood's book "Sketches of Brooks History," when the church was moved and remodeled, "the workmen on the old building found a board in the belfry of the church on which was marked 1832 as the year of erection of the original church. On the board was written the names of several of the workmen who gave their time in the construction of the church."

Currently the church is bounded on its south side by the Varney Building, a community hall built in the 1970s, and directly north is Wentworth Family Grocery.

Clayton Blood, chairman of the fundraising committee, said it could not have been possible without the generous outpouring from the community. He thanks the Masons, the church store, the hardware store, the contractors, and all the volunteers who came together to support the project.

"Reverend Russ Arnold also had a big part in this effort," Blood said.

A press release from church board read, "(We) commend and thank those who came together to support, fund and complete the church roof project. This is a great example of community spirit and team work and all that can be accomplished by working together with a common goal and positive approach."