In the early morning hours of July 29, 2012, North Beaver Baptist Church was gutted by fire.
Now, five months into their rebuilding effort, the membership is getting much-needed aid from a Christmas tree sale fundraiser being held at West Jefferson United Methodist Church.
Pastor Pete Taylor of WJUMC said the effort began simply with a desire to help NBBC, which has been meeting in an unused room at Bald Mountain Baptist Church since the blaze. “I had spoken to our missions chairperson…about wanting to do a fundraiser for their church,” said Taylor.
The next day, one of his membership mentioned a stand of 3,000 Ashe County Christmas trees an Atlanta-based grower was willing to donate, and a committee was formed to cut and sell the trees.
But, Taylor said, North Beaver Baptist is helping the committee help them. Volunteers from both churches have been cutting most of the trees themselves.
“We’ve been out there every day,” said Jill Breton, missions outreach chair for WJUMC. “They have been out there cutting right alongside our people.”
Response to the fundraiser has been enthusiastic, Breton said, with people coming in from all over the state, and across state lines. By Tuesday, the sale had raised an estimated $8,500, she said.
One buyer came to purchase two trees, but ended up taking seven – then paid an extra $40. People who suffer from evergreen tree allergies have driven out just to make donations, she said.
North Beaver Baptist’s Pastor Rick Miller – who himself has been cutting trees – expressed deep gratitude for this and other community support. In addition to the tree revenue, building materials and contractor services have been donated, he said, and county government has been very proactive.
“The county has been very helpful in every department,” he said. “We continually want to thank the officials that have worked with us hand in hand.”
Miller also said that, while rebuilding is “a slow process”, things in general have gone “smooth as silk.”
While the church building was insured, claims were not enough to cover all the costs of the rebuild, which included purchase of a new plot of land, he said.
Evolution of building codes meant the church could not be rebuilt at the original site, Miller explained. “Under new code, we didn’t have enough acreage to support a new sewer system”
North Beaver Baptist just purchased a new six-acre lot two miles east of the original location on N.C. 163, and plans for the new building are in the offing. But, said Miller “It’s going to be tight.”
At the time of the fire, authorities were suspicious of the origin of the blaze. Ashe County Fire Marshall Bobby Davis gave evidence to the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office and reported it had a suspect. The SBI’s arson unit was asked to investigate the blaze.
Maj. Bucky Absher of the ASCO Detective Division said the case is still open, but there are no new developments and no arrests have been made.
The tree sale, which opened on Thanksgiving, will run through Dec. 2, with all proceeds going to North Beaver Baptist Church.
For more information, call the West Jefferson United Methodist Church at (336) 246-5292.