TEBBETTS, MO (KMIZ)
Oakley Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church is planning to move to a new area after January vandalism, MFA Oil Company donated 3 acres for the church's relocation efforts.
Oakley Chapel was vandalized in January, the Callaway County Sheriff's Department arrested five teenagers earlier this year for allegedly breaking in and damaging the church. As it was the second time within three months that the historically black church was vandalized.
MFA Oil Company has donated 3 acres of its land near Katy Trail and Highway 94, after hearing about the church's vandalism in January and the community's concerns to protect the historical chapel.
"When we found out that you know that there was this community effort to try and find a new home for the church we thought it sounded like a good fit to donate the land," said Adam Buckallew, the Senior Public and Government Relations Specialist for MFA Oil Company.
Buckallew says the people from the community reached out to the company after discovering it owned land near Highway 94. The company believed it was a great opportunity to give back to the community after seeing how important the church was to local residents and history.
"Giving back to the communities that we serve is always been a part of our culture here at MFA Oil company, we’re well aware of how important small towns are to Missouri and anything that we can do to help out communities like Tebbetts to preserve the history and the cultural significance of the Oakley Chapel we thought that was a great opportunity and it’s something that we’re proud to be able to help with," said Buckallew.
Residents were seeking to move the church near Highway 94 so that it was more visible to keep an eye on. As leaders of the church say it's currently located in a remote area where vandalism could easily happen again.
Members frequently check on the 143-year-old church but fear because it is distant from the public eye vandalism could easily happen again.
"Because of the vandalism the church is in pretty much a remote area, and I just don’t want to spend money putting a church back together in that area because it could happen again," said Rev. Darlene Singer Smith, presiding elder of the AME Church’s St. Louis and Columbia district in its Missouri Conference.
Rev. Smith says she was overjoyed with the news of the company donating the land to the church. As MFA Oil Company signed over the deed to the church last week. Now Smith says, she is trying to raise money and find volunteers to move the church and restore the land it currently sits on.
Smith wants to restore the cemetery that's currently behind the church as it was also vandalized. She says they are planning to create a historical memorial area where the church currently sits. The new land is near Katy Trail, Smith says they want the new church location to be a peaceful area that people can come to while walking the trail.
“A rest area for when people walk the Katy Trail, they would have a place to come long term goals is to make that property like a retreat area a retreat center, where you can just come to meditate and just have a quiet place to be,” said Smith.
Currently, Smith is raising money to begin working on the project and asks for the public's help in moving the church and bringing their visions to life.
Smith says donations can be sent to Oakley Chapel Renovations 3101 Wheaton Avenue St. Louis, MO 63114 or Oakley Chapel Renovations P.O. Box 176 Tebbetts, MO 65080.