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Historic Vernon AME Church needs help for renovations

Posted at 5:05 PM, Sep 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-23 20:16:33-04

TULSA — One of Tulsa's most historic buildings is in need of major renovations and needs some help from the community.

Step into the Vernon AME Church in the Greenwood District and you will notice the windows rattling from the interstate right next door or damage on the walls. You won't see the outdated pipes or wiring. The building needs more than $1 million in renovations.

“There’s nothing but the grace of god keeping this building together," said Pastor Robert Turner. “I wouldn’t be surprised at any moment if I rolled by and saw one of the windows out or saw a floor collapse. I hope to God that never happens, but we are just in those kind of dire straights.”

The building is celebrating 100 years this year, but it has been a tough century. All but the basement was destroyed in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. After, the church was denied insurance money so members joined together to rebuild it themselves.

“Our members who had just lost their businesses, just lost their homes, just lost some of their loved ones came still to the church and they helped pay to build this structure that we have," Turner said. "And I think we owe it to them to keep this structure in tip top shape.”

Sheila Washington has been a member of the church for more than three decades. She hopes the renovations can be made so her family can attend the church for generations to come.

“My children, my grandchildren, my great-grandchildren who are our future leaders of tomorrow," she said. "They should know this history, they should be involved with it because they’re going to be the ones to carry it on.”

The church created a GoFundMe page to help pay for renovations. You can donate here.

The church started centennial celebrations Monday with a Blessing of the Basement event.

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