MENDON -- Members of the First Congregational Church in Mendon see their church's legacy within the community interwoven with the history of the North Adams Home, a senior citizens nursing home.
After all, it was the church's previous pastor, Jim Lahman, who was instrumental in bringing the nursing home into fruition in the 1970s.
"He saw the need for a senior nursing home in our part of northern Adams County," said Mark Peter, who is the congregation's moderator.
Other church members recall how a member of the congregation donated land for the home, other members who have served on the board of directors and who have volunteered in the home, and of then-moderator Bill Evans, who worked with Lahman to secure funding for a feasibility study for the home in the 1970s.
Now, local church leaders are working to keep the home afloat amid reports that it and other nursing homes are struggling financially because of the decline and delay in the state's Medicaid reimbursement programs. Calls to the nursing home's administrator were not returned.
Since March 2014, 20 state-licensed skilled-care nursing homes have closed in the state. Administrators for those closed homes cite the diminishing investment made by the state.
Ron Beck, a First Congregatonal member, says he and others are not willing to let North Adams Home suffer a similar fate.
"We don't intend to let it get that far," Beck said. In preparation for the church's food stand at the Adams County Fair, Beck and other church leaders met to discuss how the church could help the home.
Peter said the congregation unanimously voted to donate the stand's profits, which are expected to exceed $15,000.
"We just don't want to lose that home," Beck said. "It would be such a big loss to the community."
Beck said officials of the home, which he said is the third-largest employer in the community, were in awe when they heard of the planned donation.
On Saturday, Beck said that members of the community and fairgoers have been supportive of the church's efforts to raise funds for the home from the food stand.
The Mendon church has been organizing a food stand at the county fair for more than 75 years, Peter said. The food stand serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner nearly every day of the fair, which wraps up on Tuesday on the county fairgrounds near Mendon. The menu items are vast, ranging from a biscuits and gravy to a "just rite" to a pony shoe, which involves a slice of bread, the meat of a just rite sandwich, french fries and lots of melted cheese.
"Everybody is always amazed about what we have on the menu," said Beck, who for 40 years has been chairman of the committee that plans the food stand. Beck said he got his start in the stand working alongside the then committee chairman Gweneth Rowbotham.
One of the church's pastors, Larry Smith, said he is equally as amazed by the work of the congregation, which averages about 60 people each Sunday.
"We may be small in number, but we are big in heart," Smith said. He too sees this effort as an extension of the church's legacy of involvement with the nursing home. "I had in recent years been unsure if we had much of a connection with North Adams. Now, I see this as an effort by the church to get back that connection. I see a renewed interest in the nursing home and our church's desire to do more."