The Northern Light United Church on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

The Northern Light United Church on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Juneau church gets fundraising boost from storytellers

Event defrays cost of elevator replacement project

Northern Light United Church was built in 1974, and until recently, it had an elevator to match.

In December, that changed when a new elevator was installed to better meet the needs of the church’s congregation and those who use the church for community events.

“We have an elderly congregation, so quite a few of them need to use the elevator,” said Nico Bus, who is on the council for Northern Light United Church.

Bus said previously, elderly people or people who use a wheelchair had to wrestle open the metal doors of a 45-year-old elevator in order to go from street level to the basement, the sanctuary or loft.

The new $250,000 elevator opens with the touch of the button. Its installation included modifications to the elevator shaft, new electrical components and a whole new elevator.

“Our goal was to raise half of (the funds for the project) from members and other groups,” Bus said.

[Auction aims to raise money for elevator]

As of Tuesday night, about $120,000 had been raised, but Bus was optimistic Tuesday’s Mudrooms storytelling event benefiting the church’s elevator project would push them past the goal.

A crowd of over 200 made that goal seem entirely possible.

Mudrooms, a monthly storytelling series in its eighth season, has long been housed in the church and every Mudrooms installment benefits a nonprofit. The January show was designated to help defray costs associated with the elevator project.

[Mudrooms returns and branches out]

Bus said it was also the first night of real use the elevator received.

“This is kind of the inaugural event,” Bus said in n interview Tuesday before Mudrooms. “This is the first major event where it’s functioning.”

Northern Light United Church has a history of renovations, Bus said. A few years ago, the roof was replaced, and in the future there are plans to renovate the church’s entrance.

“After that, we hope we’ll be done for a while,” Bus said.

The remaining $125,000 for the elevator renovations will come from the church’s reserves.

Mid-season check-in

Over the years, Mudrooms has raised more than $100,000 for nonprofits, said Alida Bus, Mudrooms story board member and daughter of Nico.

She said so far, this season of Mudrooms, which runs through May, has brought in about $6,000 for Family Promise of Juneau. The next four shows will benefit National Alliance on Mental Illness-Juneau.

Alida Bus said this season of Mudrooms is going well.

“We have a pretty seasoned board and our story coaching has been pretty successful,” she said.

She said the podcast version of Mudrooms also seems to be working out well based on feedback.

[Juneau’s pod people]

“I think the podcast is a success for someone who don’t have the option to come in person,” Alida Bus said.

However, more storytellers are needed to finish the season strong.

“We still need signups for the rest of the months.”

• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or

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