Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Somerset Hills

Open minds, loving hearts, helping hands


Breaking Ground on Accessibility for All

Author Nadine Sapirman, Written Jun 14, 2014

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In 1996, the UUA determined that Somerset County was an optimal site for a new congregation.  We were one of several “planted” congregations, with initial funding from the UUA that lasted five years.  We met at Raritan Valley Community College for 13 years.

Not long into our existence, folks started to think about a permanent home.  They thought, and explored, and looked, and looked some more.  That is a story in and of itself…not for today.

In mid-2009, we became aware that this property was for sale.  On November 15, 2009, the congregation voted to authorize the purchase of 123 East Cliff Street.  The motion to authorize purchase of the building contained language “including the recommended ADA compliance strategy.”

In 2010, UUCSH purchased this building at 123 East Cliff Street.  Many congregants gave up many days and weekends to make improvements to the church building.  It was a labor of love.

On September 12, 2010, we held our first service at 123 East Cliff Street.
In the four years since we’ve owned our beloved building, the desire to make it handicapped-accessible was never off the radar screen.  The ACCESS team worked with a set of professionals to come up with plans.  We had to re-adjust our vision to be more in line with our budget.  The goal of an elevator and handicapped-accessible restrooms were always in the forefront.  We committed to hold off on a formal dedication of the building until it is accessible.
Three capital campaigns were conducted to raise the money needed for this project.  The last one, the Cornerstone Capital Campaign, held this spring, was successful, bringing in over $55,000 for the project estimated to cost in the neighborhood of $330,000.

The volunteers on the ACCESS team have put in hundreds of hours getting us to this point.  Our application for a variance to the Borough of Somerville was approved on May 21!

I offer thanks, on behalf of the congregation, to all the members of the ACCESS team, who have worked so hard over the last few years.  Special thanks to Missy Staples for her work over the last year providing leadership and organization to the application process and all it entailed.

I also offer the congregation’s thanks to every person and family that has contributed financially to this critical project.  Each and every contribution is important, and combined they make this project possible.

Finally, I wish to thank Paul Smith who has agreed to be the UUCSH point person for the ACCESS construction project.