Unitarian church helping Hampshire Mosque raise money for Hadley project

  • The Hampshire Mosque is renovating the old Adventure Outfitters site on Route 9 in Hadley. Before it can open, the parking lot must be resurfaced, an effort that has led the Unitarian Universalist Society of Amherst to start a GoFundMe page to help the mosque raise money for the project. SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • The Hampshire Mosque is renovating the old Adventure Outfitters site on Route 9 in Hadley. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Saturday, October 14, 2017

HADLEY — Renovation of a building to become Hampshire Mosque’s new home on Route 9 is mostly complete, but before services and activities can take place at the site the parking lot must be resurfaced.

With a certificate of occupancy hanging in the balance, friends in the Amherst faith community are stepping up to help the mosque get the estimated $85,000 so paving can take place and the 451 Russell St. site can be used.

Cynthia Frado, the interim minister at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Amherst, recently put together a GoFundMe page with a goal of collecting $45,000 needed to supplement the $40,000 the mosque has already raised for this work.

Calling the fundraiser “Prayer, Praise and Parking,” Frado said in an email that without the financial support from others, it could be months, perhaps years, before members of the mosque are able to occupy the worship space.

Frado said she came up with the plan for two reasons. First, she said, it is heartbreaking that the mosque is facing a funding shortfall, as the Muslims’ faith tradition does not allow them to take out interest-bearing loans.

Second, the effort can counter xenophobia and fear.

“As an American who cherishes religious freedom and as a person of faith who respects our Muslim brothers and sisters’ right to pray in their own spiritual home, I am compelled to help them make manifest their dream,” Frado said. “We are all made stronger when we support one another in our diversity.”

Musa Simon, a member of the mosque’s board, said in an email that this fundraiser is an example of the ways people have come together to build bridges of support and respect.

“We’re so grateful to be part of a community where people value one another and are committed to standing together,” Simon said.

A silent auction fundraiser to supplement what is made through GoFundMe is scheduled for the Wesley Methodist Church in Hadley Nov. 19 at 4 p.m.

The parking lot paving is the latest roadblock in getting the mosque open. The 4,500-square-foot mosque will include a masjid, or prayer space, a community center featuring a social hall, classrooms, library, kitchen, as well as facilities for performing the Wudu ritual and an office for an imam.

The remaining 3,600 square feet in the building is being renovated for use by commercial tenants compatible with the mosque.

Hampshire Mosque purchased the former site of Adventure Outfitters for $570,000 in April 2014, four years after abandoning plans to locate on Harkness Road in Amherst, when both Amherst and Pelham residents expressed concerns about increased traffic on the rural road that straddles the town line.

The mosque was based at the former Amherst Carriage Shops for eight years but was among the tenants displaced in 2014 when the mixed-use One East Pleasant project was proposed and approved for the site. That five-story building is currently under construction. Since then, the mosque has had weekly communal prayer at the Jones Library.

“We’re really looking forward to having our own space where we can gather daily, better engage kids and families, and deepen our ties with other community organizations,” Simon said.

The fundraiser link is https://www.gofundme.com/2q2fzjw

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.