VIDEO: St. Catharines native sinking $200,000 into Salem Chapel restoration

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Published March 9, 2022 at 2:34 pm

On the eve of Harriet Tubman Day (March 10), a former St. Catharines native has made the trek home from California with one goal in mind – restoring the Salem Chapel BME Church on Geneva Street to the tune of $200,000.

The Tubman connection is, of course, that she attended the small church when she lived in St. Catharines from 1851 to 1862. The benefactor’s connection? Ray Adamyk, who will make the announcement tomorrow, grew up just down the street.

While he hasn’t been in Canada for over 30 years now, Adamyk is the CEO-owner of the Pomona, California-based Spectra Company, which has restored some of the world’s most famous buildings.

“I was born in England but moved to Canada with my family at age five, and grew up in St. Catharines, at one time living a stone’s throw from Salem Chapel,” said Adamyk, whose company is personally sinking $200,000 in the restoration.

“I was also a regular with the St. Catharines Boxing Club across the street from the Chapel, won a silver medal in the Ontario Golden Gloves, and even took on future heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis in the ring!” he added, cementing his local cred. I still have friends and family in St. Catharines, so to have the opportunity to restore such a significant piece of its history is extremely special.”

But he admitted, it goes far beyond that. “I’m also fully committed to raising awareness for racial equality, so the work at Salem Chapel goes beyond restoring an important structure.”

For this restoration project, Adamyk and his team will work closely with Rochelle Bush, a trustee and resident historian at Salem Chapel.

Bush is a Freedom-Seeker descendant, born and raised in St. Catharines, and is deeply rooted in the community. Her maternal great-great-grandfather was the minister-in-charge of the Salem Chapel during the time in which Harriet Tubman was a member.

Bush was also instrumental in helping St. Catharines Centennial Park be renamed to Richard Pierpoint Park after the legendary black soldier who settled on that land and fought in the War of 1862 well into his sixties.

With regards to Tubman’s connection to the church, Adamyk noted there’s something very powerful about the term ‘Freedom-Seeker’.

“We are all freedom-seekers in some form,” he said. “I want to use this special connection to Harriet and the Salem Chapel to remind people that that freedom belongs to all, and we can unite around reconciliation, repentance, forgiveness, and building a future where we are free from any kind of shackle — material, economic or spiritual.”

To hear Adamyk tell his story first-hand, here’s a video.

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