By James Sales
Father Dan Rondeau was peppered by people asking, “Did you spill something?” Father Rondeau’s robe was stained.
The vestry closet, where the vestments lived, was checked. No clue there, as all seemed right. Then the top of the closet was inspected and the figurines from the stored nativity scene were sitting in a pool of shallow water.
The attic access panel above looked different, soggy and discolored. An access ladder was climbed and the drywall portal was removed. In the cavernous space above the chapel, the insulation was dripping wet. The water had made its way from the roof, through the ceiling, through the cabinet and onto Father Dan’s robe.
Yep, they had a serious roof leak and it was a wakeup call. Saint Hugh’s of Lincoln Episcopal Church — home to the congregation, Temple Har Shalom, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and a myriad of community events — needed a new roof.
No one knew how old the existing roof was as the church moved from the Boy Scout Camp to the present site at Tahquitz Road and South Circle Drive in the early 1970s. Saint Hugh’s purchased a then 30-plus-year-old house with a purple fence. The entire property was gaudily surrounded as if it was some mysterious compound. Even the lanterns on both sides of the gate were purple. Rumor has it that all the neighbors gathered around when the fence was torn down to see what was lurking behind the colorful barrier.
The congregation of Saint Hugh’s is small, numbering between 30-50 on a given Sunday morning. Funds are tight but the people are determined and strong. The board met, a fundraising committee was established and they were off and running. Ideas were bounced around and two ways of getting the money to fix the roof were settled upon: Bingo nights and selling honey. Neither had ever been attempted before and the committee didn’t know exactly what they were getting into. But they had faith. Faith in God, faith in themselves and faith in their fellow citizens.
Volunteers dove in and purchased Bingo supplies, arranged for local “celebrity” callers and set the dates for Thursday nights in August and September with the hope that people would show up.
On Saint Hugh’s labyrinth, under the trees with Strawberry Creek babbling nearby, rotating callers Patrick and Christine Reitz, Conor O’Farrell and Christina Nordella, entertained with bad jokes, bad hats and a jolly attitude. Lou Padula’s famous hot dogs were sold along with homemade baked goods. With Bingo and food sale proceeds (most winnings were donated back to the roof fund), a silent auction and generous donations (the word got around) the money started to come in, but not enough.
The Idyllwild Harvest Festival was coming up in November — two days following Thanksgiving — and that’s where the honey comes into play. A deal was struck with Temecula Valley Honey, which produces delicious varieties of the raw sweet nectar. A label was designed, gift bags and a banner were purchased. Five flavors of honey were filled into those cute bears and a few days before the festival 375 jars were delivered.
The day before Thanksgiving, volunteers set up a folksy booth along with the other 100-plus hopeful festival vendors in the Idyllwild School gymnasium. They knew the weather was “iffy” but as hearty souls, everyone thought “We’re up to this!”
And then came the great Thanksgiving storm of 2019: power out, everyone snowed in, plans for family and friends abandoned and roads impassable. The Harvest Festival was canceled and Saint Hugh’s was stuck with almost $4,000 worth of honey and supplies.
Still determined and strong, the people of Saint Hugh’s came up with plan “B.” They would sell the honey after every service, at the Soroptimist’s meetings, AA meetings, in front of the post office and spread the word so that as many people as possible knew about “Saint Hugh’s Heavenly Honey” that was being sold to help fix the roof. Sales were slow at first, but as word spread, the honey became a hit! As of January, 95% of the honey had been sold!
With the Bingo, honey sales and donations from individuals and the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego, all the money needed was raised. On Monday, Feb. 17, the roof started to be replaced. The people of Saint Hugh’s would like to thank everyone in the Idyllwild community who helped make this “miracle” happen.