Members of historic Black church in Alexandria brace for storms after constant struggle with flooding

A historic Black church in Old Town Alexandria is bracing for the impact of Hurricane Ida’s remnants after struggling with flooding throughout the summer.

Mt. Jezreel Baptist Church on N. Payne Street is 131 years old and under renovation.

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Church leaders said every time it rains, water seeps into the building, and their contractors have told them that work can’t continue until they figure out how to stop the flooding.

Corin McMurray is a church member and a trustee in charge of building operations. He said every time it rains he knows he’s on standby.

"It just comes racing, flooding down this alley. I could put a tube down here and just take a ride," McMurray said.

He said water flows down the alley, accumulates in a small parking area at the side of the church, and seeps into the building.

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He said the church spent thousands of dollars on a new drain that runs along the building, but it hasn’t been enough.

"This is brand new drywall that’s already molded from the rain that we’ve gotten so far," said McMurray pointing to an area in the church’s fellowship hall.

Senior Pastor Anthony Oliver has been part of the church from the very beginning of his life.

"My parents’ parents met going to this church and my mother carried me in this church," said Oliver.

He said the congregation and the city can’t lose this historic building. While the church is continuing to work on solutions, he hopes to get help from the city.

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McMurray said he’s been reaching out to city leaders and just got word that they should get a response by mid-September on what can be done. He said he’s heard from contractors that a new city storm drain near the church would help.

"Now we’re waiting for whatever is supposed to come tomorrow hoping it doesn’t wash us away," he said.

This past spring the City of Alexandria implemented a broad new initiative to address flooding throughout the city.

Part of that is a new grant program that launched Monday that allows homeowners, businesses and churches to be reimbursed for 50 percent of costs for flood mitigation work up to $5,000. You can find details on how to apply here.