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Crowdfunding campaign for La Línea El Carmen church passes half-way mark

A crowdfunding campaign, launched by a La Línea-based heritage association, to raise money for the renovation of the El Carmen church in the La Atunara neighbourhood is making good progress.

Local businesses, private donations and the council are being mobilised in support of the drive to rescue that landmark on the city’s east coast with the initiative, hosted on migranodearena.org, already well over the half-way mark towards its 20,000-euro goal.

Father Jose Villen, priest at El Carmen church for the last three years, explains that the church is "in a very bad state.”

"It is not that it is in danger of collapsing or that there is an imminent risk of catastrophe, but the building has not been maintained for many years. The deterioration is increasingly evident.”

The church roof, where some of the tiles are missing, is the building’s most pressing problem.

There are also considerable issues of damp in the seaward side of the church and at the windows, while the main door has sustained damage and the whole edifice could do with a coat of paint.

The problem, Fr Villen says, is that the budget just isn’t there.

"This is one of the poorest parishes in La Línea, it is impossible to carry out the necessary works to restore dignity to the church [with the usual resources].”

“That is why we are taking emergency measures. We don't want to waste any more time".

The Asociación 3 de Noviembre Fuerte de Santa Bárbara and the Bishopric of Cádiz are working together to raise funds for the repairs to the fabric of the church.

Furthermore, the diocese has committed to cover planning permission expenses and to donate, once the 80-day limit on the online funding campaign expires, the remainder of the money needed.

For his part Miguel Ángel Prieto, the president of the Asociación 3 de Noviembre, is confident that the fundraising target will be reached through popular support.

The association launched the church initiative after a similar successful crowdfunding campaign to repair the roof and façade of the Círculo Mercantil on La Línea’s Calle Real.

They were also instrumental in obtaining a 1-million-euros EU grant, administered by the city council, for the first phase of the Fort Santa Bárbara and Torrenueva renovations.

"The parish explained its economic problems to us and we set to work,” Mr Prieto said.

“I believe the people of La Línea are excited about reaching this goal," he continued, making an appeal “to the hearts of the people” of the city so that the historic church “can endure”.

Local businesses have already made hefty donations, such as “Ubago which has donated 5,000 euros or Ruiz Galán 3,500.”

“We have 100 collection boxes scattered across the city centre and the La Atunara neighbourhood… they’ve been there a month and could have around 50 euros each.”

Mr Prieto expects that come July 16, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the final day for fundraising, they will have collected enough money to cover the repairs to the roof and to the building’s exterior and interior, and for new coats of paint.

There might even be enough to cover repairs to the door.

For Mr Prieto, there are three reasons why the fund-raising drive must succeed.

Whether it’s seen as a call to protect “our heritage, our civic pride or our faith, we have to do this and repair the church," Mr Prieto said.

The El Carmen church is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, but the building is over a century old.

Before it was consecrated, it served as a fish salting house and the edifice was constructed on the remains of the La Atunara Battery, a fortification built in 1735 to guard the rear of the Spanish defensive walls facing Gibraltar.

According to the Asociación 3 de Noviembre, local businesses such as Ruiz Galán and Ubago have committed themselves to supporting the funding drive.

La Línea city council has also pledged its support for the initiative, with public facilities being made freely available for fund-raising events and the council contacting groups and associations that could offer resources.

There are also plans, at municipal council level, to organise a series of concerts where bar and ticket revenue would go towards the repair fund.

Currently, the idea is that these concerts will take place in different venues across the city, such as the Paseo de La Velada theatre, the Ballesteros building or the Palacio de Congresos.

"I am very confident that the repairs will happen,” Fr Villen said, “because the people will not abandon the house of Christ and of Our Lady of Mount Carmel."

So far, the organisers have received over 12,000 euros in donations, either online or in cash, with more expected as raffles are held and collecting tins gathered.

The necessary permits have already been acquired and repairs are scheduled to begin soon.

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