updated 11/22/2007 10:48:58 PM ET 2007-11-23T03:48:58

Parishioners at Fountain Baptist Church set a goal of raising $1 million in two years for communities hit by Hurricane Katrina — then beat their deadline by six months.

A group that tracks philanthropy says it is one of the largest amounts ever raised by a single U.S. church.

The church in this New York City suburb made the promise in May 2006, with a self-imposed two-year deadline to raise the $1 million. The goal was reached this month.

"Anytime you help someone and know they're going to be blessed by your effort, there's no better feeling," said Michael Williams, a trustee of the church.

The Rev. J. Michael Sanders said that among other things, the money went for job training, housing and aid to churches impacted by the storm.

"After a while, people often forget certain things and people lose their commitment, their excitement or concern," Sanders said.

The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University says it's aware of only one other donation from a single church that was larger: the Los Angeles Oriental Mission Church's $3 million donation to earthquake victims in El Salvador in 2001.

Fountain Baptist Church officials said about 1,200 of the church's 1,900 members gave an average of $833. A donor who wished to remain anonymous gave $33,000, and another gave $15,000.

The Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention, an African-American Baptist organization based in Washington, administered the donation. Fountain Baptist Church was started in 1897 by a group of black workers who gathered to pray together.

Some members don't think the giving is about to stop.

"There's still a lot of work that has to be done in that area," said Patrice Edwards, a church member for 17 years. "It's not like we met a goal and that's it."

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