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By Christopher Nelson

Step inside the King Chapel at Morehouse College, and you enter a space steeped in history, legacy and culture.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela was presented with 37 honorary degrees within the hallowed walls. Mandela’s predecessor F.W. de Klerk apologized for apartheid from the sacred chapel stage. Spike Lee, famed director and Morehouse alumnus, premiered his Hurricane Katrina film, “When the Levees Broke” inside.

Exterior of chapel.

The Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel, was built on the campus of Dr. King’s undergraduate alma mater and was designed as a place and space for the Morehouse College community, the local Atlanta metro community, and the global community to celebrate King’s life and legacy.

Set in King's native Atlanta and built in the spirit of keeping his ‘dream’ alive, the college is now working to refurbish the 37-year-old chapel, viewed as a lasting memorial to King. The notable wear and tear on the decades old structure has led to the “Restore King Chapel” campaign, designed to raise funds to renovate the chapel.

Morehouse has turned to gathering donations through crowdfunding - the process of funding a project through donations from the masses in amounts great and small. The current phase of Indiegogo fundraising campaign will close on Saturday May 23.

“Crowdfunding works to rally around a cause that is of particular interest to you,” said Henry Goodgame, Morehouse ’84, Director, Alumni Relations, Special Events and Annual Giving Programs. “So alums are responding we think very well.”

Morehouse hoped to bring attention to their project with Morehouse Day of Giving, one of a number of single day giving events that the college rallied throughout April. They hope to reach more Morehouse alumni—particularly young alumni up to fifteen years out of college, and welcome others who want to give.

“We really want this to be our first foray into the crowdfunding space, where it’s painless to give. You can give there [RestoreKingChapel.com] and know that it’s making an impact,” Goodgame added.

King Chapel is most often used as a teaching space for the college, functioning as Morehouse’s largest classroom, seating 2,500 people. It is also used by the community and serves as an ecumenical space, hosting faith-based leaders, and as an auditorium featuring distinguished national and international figures.

The college plans an ambitious renovation project replacing the chapel’s roof, replacing the auditorium seating, installing updated audio and visual equipment and lighting, replacing stage equipment, and updating painting, flooring and signage.

Interior of chapel.

All told it’s an $8 million project, $5 million of which has already been raised through a grant.

Dr. Sulayman Clark, Morehouse’s Chief Development Officer says that the college is conservative in its projections of how much they will raise through online giving, but they hope it’s a way for others to contribute to a place that was important to Dr. King.

“King Chapel from our perspective is not just a building. If you look at our mission which is to train young men to be servant leaders, who will assume dynamic leadership roles in their professions and in their communities, King Chapel is the hub of that,” said Dr. Clark. “I think we miss the boat and our donors miss the boat if we look at it as a simple restoration project.”

Clark is hopeful about the larger impact of the “Restore The King Chapel” effort.

Morehouse has its sights set for completion in January 2017, the university sesquicentennial, and the date that would have been King’s 88th birthday. They plan to rededicate the space as a kickoff of anniversary events and thank donors for their work to maintain the chapel as a lasting space where King’s mission lives on.