CHARLEMONT, Mass. (AP) — The Charlemont Federated Church needs work, and organizers are hoping to raise $273,600 over the next three years to improve the 169-year-old church and to preserve buckling stained glass windows.

"Our 100-year-old stained glass windows are sagging and beginning to crack," said the Rev. Cara B. Hochhalter. She said the "caming" — which is the lead stripping that holds the stained-glass panels together — is thinning. "Some of the windows are starting to buckle," she explained.

About $123,800 of the money raised in the "Opening the Windows of Opportunity" campaign will be used for the restoration of the seven stained-glass windows in the sanctuary. Hochhalter said the windows would be removed, carefully taken apart, then reconstructed with new caming, before they are reinstalled in the building. The work will include installing protective, vented glass on the outside.

"They will be in better condition than when they were first installed," she said.

The planned work will include painting the church and parsonage's exteriors, improving the heating system for the Sunday School room, providing new carpeting, equipment and storage areas. The sanctuary will also have new carpeting and a better sound system. Handicapped access will be improved, with a new back door and replacement ramp.

The sunken front steps and walkway will be repaired. The area used for the Good Neighbors food pantry will be improved, as will the library.

Money has already been set aside for a separate project, to fix the church's leaky bell tower, and that work is expected to be done this spring.

"Our church is a spiritual home for those who worship here, but it also reached out to the community in meaningful ways, from the monthly Good Neighbors food distribution to the Mohawk Trail Concerts and Alice Parker Sings," said Hochhalter. "We provide a place for the Charlemont Senior Center, offer music lessons to children, and open our doors for important family gatherings."

The church's roots go back to 1767, although it was not the "Federated Church" until 1920. This church building was built as a Congregational church in 1845, and its stained glass windows were installed in 1910. In 1920, the Congregational Church members voted to "federate" with the Baptists and Methodists of two other denominations, to become the Charlemont Federated Church.

"Historically, we have been a union of Congregationalists, American Baptists and Methodists," according to a church brochure. The brochure says people of all faiths are welcome into this church, which is affiliated with the United Church of Christ.

Those who wish to donate may send checks to: The Charlemont Federated Church Capital Campaign; P.O. Box 248, Charlemont, MA 01339