Sewickley house set to be razed helps out youth camp
March 23, 2014 11:13 PM
Construction workers on Friday continue the demolition of the old Lenzner farmhouse, which is being torn down for a retirement community development, as seen at right. Many of the doors, windows and fixtures are being salvaged for a summer camp in Ellwood City.
By Lauren Lindstrom / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Sometimes gifts come in the form of checks in the mail or coins in an offering plate. Other times, it's in the form of a boiler.
Fixtures salvaged from a Sewickley farmhouse destined for demolition will help rebuild a camp devoted to building up underserved youth from Western Pennsylvania.
Doors, windows and other fixtures from the former Lenzner home are getting a second life at Pine Valley Camp nearly 30 miles north in Ellwood City.
This will be the 19th summer Matthew and Susan Reichart have run Pine Valley, which gives the full summer-camp experience to kids who might not otherwise be able to attend: stargazing, horseback riding and trips to the beach.
The Sewickley house will be demolished to develop a retirement community, Traditions of America.
Pine Valley volunteer Laurie Hartman, who lives in Cincinnati but will soon move into a Traditions of America home, alerted the developers to an opportunity to do some good.
Homeowner Charles Lenzner originally planned to keep most of the salvageable fixtures, but decided to donate them when he learned about the camp's mission.
"It's our home," he said. "It's hard to let it go, but it's going somewhere good."
The camp, which served 600 youths last summer, is in the middle of a $3 million fundraising campaign for much-needed facilities upgrades, Mr. Reichart said. The materials from the Lenzner house are coming at a good time.
Mr. Lenzner and his brother, who own Lenzner Coach Lines, used to drive kids out to their family farm to see animals and experience nature, much like what the Reicharts do at Pine Valley.
The camp runs on donations. All campers are on scholarship and are recommended from area churches, community centers and through word of mouth. Mr. Reichart said the goal of the camp is to provide an environment to form bonds through a Christian message of hope and redemption.
"Camp is a life-changing experience because of the relationships," he said. "Our purpose is to offer hope."
That hope comes a little easier with heat and running water.
"This camp is as old as I am, 52 years," Mr. Reichart said. "We've been able to do a lot with a little, but this is urgent."
A 2010 fire destroyed the newest building on the property, which housed the camp office and boys' bathrooms. The heating and plumbing need work and the Reicharts want to build a new dining hall. A boiler ripped out of the Lenzner house Thursday will heat the new dining hall.
Windows, doors, counter tops, vanities, a staircase and an entire kitchen will be salvaged for camp use. The house's trusses will provide support for two or three cabins.
"It's such a great opportunity to give back to the community and be part of something special," said Keith Gonzalez, project manager for Traditions of America. "It gets you excited, knowing you're giving opportunities to kids."
"We live in a throwaway society, but we are repurposing," Mr. Reichart said. "Just like the kids we serve, we see value in the stuff we are getting today. It's a testimony to how we do things."
A gymnasium was donated two years ago and will be installed this summer, along with the materials gathered from the Lenzner house, by other labor and material donations.
Where will the rest come from? Mr. Reichart said he knows it's asking a lot of donors on top of their current contributions.
He said he plans with a compass rather than a clock.
"We believe in a God who can make something out of nothing," he said, quoting a verse from book of Romans. "We know the direction we're headed."
Lauren Lindstrom: email@example.com or 412-263-1964.
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