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Local church consults master gardener for a fresh look

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church of Blairsville has added some new lively plants and flowers around their facility thanks to the consultation of local Master Gardener Larissa Csyani.

Heidi Maxwell, a member of St. Peter’s congregation, noticed all the overgrown plants and ivy and thought it was time for a fresh look. She remembered seeing an article in the Indiana Gazette about Master Gardeners in the area.

“I saw Larissa in the paper and wondered if she’d be willing to help,” said Maxwell, “and so I reached out. She was all for it and began coming up with a plan.”

Csanyi has always been into gardening. She’s been a part of the Master Gardener program for five years.

“Each county, through the Penn State Extension, has a Master Gardener course that can be taken over a few weeks,” she said. “It’s intensive. Each week you cover a different subject. Then you have to pass an exam at the end of that course.”

Once achieving the status of master gardener, 20 hours of volunteerism are required per year, as well as 10 hours of self-education. According to Csanyi, the first part of the process when helping out a client is research.

“The Master Gardener program is about research,” she said. “We want to educate the people we’re helping and need to do research to do so. We look at the client’s location, the sun and weather in that area, native plants, those sorts of things.”

“I visited the church site,” she continued. “Then I did some research and looked through my catalogs. Every master gardener does things differently, but I like to paint and draw when I’m in the planning stage. It helps me visualize what I’m trying to do.”

When it comes to the plants and flowers chosen, Csanyi said that a lot of it depends on what the client is interested in.

“A lot of people are interested in pollinator gardens right now. I like sticking to plants native to the area because those will do the best in the long-run. Once I made up a little plan for the church, Heidi asked me to come present it to their church group. It was fun because it gave me a chance to educate them and answer their questions.”

Maxwell’s husband, David, had written a grant proposal to the Episcopal Dioceses in Pittsburgh and received a grant of about $600 to use towards updating the church grounds.

Before planting, David and fellow church member, Tom Wissinger, removed as many overgrown shrubs and trees as they could. Some plants were so rooted in the ground that a hired professional had to come in to remove them.

“My husband and I went and bought the plants using the grant money,” Maxwell said. “We ended up going to Plum to buy the plants. Most of the places around here had sold out of the plants we were looking for. We got the mulch from a local landscaper.”

Csanyi considers working with local greenhouses and nurseries a great collaborative effort.

“I have nurseries and greenhouses I like to send people to because they’re local. The person there will then suggest other varieties that are good for the area. It’s great.”

The planting was done in September.

“Fall is actually the perfect time to plant things because the plant then goes dormant and can set roots,” she said.

“We’re very grateful to Larissa,” said Maxwell. “St. Peter’s is a very small church with a small congregation. We’ve been able to stay open for over 200 years because every member pitches in to care for our church and its parishioners.”

For more information about St. Peter’s Episcopal Church visit their Facebook page.

Homer City business association receives grant

The Homer City Area Business Association recently was awarded a $2,500 grant from Pennsylvania Skill Charitable Giving for the Hoodlebug Festival. The donation was presented at Ideal Market in Homer City. Pictured, from left, are Lori Hebenthal, store manager; Tony Perman; Penny Perman; Dave Mercik, store owner; Lynn Wheland, PA Skill representative; Patty Kois and Sherry Renosky.

Sewage rates rise, vacant building must fall, in Saltsburg

SALTSBURG — Sewage rates will rise, but real estate taxes will not, in 2023, Saltsburg Borough Council is indicating after its meeting on Nov. 7.

However, a long-vacant building at 308 Point St., next door to the borough’s municipal building, is likely going to fall in the not-too-distant future.

Councilman Terry Cumberledge moved to have Solicitor Wayne A. Kablack draw up an order to Gen & Eve Properties & Remodeling LLC to either fix the decrepit structure or tear it down.

Councilman Abraham Kline seconded the motion, which passed unanimously, 5-0, with councilors Michelle Jesko and Joseph Penta absent.

The building has been on the borough’s radar since Gen & Eve bought it Feb. 26, 2021, from Point Street Trust of Philadelphia, which in turn had purchased the building for back taxes.

David Lee, who is reportedly manager of Gen & Eve’s properties, has been working on a house in Indiana. He told the Gazette in July that the Point Street building was a huge project that would require his full attention.

Borough officials said that Lee has never responded to letters regarding that building.

Five to nothing also was the vote to advertise a $728,360 borough budget for 2023, with $732,745 in anticipated revenue and no change in the existing tax rate of 1.9 mills.

And it was 5-0 to advertise an increase in sewage rates from $60 to $70 per month, something that first would be seen by borough property owners when they get their sewer bill on Feb. 1.

Borough officials said the rate increase would bring in $40,000.

Council approved two resolutions Monday night seeking American Rescue Plan Act funding through the Pennsylvania Small Water and Sewer Grant program for pumps for the sewage treatment plant ($38,964) and a combined sewer overflow separation project along Point Street ($282,912,64).

In each case, the borough would have to offer a 15 percent match.

Council approved free parking to begin this week on borough streets, and again advertised for bids for the Ash Way property, which sits between two portions of a borough alley.

Minimum bid would be $500, but two previous attempts to get bids had no takers.

The borough also received a “nice to have known you” letter from state Rep. Jason Silvis, R-Washington Township (Westmoreland County), who was defeated in his bid for re-election this past spring and whose district is being remapped to take out Saltsburg.

Saltsburg instead will move into the 62nd District where state Rep. Jim Struzzi, R-Indiana, would be the representative should he win another term in today’s election.

Deadline nears for entries for Saltsburg's Light Up Night

SALTSBURG — The deadline is approaching for businesses and other organizations to be part of the Heritage Holiday Committee’s annual Light Up Night on Sunday, Dec. 4, from 4 to 6:30 p.m. on the Canal Park in Saltsburg.

The committee is seeking businesses and other organizations to decorate a tree or sponsor a tree for a youth or non-profit group to decorate. Applications to be a part of the event must be returned no later than Sunday, Nov. 20.

The panel said the cost of a lighted tree is $40. It said it will provide white or colored lights.

Those who want to use another color can choose to do so but will have to provide the lights themselves.

Those needing application forms can contact Michelle Jesko at (724) 840-0167.

One also can contact the Heritage Holiday Committee at 711 Salt Street, Saltsburg, PA 15681.

Light Up Night also will feature visits with Santa and the Grinch, free crafts and raffles for the kids, free cookies and hot chocolate, music and much, much more.

The highlight of the night will be the decorating and lighting of approximately 80-plus trees on and around the Canal Park.

All decorations and lights may be taken down between Jan. 1 and Jan. 5. Groups decorating trees may take the lights if they like.

However, anything not removed from Canal Park by Jan. 5 will be thrown away.

Ten for Them Foundation prepares for 4th annual Community Thanksgiving Meal

The Ten for Them Foundation is holding its fourth annual Community Thanksgiving meal from 4:30 to 8 p.m. on Friday at the Blairsville Community Center. Anyone partaking in a meal must register online in advance of the meal.

Ten for Them is a charity nonprofit organization existing to “bridge the gap between the ‘comfortable’ segment of society and those in need in our community,” according to the foundation’s website.

“The ‘ten’ in the name symbolizes the ten fingers of two hands outstretched to serve others,” said Dr. J.P. Price, a local pastor and leader of the Foundation.

The Community Thanksgiving Meal began as a program at Mercy Hill Church in Blairsville in 2017. A group of church members and volunteers cooked seven large turkeys, smoked meat and made massive trays of sides, all of which served over 225 people. It was served restaurant style.

“There was such a high demand for something like this in our area,” said Price. “1 in 5 people are at or below the poverty line in Blairsville. There’s always been a need, and that’s what the church is for: to serve people.”

“Since then, we’ve increased and expanded our organization,” he continued. Price partnered with Roberto Gonzales of Kettle Dad BBQ and made the foundation official.

Even during the pandemic of 2020, Ten for Them was able to produce over 200 meals.

“If it weren’t for the generous donations we receive,” he said, “we wouldn’t be able to do this every year. Most of our donors are other churches. I’m a pastor so that’s who I roll with and solicit, but we still have nonreligious groups that support us as well. Everything counts.”

When it comes to volunteering for Ten for Them, Price says they’ve been blessed with an overflow of volunteers.

“We have more volunteers than we could ever imagine,” he said. “We’re well over thirty people now and it doesn’t take that many to make this happen. I’m grateful.”

“As a pastor, my life circles around serving the community,” he said. “If there were more people willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of others, the world would be a better place. That’s the passion behind it.”

To register for a meal or get more information on the Ten for Them foundation, visit their website at