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Etna landmark receives needed renovations

By Tawnya Panizzi
Staff writer
Thursday, December 6, 2001

ETNA: The bright red door at Calvert Memorial Presbyterian Church acts as a welcome sign to residents here.

At least that is the feeling its pastor, the Rev. Cynthia Jackson ,is hoping to create with the paint job and other renovations taking place at the 92-year old church.

The church was granted $3,000 from the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation to restore it’s century-old stonework. But the money, according to Jackson, will help refresh more than gritty stone and chipped paint.

It will help solidify the splendid stone building, constructed in 1909, as one of the borough’s oldest treasures and perhaps attract a larger congregation.

The church is a vital presence in the community, but not solely because of its ministries. The congregation totals about 60 members.

“The building houses the services that are much needed in this community,” Jackson said.

Often, residents don’t relate the church with some of the many services located inside, Jackson said. If the building were to crumble, it would eliminate a home for the Girl Scouts, Homework Helper and an Allegheny County elections polling site. The Bread of Life food pantry, which serves 100 families each month, also is located there.

Representatives from the landmarks foundation granted the maximum allowance of $3,000 because Jackson showed that it is integral to town.

“We have a smaller congregation, but we are reaching into the community in many ways,” Jackson said.

Just this summer, the church hosted a reading program for 17 children. Sixteen of them received $270 scholarships through the church to participate. Two days each week, an employment specialist visits the food pantry to advise residents on job opportunities. Jackson is trying to arrange for GED classes at the building.

“We provide services for people of all ages,” Jackson said. “We hope to be able to have more soon.”

The renovation work, while costly, may go unnoticed by some of the congregation. The bulk of the work included repointing the stone, a job that works to salvage the structure of a building. The repointing has stopped leaking on the church’s interior. Plaster work is next, Jackson said.

“You may not be able to tell real well, but there aren’t big gaping holes in the mortar anymore,” she said.

Now in its fifth year, the program has distributed more than $65,000 to churches in Allegheny County. The money, given to sites at least 50 years old, was made available through year-end gifts made by Landmarks members and trustees. Eligibility depends on the architectural significance of each building, as well as community outreach.

A panel of historians and the History and Landmarks staff review more than 40 applicants each year, largely to determine if the building is worth saving. Money doled out must be used for construction work, not operating expenses.

This article appeared in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. © Tribune Review

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