Volunteers Give New Life to a Historic Pennsylvania Town
On June 17th, SCA teamed up with national supporter Domtar to restore a century-old community center and bring new life to the historic small town of Johnsonburg, Pennsylvania.
Since 2012, Domtar has partnered with SCA to support SCA’s youth conservation crews in cities across the country, as well as local restoration projects in communities where Domtar employees live and work. Young SCA crew leaders from New York City, Washington DC, Dallas, and Oakland, soon to gear up for a summer of urban programming, were excited to travel to Pennsylvania to help facilitate the project in Johnsonburg.
For SCA leaders John Goodrick and Ally Ratliff, who both grew up in the area and attended school in Pittsburgh, the project was a chance to reconnect with a familiar landscape. “I’m joining ya’ll from Dallas today,” said Ally to her group of volunteers, “but I’m originally from Pennsylvania and this is a great chance to come home!”
The Community Center, built in 1919, has been a fixture of the Johnsonburg community for almost a century. A few blocks down from the mill, the Center served as a recreation hub for workers to socialize and relax with their families. Today, the center hosts a range of community youth programs including swim classes, gymnastics, and summer camps. But the historic architecture of the building — high ceilings, hardwood floors, ornate molding — and the surrounding grounds had been in danger of being loved to death over decades of use.
“When I was young, this town was bustling,” said Mary Frey, who serves on the Community Center’s board. “Johnsonburg always had great spirit. We sent more boys per capita to serve in World War II than any other district across the country. And the folks at home cared about their neighbors. We always did our part.”
Guided by SCA leaders, over 100 Domtar employee volunteers and community members set out to do their part by helping to refurbish, repaint, and restore. Inside the Center, volunteers scraped crumbling paint from the walls and applied a fresh coat to doors, windows, and railings. Participants also renovated the building’s basement gym and weight room, clearing out old equipment and installing new racks to store yoga balls, basketballs, and other equipment. Meanwhile, outside the center, an army of volunteers set out to pull weeds, repaint pavilions, and mulch the playground.
Greg Linscott, General Mill Manager for Domtar in Johnsonburg, presented Center Recreation Director Chris Bressler with a $10,000 check to seal the day — a donation that will be used to repair the building roof and help with other infrastructure improvements that volunteers weren’t able to tackle. “We at Domtar have always had a close relationship with the Community Center, and as this site approaches its centennial we look forward to continuing that connection.”
“We’re honored to partner with Domtar to mobilize volunteers in support of local green spaces like this across the country,” said SCA Events Manager Ann Pedtke. “The service ethic is just as powerful whether in a town of 2,000 or in a city of 2 million — and it’s great to see Domtar acting as a catalyst to bring whole communitities together in this cause.”
Saturday’s event followed recent partnership projects with Domtar in Raleigh, North Carolina and Kamloops, British Columbia. SCA will team up with Domtar again this fall for a service event in Montreal. Big thanks to Domtar for their continuing support of SCA programs across the country!
Read more about Domtar’s partnership with SCA.