The CAN DO Community Foundation recently presented the fifth annual Joseph Yenchko Awards – scholarships named for the first CAN DO employee – to six area students to attend Ferrwood Music Camp.

Foundation President Gary F. Lamont announced that the awards were presented to:

Melissa Clatch of Drums, a student at Drums Elementary/Middle School; Sarah Habel of Hazleton, a student at Heights-Terrace Elementary/Middle School; Hannah Kunetz of Hazle Township, a student at McAdoo Kelayres; Megan Novak of Freeland, a student at Freeland Elementary/Middle School; Dustin Snyder of White Haven, a student at Freeland Elementary/Middle School; and Angelina Umbriac of Hazleton, a student at Heights-Terrace Elementary/Middle School.

The selection committee, chaired by Nancy Stasko, included Phil Latella, Jerry Panisak and Chris Stamatopolous.

“We are always proud to present the Joseph Yenchko Awards to these very deserving students,” Lamont said. “The musical education provided at Ferrwood Music Camp is part of a well-rounded education, and the CAN DO Community Foundation is happy to link the legacy of Joe Yenchko and CAN DO to Ferrwood.”

Joe Yenchko, who passed away in August 2008, was CAN DO’s first employee. He served as the full-time director of industrial development for 21 years. He was also one of the creative forces behind Valmont and Humboldt industrial parks and was responsible for the construction of more than 80 industrial buildings in Greater Hazleton, pioneering the concept of shell buildings. Yenchko shared CAN DO’s mission and methods of success with organizations and committees across the United States.

The CAN DO Community Foundation serves as the community outreach arm of CAN DO, Inc. The foundation’s mission focuses on Conservation, Preservation and Reclamation with the slogan “CPR – Breathing New Life into our Community.”

Because of that mission, the foundation chose Ferrwood as a community site in need of restoration and worked with the Greater Hazleton Philharmonic Association to restore Ferrwood.

The CAN DO Community Foundation was established in 1992. Initiated through the efforts and a initial seed fund from CAN DO, the endowment has grown from numerous sources including the donation of real estate, individual and corporate gifts, memorial donations, foundations, grants, events and investment income. The initial mission of the foundation was broad-based and included improving the general welfare of the community. The foundation’s mission today is to assist the community in meeting a desire of conservation, preservation and reclamation (“CPR”) of our distressed landscape and historic and other locally significant buildings.

Ferrwood was built in 1927 by the predecessors of the Luzerne County commissioners as a fresh air camp for about $12,000. The camp was used by children with symptoms of tuberculosis, part of a movement in which doctors, schools, social service agencies and volunteers worked together to meet a community health need. This movement was the precursor to the American Lung Association. The CAN DO Community Foundation was successful in having Ferrwood listed in the National Register of Historic Places in the Library of Congress.

The camp ceased operations after it was successful in achieving its objective and was reopened as a music camp by its founder, the Rev. Joseph Ferrara, in 1966. “Father Joe,” as he was widely known, became aware of the abandoned camp and negotiated a lease for $1 with the county commissioners to establish the camp. It was Ferrara’s belief that although all students may not grow up to be musicians, educating others in music would enrich their minds, bodies and spirits, giving them a lifelong gift. His gift, therefore, became one that improved society by expanding a world of thought and possibility, where people regardless of social status could influence themselves and society in a positive way. The Ferrwood restoration project honored Ferrara’s memory.

Although tuberculosis no longer threatens young lives as it did when the camp was originally established, today Ferrwood continues to enrich area youth. The Philharmonic manages the music camp with the help of an army of volunteers.

Without the support received from several elected and community leaders and community groups and the Greater Hazleton community, the camp may have faded into warm memories of a once-lively camp. Preserving Ferrwood links the heritage of the community to its future greatness.

Restoration at the camp followed strict Department of Interior guidelines. The main building, which includes boys’ and girls’ dormitory wings, is being restored, as are the kitchen, dining hall, gathering room, showers, bathroom and an expansive screened porch. The 115 windows in the facility, installed when it was a fresh air camp, have been restored along with the band shell used by music camp students.