On Centre: Bald Eagle Area | Mountain Top volunteers close in on community center goal

January 21, 2014 

This year could be a thrilling one for Mountain Top Activity Center volunteers chasing a dream.

Since 2008, they’ve been renovating the former Clarence Elementary School into a health and fitness center, library and recreation space for the convenience of local residents who would otherwise have to drive long distances for the same facilities.

By next fall, the vision could be reality.

Once men’s and women’s locker rooms can be built, the last big hurdle, a center dedicated to America’s veterans will be ready for the community.

“We’re just going to have the most wonderful grand opening when it occurs,” said Cathy Dittman, a local United Methodist pastor and MTAC co-president.

From the beginning, volunteers made steady progress converting the old school building at 105 Birch Run Road.

They cleaned out the entire interior, painted the upstairs classrooms and built new basement stairs.

A company, Penaco Inc., was hired to do an asbestos abatement to remove crumbling material and to test for lead paint. According to MTAC, the building passed safety standards in both cases.

MTAC also connected the building to water and sewer mains, installed new gas pipes, bought three new gas furnaces and erected a security fence around the property.

“It’s been five years, but my goodness, we’ve accomplished a lot in five years for being a small group,” Dittman said.

Which brings the nonprofit to 2014.

Dittman said MTAC is concentrating on building the locker rooms, as well as an exterior handicapped ramp. On Friday, she and other officers will meet with an architect to discuss plans to convert a classroom into bathrooms and showers.

The goal is to submit a design to the state for approval this spring. If all goes well, work will start in the early summer.

Dittman said the regional office of the United Methodist Volunteers in Mission, a service organization, has promised a crew of 50 to 75 workers for two weeks “just to work their hearts out and do whatever needs to be done.”

When completed, the center will offer a gym with equipment for handicapped patrons, a library with a computer lab, transportation services, rental space for community groups, a batting cage, sports and recreation classes.

MTAC and the Bald Eagle Area School District also are discussing the possibility of establishing a before- and after-school program for elementary schoolchildren.

But it all hinges on finishing the bathroom project.

“We can at least open the doors for programming,” Dittman said. “We haven’t been able to do much without bathrooms, so this is huge.”

To get there will take $50,000. Philanthropists Donald Hamer and his wife, Marie Bednar, donated $10,000 to the cause, but MTAC must raise the rest.

A Feb. 16 spaghetti dinner at the Moshannon Community Center, starting at 7 p.m. and costing $7 for adults and $3 for children younger than 12, aims to make a dent.

Donations also can be made via PayPal at mtac.webs.com, or by sending checks to: MTAC Inc., P.O. Box 217, Snow Shoe, PA 16874.

Dittman said the support of local and state elected officials and scores of volunteers, such as the recent crew from the United Methodist Unity Parish churches, has brought MTAC close to the summit.

“We are pretty excited,” she said. “We really are. We’ve had people think that it couldn’t be done, and we just know it can be.”

Chris Rosenblum writes a weekly column about news in the Upper and Lower Bald Eagle valleys. If you have news to share, email crosenbl@centredaily.com or call 231-4620.

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