For decades, Joan Ricotta and her family had a life-size Nativity scene at their home — it included the holy family, which she bought at a gift show, and a stable with a star on front built by her husband, Jim.
“I’ve always loved Nativity scenes from the time (I was) a small child,” said Ricotta, who along with her husband owns Ricotta Jewelry in Philipsburg.
Two years ago, Jim Ricotta tore his rotator cuff and needed surgery. The Nativity scene became too heavy for him to move in and out of storage each year, as the bottom of the stable is lined with steel.
So Joan Ricotta asked Jim Washburn, who was instrumental in getting the Moshannon Valley Veterans Memorial installed, if he’d like to have the Nativity on display during the holidays at the memorial.
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“We’re just thrilled to death” that they donated it, Washburn, an Army veteran, said.
It went up there for the first time last Christmas season, and Ricotta said they received so many comments about how much people loved it.
A conversation in her jewelry store one day got her thinking that it would be nice to expand the scene to include all the figures, she said.
During Philipsburg Heritage Days, with some help, Ricotta collected donations to get the ball rolling.
After that, they kept signs in the jewelry store, and people and local businesses kept making donations. Ricotta donated 50 bracelets to the cause, selling them for $10 a piece to go toward the project.
In the end, the full $2,300 was raised, and the town was able to purchase three wise men, an angel, a kneeling shepherd, a standing shepherd, a sitting camel, two sheep and a new star, Ricotta said.
Washburn said he was “very, very encouraged and happy” that they got the additional figurines.
The “town stood up,” he said.
It was a community effort that made it happen — from the people who donated to the businesses who donated their money or time, or both.
“People do have good hearts,” Ricotta said.
Everyone who donated was able to sign a leather journal — writing a message of gratitude to the veterans for their service or honoring someone who’s died — and it’ll get presented to the veterans, Ricotta said.
She said they were even able to raise at least $500 more to give to the veterans for cleaning and maintaining the Nativity scene.
Washburn said the Nativity will stay up until into the new year.