Association keeps Shady Grove going

October 27, 1997


Staff Writer, Waynesboro

SHADY GROVE, Pa. - About 250 people live in Shady Grove, a two-mile stretch of Pa. 16 between Greencastle and Waynesboro. They enjoy street lights, ballparks, a playground and a well-run community center because five women care about what happens to their town.

The women belong to the seven-member Shady Grove Improvement Association. Grace Gearhart, 64, Dorothy Lenharr, 73, Patricia Martin, 68, Jane Blair, 72, and Brenda Wilhide, 35, come to the community center at least one day a week to cook enough food to raise more than $20,000 a year, all of which goes back to the community.

The association can trace its history to the 1920s, when its members met in Ira Esh Gearhart's house.

"He was my grandfather," said Robert Gearhart, 64, association president and one of two men in the group. The other is Hal Myers, a local businessman who puts in as much time as he can.


Robert and Grace Gearhart are married. Wilhide is their daughter.

In 1962, the association built the 40-by-200-foot Shady Grove Community Center, now the focal point of the town where weddings, family and class reunions and banquets are held. Little League and T-Ball teams play games there, toddlers climb upon its playground equipment and auctions are held at least once a week.

Selling food at auctions is the backbone of the association's fund-raising effort. Money is also raised at the spring and fall yard sales, which are more like big flea markets that bring in vendors and buyers by the hundreds. The yard sales also bring out 25 to 30 volunteers to help the few association members set up.

The five women bake 50 pies, a dozen angel food cakes and countless cookies and brownies for the twice-annual yard sales, they said.

"These women are the ones who keep this whole thing going. They're here every week, sometimes up to 10 hours on sale days, getting the kitchen ready and cooking and selling the food, then cleaning up," Robert Gearhart said. "Without them, nothing would happen here."

Work in the kitchen is hard, but there is camaraderie. Laughter is served in equal portions with the women's popular soups - vegetable, noodle, chicken and rice, and ham and bean - as well as ham sandwiches, slippery pot pie, fruit pies and cakes.

They genuinely have fun in their big kitchen, centered with a humongous black stove and stacks of pots and other cookware. Robert Gearhart and the women say they are becoming more concerned about their future and the future of the community center. They worry that younger Shady Grove residents aren't stepping in to help in the kitchen.

The money made in the kitchen pays for upkeep of the building. The association spent more than $60,000 upgrading it last year, Robert Gearhart said. The funds also pay for the town's 28 street lights, an annual bill of about $3,700, he said.

"Most people in town don't even know that we make the money for the lights," Lenharr said.

"There's no question that we're getting worried about the future. It's an ongoing dilemma. We have an open invitation for anyone to join us. We just hope somebody starts to take an interest," Robert Gearhart said.

Membership is open to any Antrim Township resident who lives within a one-mile radius of Shady Grove.

"I went door-to-door with fliers last year trying to get people interested in what we're doing here," Blair said. "Most people don't seem to care."

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