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Cedar Ridge Ministries chief recognized for a career helping kids

April 01, 2011|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com
  • Cedar Ridge Ministries Chief Executive Officer David Swacina was recognized Friday for 30 years of dedicated service with a surprise dinner at the Academy Theatre in Hagerstown hosted by staff and friends.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — David Swacina had a decision to make 30 years ago — go with the pay and perks offered by a Chicago steel company, or continue working with troubled children.

On Friday night, a group of about 40 people congratulated the chief executive officer of Cedar Ridge Ministries for choosing kids as his career with a surprise dinner at the Academy Theatre in Hagerstown.

“I had no clue,” said Swacina, who thought he was going to a dinner for Grace Academy staff.

For most of its 47-year history, Swacina has headed Cedar Ridge Ministries, which includes a boys’ home, radio station, school and the Cedar Ridge Adventure challenge course.

“It’s a major milestone and being in a ministry like this is very difficult,” said Michael Gardner, chairman of the board of trustees. In working with troubled children, “burnout is very predictable,” he said.

“Fortunately, we have people who see it as a ministry and not a job,” Gardner said.

Swacina and his wife, Margaret, worked as house parents at a children’s home in Chicago, where he soon became the assistant director, Swacina said. One of the people he hired was Steve Henry.

“I was a seminary student looking for a part-time job, and he hired me as a house parent,” Henry recalled. When the Cedar Ministry job came up, he recommended Swacina for the position to his father, Harold Henry, one of Cedar Ridge’s founders.

After getting the steel company offer, Swacina and Margaret prayed about whether to accept the job, David Swacina said. They decided his future was in working with children, he said.

The call from Harold Henry came shortly after Swacina made the decision, he said.

“The best thing is the environment and the work we’ve accomplished with the kids,” Swacina said of his years at Cedar Ridge. “The worst is not having a huge endowment to do what we’d like to do.”

“The commitment of the staff is unbelievable. I’m really just a small part of this,” he said.

More than 1,000 boys have gone through the children’s home over the years, many referred by the Washington County Department of Social Services or the Department of Juvenile Services, Gardner said.

“Some of these kids have nowhere else to go,” having been unable to function in foster care or other environments, Gardner said.

“God has used you through the years to show compassion, servant leadership and kindness for everyone — no matter what their role and position in life,” Beth Schroyer, Swacina’s executive assistant, told him.

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