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Forward Township baseball field gets special treatment

| Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent
Elizabeth Forward students built an equipment shed for the Forward Township baseball field. Shown, on May 7, 2013, from left are students Joe Handell, Luke Etzel, Max Strotman; on the ladder is Dylan Keeley; and at left, on the roof is Jake Pelcharsky, Jake Waltonbaugh, and Quinton Shaner.

Jake Pelcharsky remembers when his father used to haul equipment up the winding hill to take care of the Forward Township baseball field.

This week, he was among nearly 20 Elizabeth Forward High School students who built a storage shed at the baseball field to store field equipment.

The park improvement is being funded by a company which operates group homes for special needs children, including one such home in Forward Township.

Partners Clyde Williams, Jeremy Petrone and William Thomas manage Penn Residential Inc., which operates group homes with developmental disabilities.

Petrone learned of the baseball field project from his friend, Shawn Shroyer, a technical education teacher at Elizabeth Forward High School.

Each year, Shroyer's students in his manufacturing class undertake a construction project. The students have already completed a few basic technical education classes before they are enrolled in Shroyer's advanced manufacturing class.

Previous projects include an outdoor classroom at Central Elementary School in Elizabeth Township and a pavilion in the Lions Square in Elizabeth.

School board member Rob Rhoderick recommended the Forward Township project to district Superintendent Dr. Bart Rocco, who suggested it to Shroyer.

Shroyer then passed on the idea to Petrone, who offered his company's sponsorship.

“Anytime we can pay back the community, we take that opportunity,” said Williams. “This was a great way to show the community we're a good neighbor and appreciate everything they do for us.”

Williams said he was studying to be a chemistry teacher when he took a summer job at an adult training facility for special needs adults more than 20 years ago. He loved the idea of making a difference in the lives of special needs adults and has been in that vocation ever since.

In addition to Forward Township, Penn Residential operates group homes in Irwin, Connellsville and Uniontown.

“What hit home for us is that in Forward Township we have a specialized home for children,” Williams said. “When Shawn let us know it was about the kids in the community, we are all about the community.”

Williams said his staff aims to get the children into the community, such as visiting parks.

“A lot of time people look at us as a drain on public resources and that's unfortunate,” Williams said. “A lot of times, we have seniors living next door. We tell them we're available 24 hours, call us if you need our help.”

The Elizabeth Forward students, mostly seniors, said they enjoy making a difference in the community, too.

“He and I used to play baseball here,” Max Strotman said, pointing to Pelcharsky.

“It's been abandoned for about five years. They'll probably play here again next year.”

Lukas Etzel said the storage shed will make the field more accessible.

Dylan Keeley agreed, saying, “People will be able to use this field a lot easier now because we will have this shed instead of a lock box.”

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or