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Greensburg's live Nativity display will have new life

Mary Pickels
| Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013, 9:22 p.m.
Anna Marie Stevenson of Salem (front), who has been organizing a live Nativity in front of the Westmoreland County Courthouse since 2000, will hand over the effort to members of the Christian Leaders Mentoring Ministry (back, from left) Julie Berry, Karen Spanke and Ginger Belback.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Anna Marie Stevenson of Salem (front), who has been organizing a live Nativity in front of the Westmoreland County Courthouse since 2000, will hand over the effort to members of the Christian Leaders Mentoring Ministry (back, from left) Julie Berry, Karen Spanke and Ginger Belback.

Today, as Anna Marie Stevenson enjoys Thanksgiving and observes her 61st birthday, she has a third reason to celebrate.

After more than a dozen years of staging a live Nativity scene outside the Westmoreland County Courthouse in Greensburg, Stevenson thought it was time to step down.

“I thought maybe this (year) would be the end,” the Salem woman said. “But now I'm saying, ‘Thank you, Jesus.' ”

Long-time Nativity volunteer Ginger Belback and the Church Ladies Ministry, a subgroup of Christian Leaders Mentoring, will work with Stevenson to continue the annual display.

“She has a great heart. She and her husband (Terry) are just wonderful people. I used to take my family to see the Nativity. This year my granddaughter will be an angel,” said Belback of Greensburg.

“It's very important to keep this in Greensburg. There are not a lot of places that do this. ... We need to hold on to that,” she said.

This year's Nativity will be staged from 6 to 8 p.m. on three weekends: Dec. 5, 6 and 7; Dec. 12-13, and Dec. 19-20.

A separate staging will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Dec. 14 at Stevenson's church, St. Bartholomew Parish in Crabtree.

Stevenson, who said health issues are making it difficult for her to coordinate the event, was inspired to present the live Nativity while studying the Bible years ago. The Nativity's message, she said, is “keeping ‘Christ in Christmas.' ”

“It's better than shopping at the mall,” she said.

In 2000, she obtained permission from the county commissioners to set up the Nativity scene outside the courthouse.

The approval came after the board banned an earlier Nativity scene and other unattended displays from the courthouse because the Ku Klux Klan wanted to erect a 6-foot wooden cross in the courtyard.

Stevenson and Barb Matyonosky presented a petition with 518 signatures to the commissioners. “They said we could do it live, so we did,” she said.

After Stevenson received approval, she began rounding up volunteers and donations.

The Nativity scene includes people portraying Mary, Joseph, the three Magi and shepherds. The animals include a donkey and a llama.

Donations collected at the site are contributed to various county charities, Stevenson said.

Many of the same people attend year after year, returning as their families grew, she said.

Belback said the Church Ladies Ministry has about 25 members who come from different denominations and churches.

She said members of her own church, Quest Church of Greensburg, have volunteered with the Nativity.

“She told me she was resigning. I just couldn't let it go,” Belback said. “I started talking to the ladies. Everyone is on board. We think we need to pick this up. But we are not going to let her retire.”

Longtime volunteer Chuck Eichelberger of North Huntingdon has no retirement plans. He's been called into service as a wise man and hands out publicity fliers.

“Light Up Night usually gets pretty crowded downtown. You go by the weather,” Eichelberger said, recalling more than one snowy staging.

Beginning next year, Belback said, the Nativity will be called “CLM Presents Anna Marie's Live Nativity.”

“I think when I told her that she couldn't leave ... that's what she needed to hear. We will help her and keep her vision alive,” Belback said.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or

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