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Custom-designed program at Penn-Trafford was pipeline to a mentor

| Wednesday, June 24, 2015, 5:27 p.m.
Jordan Bolena and Larry Sturm cutting 2' gasline pipe outside their shop in Harrison City.  Lillian DeDomenic  |  For Trib Total Media
Jordan Bolena and Larry Sturm cutting 2' gasline pipe outside their shop in Harrison City. Lillian DeDomenic | For Trib Total Media

Three years ago, Jordan Bolena signed up for class and wound up with a mentor.

When Bolena, 19, became an apprentice plumber to Larry Sturm as part of a custom-designed program provided by Penn-Trafford High School, he put himself on track for a career.

“Jordan was always good with his hands,” said his father, Chuck. “So when he had the option of signing up for a vo-tech program that allowed him to utilize his strengths, we signed him up.

“Larry has been a wonderful influence on him, guiding him each step of the way.”

Working with youths is second nature for Sturm, a master plumber who owns Sturm Plumbing in Harrison City. For the past three decades, he has donated four hours a week to parishioners at Christian Life Church in Trafford.

When it came to mentoring Bolena, it was personal for Sturm.

“He reminded me of my son,” Sturm said, “very good with his hands and a mechanical-minded person. He just got it from a very early age. Things he shouldn't have been able to do, he did. He's got a lifetime profession.”

Sturm, in turn, has a developed a lifelong fan.

“There are no words that would fit,” Bolena said when asked to describe the impact Sturm has had on him.

“He's a great mentor and boss to me and has taught me everything I know about plumbing. If I could tell him one thing, it would be thanks for everything he's done and for teaching me a skill that I will be able to use for the rest of my life.”

After learning from and working alongside Sturm for three years, Bolena joined him on a 10-day trip to Alaska to volunteer their services to test and repair the plumbing at a facility for military veterans.

“Larry told me that he would be leaving for a few days to get things up and running at the retreat. I suggested he take Jordan, and he thought it was a great idea,” Chuck Bolena said.

Together, the pair checked the lines for leaks and any other plumbing issues for 40 cabins used by Operation Heal Our Patriots.

For years, Sturm has donated his services to Samaritan's Purse, an organization that provides disaster relief and help to those in need at the retreat complex.

Each year in Port Alsworth, Alaska, wounded veterans and their spouses are provided “star” treatment while receiving healing therapy and enjoying the breathtaking beauty that is Alaska. Years ago, Sturm was introduced to Samaritan's Purse through church mission trips.

“When I first visited Operation Heal Our Patriots, I wasn't sure if it was an organization that could benefit from anything I had to offer. Then, when I saw the first soldiers get off of the plane, I just knew I had to do something. So I started volunteering.”

While there, Bolena and Sturm also were able to enjoy outdoor activities.

“We went hunting and fishing there,” Bolena said. “It was awesome.”

Christina Sheleheda is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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