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Local chorus donates funds to Morgan’s Grove Park

By Staff | Nov 29, 2019

Shepherdstown Community Club member Jennifer Wabnitz, left, accepts a check on behalf of the club from Jefferson County Community Chorus Director Judy Pharr, on Nov. 21. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — On Nov. 21, Jefferson County Community Chorus Director Judy Pharr met with Shepherdstown Community Club member Jennifer Wabnitz at Morgan’s Grove Park, to present Wabnitz with a check for the preservation of the park’s ash trees.

The donation was from the proceeds of Jefferson County Community Chorus’ holiday concert earlier this month. According to Pharr, the chorus has been donating the proceeds of each of its two yearly concerts to local causes since its founding in 2008.

“Roberta Ranelli started the choir when she retired from teaching music at the high schools here in Jefferson County. She was the one who came up with the concept of fundraising at each concert, to help meet the needs in this county,” Pharr said, mentioning Ranelli eventually decided she wanted to pass on the reigns and travel abroad. “I co-directed with her in 2015, and then took over the choir for her from there.”

Pharr, a Shepherd University alumna, taught private voice and piano lessons for over 30 years, before taking over the chorus. Her previous experience directing a church choir and choir in college helped prepare her for leading the JCCC, which generally ranges in size from the mid-30s to mid-40s, and is always accepting new members.

The chorus’ focus on making music to provide funds to organizations in need is a passion for many of its members. Proceeds are generated from concert attendees who choose to give a donation or participate in a raffle or silent auction at each concert.

“The chorus does not get any of the funds — it all goes to those whom we are raising money for,” Pharr said. “I think the choir has lasted so long, because people enjoy the music, they enjoy singing and they love coming out and helping their community.”

At this year’s fall concert, the chorus’ $1,757 in proceeds was divided between the two causes nominated and chosen by the chorus members.

“It was split between the Jefferson High School choir program, because their chamber choir joined us in participating in the concert,” Pharr said. “The other half is being given to Morgan’s Grove Park, to help protect the park’s ash trees from the emerald ash borer.”

The park, which is owned by the SCC, will be receiving a matching donation from the Cacapon Institute, which the institute gives with all donations to the park’s ash tree preservation program. Caring for the park’s 73 ash trees is an expensive process, but after one more treatment by Trees 101, the ash trees should be resistant to the emerald ash borers, according to Wabnitz.

“We have spent $12,000 every other year caring for these trees,” Wabnitz said. “It’s what makes the park so pleasant, because the trees keep it cool for kids to play underneath.

“This donation was very generations. It was reassuring that we are doing something that’s of value to our community — not just tree-huggers like myself,” Wabnitz said, with a smile.

Jefferson County Community Chorus’ spring concert will be on music from the 1960s. The chorus accepts new singers without an audition. To learn more about the chorus, contact Pharr at judithpharr@gmail.com.