We Heart Summer Servants

We Heart Summer Servants

A great group photo, as Joey was departing to catch the westbound train. The Summer Servant community this summer has been a huge support–they really put the “farm” in Bethlehem Farm and have made the self-build on the San Damiano Center for Sustainability possible. The San Damiano framing crew will miss Joey and all departing Summer Servants as they say, “until next time.”

Property Purchase Appeal

Property Purchase:
Once-in-a-lifetime Opportunity

by Eric Fitts, Director

Great news! We have signed a sales agreement with the Diocese to purchase the 48-acre Bethlehem Farm property that we have been leasing! The Diocese accepted our offer of $36,000 and it is time for us to formally invite you to contribute to this essential investment. Sponsor a piece of the property by contributing online now.

It is hard to imagine a more important effort to insure the future of Bethlehem Farm. Our commitment to our Catholic identity and relationship with the Diocese is as strong as ever. When our bishop resigned last year, the Diocese gave us the opportunity to make an offer on the property. With each big decision over the years, we had to trust that our carefully-laid plans would not be shattered by some unforeseen development. What if a new bishop decided he wanted the property for some other purpose? What if the property needed to be liquidated in a sex abuse lawsuit? There were many unknowns and we had to trust the assurances we were given. What a blessing and a comfort to know that the security of the Bethlehem Farm property and future projects will rest in the trusted hands of the Board of Directors and Caretaker Community with the purchase of our property.

How will we raise $36,000?
With donations or pledges at the following levels:
2 at $5,000
6 at $1,000
5 at $750
10 at $500
15 at $250
25 at $100
50 at $50
100 at $25
Each $750 donation secures one acre of the Farm, 1/48th of our future! Give online now.

While the response to the Rebuild My Church Capital Campaign has been solid ($250,000 raised toward the $450,000 campaign goal in the first six months), our donations have slowed in the past few months and we may need to delay the execution of the maintenance garage/tool barn/wood shop/picnic shelter project until more support comes in. A solid response to this property purchase plea will help ensure that the remainder of the Rebuild My Church Capital Campaign can stay on schedule. Please prayerfully consider where your giving can fit into the funding plan above.

There are several ways that you can partner with us to make the property purchase a reality:
1. Donate now online at bethlehemfarm.net/rmccc
2. Begin a monthly donation through your online bill-pay or via the donate link above
3. Make a multi-year pledge via mail, phone or email (eric@bethlehemfarm.net)
4. Ask your parish or community group to sponsor an acre or more of Bethlehem Farm (gather a group of people that can raise $750). You can set up a social fundraising page on our website following the instructions here (except choose “Rebuild My Church Capital Campaign” instead of “Partners in Mission” under campaign name).

Aside from security, what else will outright ownership of the property mean to us?
  • The decisions of the Board regarding the property will be the last word and not subject to the external review required by our lease agreement.
  • We will have more freedom to advocate for and express our values (our lease required permission for posting signs on the property, for example).
  • We will have equity that we can borrow against in the event of neighboring properties coming up for sale that are integral to our programming and retreat atmosphere.
  • It will be easier to attract funding for capital improvements, since they will not be at risk of loss with a change in landlord.
“From the moment we stepped onto this property, we sensed the Holy Spirit was here.”

There is something special, holy, and unique about the Farm: the 1/2-mile gravel drive up to the hilltop, the log retreat house, the pastures, gardens, and animals all speak to the purpose and mission of Bethlehem Farm. Whether deepening faith through loving relationships, learning from a low-income homeowner through home repair, or experiencing God’s creation here on the Farm property, the lessons each participant learns here are impressive reminders of the importance of the Bethlehem Farm mission.Our goal is to secure the future of Bethlehem Farm by purchasing the 48-acre property that we have called “home” for the past 14+ years. This is a great deal: the land alone could easily sell for $100,000, not to mention the buildings—please help us seal the deal on a critical piece of Bethlehem Farm’s future. We invite you to help us “Rebuild My Church” through this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Peace and all Good,
Eric R. Fitts, Director
Jake Teitgen, Chair of the Board

Bethlehem Farm
PO Box 415
Talcott, WV 24981

Transforming lives through serving with the local community and teaching sustainable practices
Phone: 304.445.7143

“Rebuild My Church” Capital Campaign

May 19-25 College Week

May 19-25, 2019, College Week: Our Lady of Grace (IN) & St. Lawrence/St. Luke (NJ)

Thanks to the groups from Our Lady of Grace (IN) and St. Luke/St. Lawrence (NJ) for a great week.

Making a difference serving with Melissa, Teshla, Wellspring, Farmer Rhonda, and on the homefront.

Thanks to these students and their group leaders Jake and John for their selfless love and their graced presence among us.

Thanks also to our Summer Servants for the week: Grace Pallisard, Marty Nocchi, Shannon Loeherer, Frances Rafferty, Sarah Reilly, Caroline Kreh, Cece Pateman, Lindsey Meyer, Kevin Truong, and Joey Lenkey.

May 12-18 College Week

May 12-18, 2019, College Week: Alvernia University (Reading, PA)

Thanks to the group from Alvernia University, a Franciscan school near Reading, PA, for a great week.

Making a difference serving with Melissa, Teshla, Wellspring, Farmer Rhonda, and on the homefront.

Thanks to these students and their group leader Krista for their selfless love and their graced presence among us.

Thanks also to our Summer Servants for the week: Grace Pallisard, Marty Nocchi, Shannon Loeherer, Frances Rafferty, Robert O’Ryan, and Sarah Reilly

San Damiano Center for Sustainability: Foundation Complete, Part XI

San Damiano Center for Sustainability:
Foundation Complete, Part XI

by Eric Fitts, Director

The crew from Solak Builders was back to make some relief cuts in the slab, begin some block work around the rain water hydrant for the chicken coop, and lay the last 2 courses of block on top of the slab to create a knee wall for the framing to sit upon (so there is no wood at ground level, which will leave it less exposed to rot). The framing kit arrives from Shelter-Kit on May 23rd (20 pallets of materials on a 48-ft flatbed truck!). We’ll epoxy our anchor bolts into the foundation and begin framing!

Meanwhile, we are holding Eric and Jeremy close in prayer, as well as Will & Roni, as each needs us to lift them up a bit this week.

“Rebuild My Church” Capital Campaign

Reflections on 12 years at Bethlehem Farm

12 years ago the day before yesterday, Colleen and I graduated from grad school at WVU. 12 years ago yesterday Colleen and I moved in at Bethlehem Farm, greeted by the sole Caretaker at the time, Russ Plywaczynski. 2 hours later, a group arrived from Illinois State and we met Lauren LaCoy, among others. A week later, Kathleen Brian DeRouen moved in.

Having lived in community with 35 Caretakers and hundreds of Summer Servants, and having hosted thousands of volunteers over 193 service-retreat weeks, adding three little ones to our family (the last one here at home) along the way, there is so much to be thankful for and so many people who have lifted us up.

Some things never change, like planting tomatoes in May on a college week, while so much growth and change has transpired as well. Here’s to many more years!

To borrow from Frost:
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But [we] have promises to keep.
And miles to go before [we] sleep.
And miles to go before [we] sleep.

A photo from the May 2, 2007, board meeting just prior to Eric and Colleen, Brian and Kathleen moving in.

San Damiano Center for Sustainability: foundation in progress, Part X

San Damiano Center for Sustainability:
Foundation in Progress, Part X

by Eric Fitts, Director

The day finally arrived to pour the slab for San Damiano. Vapor barrier was placed down (to protect the contents of the building from rust due to condensation from the ground), forms put up, and we were ready for 4 cement trucks carrying 8 cu yds of concrete each. A “little” left over at the end meant that we could also pave the educational area on the left side.

Many thanks to Eric Franklin and Mark Solak of Solak Builders for setting up the pour and to Steve Amick, Mike and Dillon of SAA Builders of Rainelle for their masterful job pouring and finishing the slab–not easy work, especially on yet another unseasonably warm and sunny day.

Next up: Solak Builders returns to make the relief cuts in the slab, run two more courses of block on top of the slab, and set the bolts for the posts and sill plates.

“Rebuild My Church” Capital Campaign

2020 Calendar Announcement

2020 Calendar Announcement

We are excited to announce our 2020 service-retreat week calendar!

Our 2020 Calendar has been posted and the registration packets are updated for the coming year. The priority registration date for the up-coming group season is Thursday August 15th for colleges and Monday September 16th for high schoolTo assure your chances of getting your spots, be sure to have your paperwork and deposit in by the appropriate date. Our participation fee this year will increase to $350, including the $50 deposit, as noted last year and in order to keep pace with inflation.

Bethlehem Farm is a Catholic community in Appalachia that transforms lives through serving with the local community and teaching sustainable practices. We invite volunteers to join us in living the Gospel cornerstones of service, prayer, simplicity, and community. Please feel free to reach out with any questions!

Links found here:

Registration packets


Bethlehem Farm Video