The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Latest News

December 5, 2013

Man shares refuge with community

JOHNSTOWN — Steve Purich nearly fell off the 15-foot rock ledge when he first discovered the natural stone cathedral that has become his personal refuge.

The circular collection of rock formations on his secluded Upper Yoder Township property inspired the 72-year-old retiree to create what is now known as the Tranquility Garden. The collection of sculptures and artifacts placed along idyllic paths transports visitors to different lands and different eras.

After 10 years creating it, Purich knew the garden had a greater purpose than his personal escape.

He has donated the sculptures to the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies and has opened the garden as a Community Foundation program.

“It would be sad if it’s just wasted on me,” Purich said. “Besides, I get a lot of joy out of meeting folks who enjoy it.”

There are Roman ruins re-created from what once were features of the First National Bank building in downtown Johnstown. There is the International Village of sculptures from London and Argentina.  The Ancient Temple Ruins include artifacts personally selected by Liz Gilbert and Jose Nunez, subjects of the best-selling novel “Eat, Pray, Love.”

“It is spiritual,” Purich said near the gateway to his Sanctuary alcove. “It is like an outdoor museum with a message.”

One of the garden’s first Community Foundation programs is dear to Purich’s heart.

The garden has been opened to Goodwill Industries of the Conemaugh Valley’s GoodFutures Mentoring Experience youths and their mentors.

“It is difficult to make a connection with these kids,” Purich said. “We can bring the kids into a different place. It is something they can’t experience anywhere else. It breaks the ice.”

Youths and their mentors come to the garden and practice photography and painting, explore nature or discuss history and philosophy represented by the sculptures, he said.

But most of all, the garden allows a mentor and youth to connect with each other.

“It turns all the noise off,” Purich said. “You can feel the silence.”

The GoodFutures Mentoring Experience is an extension of the Great Conemaugh Valley Intervention Plan, founded in 2009 by Purich and Mike Kane, executive director of the Community Foundation.

The mentoring initiative was propelled by a flurry of data showing that young people in the Johnstown area are more likely to come from low-income families, more likely to drop out of school and less likely to attend college than those in other communities.

GoodFutures has matched 35 mentors with youths ages 12 to 17, said Phyllis J. Bandstra, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of the Conemaugh Valley.

“We have 40 more youth waiting for matches,” she said.

The Goodwill program is getting a boost from a national corporation. AT&T is donating $10,000 through the Community Foundation to support the mentoring program, announced Jim Penna, AT&T’s regional director for external affairs.

Penna said his prior positions as district director for former congressman Mark Critz and as a local news anchor helped him to understand the value of Goodwill, Community Foundation and the Tranquility Garden.

“This is a place where you can come and find yourself,” Penna said. “The mentoring program is about finding yourself.”

The contribution is part of AT&T Aspire, focused on helping to achieve higher rates of college- and career-ready high school graduates. Since 2008, the company has distributed $350 million.

“High school success and workforce readiness is a top priority for AT&T,” Penna said. “This initiative is an excellent example of the private sector teaming up with nonprofit organizations to help at-risk youth in our community.”

More information about becoming a mentor is available by contacting youth coordinator Cindy O’Connor at 536-3536, ext. 304, or by email, coconnor@good

Randy Griffith is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Latest News
  • Classes to resume at Franklin Regional High School

    April 16, 2014

  • 10 things to know for today

    April 16, 2014

  • Search teams will send unmanned sub to look for missing Malaysian airliner

    Teams searching for a missing Malaysian airliner are planning for the first time to send an unmanned submarine into the depths of the Indian Ocean to look for wreckage, an Australian official leading the multi-nation search said Monday.

    April 16, 2014

  • bank1 West End bank robbed

    The West End branch of AmeriServ Financial was robbed Tuesday morning, two days before the branch is scheduled to close.

    April 15, 2014 2 Photos

  • weather_2 Old Man Winter returns to area

    Just when you think we’ve finally escaped the cold temperatures, winter swoops back in to remind us it’s not going away just yet.

    April 15, 2014 2 Photos

  • City seeks support for sewer revamp

    The city is looking for backup from the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority in spreading what they call “true” facts and figures regarding the city’s encompassing sewer revamp.

    April 15, 2014

  • Airport gets lift with $180G grant

    The John Murtha Johnstown–Cambria County Airport needs to replace some basic maintenance equipment: a pickup truck, painting machine, chain saw, weed eater, hand tools and more.
    So, on Tuesday, the airport’s authority agreed to accept Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Bureau of Aviation grant money that already has been tentatively allocated.

    April 15, 2014

  • Cresson asks court to force ex-chief to sign pact

    An agreement reached more than a month ago between Cresson Borough Council and its former police chief still has not been signed, and the borough is asking a judge to intervene.

    April 15, 2014

  • hamer 16 Mom told to seek help for addiction

    A Johnstown woman charged with tossing her 4-month-old baby and with drug-related offenses pleaded guilty and was sentenced in Cambria County court on Tuesday.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Elder justice events set

    In an effort to combat elder abuse in area communities, an elder justice seminar will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 24 at the Johnstown Senior Center, 550 Main St., downtown Johnstown. In addition, a free elder abuse clergy training seminar will be held from 8:30 to 10 a.m. April 25 at Moxham Lutheran Church, 500 Park Ave., Johnstown.

    April 15, 2014


Do you think that Jack Williams will get the 270 signatures from city residents needed in order to have a referendum placed on a municipal ballot to have the city's pressure test mandate repealed?

I'm not sure
     View Results
Order Photos

Photo Slideshow

House Ads