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Jim Thorpe church working to restore historic organ

  • Jim Thorpe church working to restore historic organ
    Copyright 2012
Published November 07. 2012 05:02PM

St. John's Lutheran Church in the Heights, Jim Thorpe, will host its annual basket and handbag bingo this Sunday, Nov. 11, featuring vintage and retired Longaberger and Vera Bradley.

The event will benefit the church's Kimball organ restoration fund.

Doors open at noon and games will begin at 2 p.m. In addition to bingo, the church will also offer a Chinese auction, 50/50 drawing, and door prizes.

"This isn't like anything else, between the games and the food. It's unbelievable and unlike any Bingo you've ever seen," said Irene Remmel, event chairperson.

"The two hours between the doors opening and the games beginning, people come down, eat their lunch, and put their tickets in the Chinese auction. It's like a big social event before the games even start."

Live piano entertainment will be available, and guests will have a chance to request their favorite songs.

The event will also feature St. John's "legendary lunch," prepared and served by volunteers at the church. All food items are $1.

"You could spend $3 and get a piping hot bowl of soup, a sandwich, and a nice piece of apple pie," said Remmel. "Everybody eats like a king or a queen."

All proceeds from the bingo, food sales and drawings will go toward the restoration of the church's Kimball organ, a one-of-a-kind instrument that is unique to the East Coast.

"It's unusual to find Kimball organs, especially of this age, in this part of the country," said Peter Gerger, the president of Jacob Gerger & Sons, who specializes in maintaining and restoring pipe organs.

Built in approximately 1916 by the W.W. Kimball Co. in Chicago, it was brought to Jim Thorpe at a time when it was rare and costly to transport these large instruments from Chicago to the East Coast.

"Most of the pipe organs that you find in this area were built by larger, more local organ builders. It's a very unique instrument," he said.

Kimball organs, designed by a British builder, have a look and sound that is very different from the German- and theatrical-style organs found in our area.

"What we're doing is preserving a unique piece of American pipe organ history."

The organ was taken out of service to begin repairs in May. Repairs and renovations should be completed in the near future and will ensure the organ's playability for yet another generation of St. John's members.

Pipe organs must be maintained regularly, and a total restoration and upgrade is required about every 50 years that includes rewiring and examining the organ's interior. This year's restoration also includes several modernizations, such as a computer that will control the organ volume.

"As long as you take care of a pipe organ, they're basically good forever," added Gerger. "There are organs in Europe that are hundreds of years old."

It's been estimated that the restoration will cost $72,000, of which about $50,000 has been raised. Remmel hopes to raise a large portion of the remaining funds needed during their event on Sunday.

The basket and handbag bingo has been a success for the church since its start in 2006, raising thousands of dollars for the church's building fund first to replace an aging roof, and now to repair their historic organ.

"If you have ever heard that organ, it's just stunning," said Remmel, a lifetime member of St. John's who was raised hearing the Kimball organ's unique tones.

"Like everybody else, I took it for granted. We've been using the piano since we took it down in May, and it's just not the same."

Including bingo and Chinese auction winnings, the event will feature 85 prizes valued at over $3,000. The jackpot coverall prize will be $300.

"Even if you don't win, you'll still have a lot of fun," said Remmel. "At the end of the day you've supported the organ fund."

St. John's Lutheran Church in the Heights is located at 319 South Ave. in Jim Thorpe.

For more information, to purchase advanced tickets or to reserve group seating, contact Remmel at (570) 325-4534.

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