July 19, 2016 at 10:18 AM
By TAMI QUIGLEY Staff writer
Home is where the heart is, and there’s a “whole lotta love” from the Bethlehem community – including the Diocese of Allentown – for the horses of the Bethlehem Mounted Police Unit finding a new home, and their human partners finding a great place from which to work as they serve and protect the community.
The Diocese of Allentown is happy to be involved in “A Stable Future” – the capital campaign of the Friends of the Bethlehem Mounted Police to fund a new stable facility – in a very concrete way.
The new stable facility will be located on East Langhorne Avenue, Bethlehem, on 10 acres of land leased from Holy Savior Cemetery, and will serve as the new home for George, Pharaoh, Asa and Grey. Holy Savior is one of two diocesan cemeteries. The other is Resurrection Cemetery, Allentown.
Soon the public will be able to stop by and visit this special, picturesque place and learn more about this dedicated unit that serves the Christmas City. Get a running start and mark it on your calendar now to walk, trot, gallop or drive on over.
“Re-establishing the mounted patrol is an example of Bethlehem’s special character as a model city in so many ways,” said Tom Tenges, president of the Friends of the Bethlehem Mounted Police, who voiced thanks at the July 15 groundbreaking ceremony to those who worked diligently for the success of A Stable Future.
“It’s so close to our heart to be able to do this for those who serve us every day in law enforcement,” said diocesan Vicar General Msgr. Alfred Schlert, who offered remarks, the invocation and closing blessing.
“We’re grateful to offer this tract of land for this wonderful purpose. It shows what a few people of good will can do,” Msgr. Schlert said on a day when temperatures soared almost as high as the excitement.
Msgr. Schlert noted the diocese’s involvement began a year ago with an email directed to him. He offered greetings on behalf of Bishop John Barres to those who brought the project to fruition as well as members of law enforcement.
Offering the invocation, Msgr. Schlert prayed God would “grant success, guide and protect all police officers. May we always be grateful to them and respect them.”
A Stable Future will provide the Bethlehem Mounted Police Unit’s horses with a safe, healthy place to live, train and work.
The officers and their equine partners are: Officer Jon Buskirk and Pharaoh; Officer Jason Holschwander and Asa, who is a gift from Lehigh University, Bethlehem; Officer Michael Leaser and Grey, a gift from Moravian College, Bethlehem; and Officer Eric Waldeck and George.
Tenges welcomed those gathered. Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez and Bethlehem Chief of Police Mark DiLuzio offered remarks. Chris Porter, project architect, gave highlights of the building features. Buskirk spoke of the importance of the facility to officers and horses.
Also attending were Stuart Bedics, former Bethlehem police commissioner who reinstituted the mounted police patrol in 2009 after a decades-long absence; and Tim Brooks, retired mounted police patrol officer.
Donchez thanked all involved, especially Bishop Barres, Msgr. Schlert and the Diocese of Allentown. “It’s a great example of private and public partnerships working together.”
Donchez said in addition to being on patrol, “the mounted unit is a great public relations tool for the city, especially in today’s environment.” He noted how incredible it is, for example, to see a child excitedly petting one of the horses at an event like Musikfest.
DiLuzio expressed sincere thanks as well, especially to the volunteers, adding the mounted patrol “is a direct connection to citizens – police and citizens working hand-in-hand, or in this case hoof-in-hoof.”
Porter explained the new three-floor facility will be able to accommodate as many as eight animals, with stalls on the ground floor. The top floor will house the offices of the officers. The middle floor will have meeting rooms and a gathering space for people – especially children – to see and experience the horses.
“It’s a real pleasure working with the police and Friends of the Bethlehem Mounted Police,” Porter said. He thanked Buskirk, who marked his seventh anniversary as Pharaoh’s partner on July 18.
Buskirk thanked donors, Tenges, board members and volunteers for their tireless commitment, and the diocese for the perfect site.
“We’ll have more time on patrol and have to spend less time on grooming with this new modern facility,” said Buskirk, highlighting that the hot water they will have at the site will make it much easier to clean the horses and officers’ equipment.
The mounted unit’s current quarters are at Bethlehem’s historic Burnside Plantation.
“The eight acres of grass for grazing will keep them healthier, and the public can visit the horses,” said Buskirk. He said the Horses and Youth (HAY) program will allow kids to come and learn about the mounted police unit.
Tenges, whose resume includes being a former vice president of Moravian and president of Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges (LVAIC), said when he retired he wanted to become part of a “fledging board” where he could really help make a difference. When he met Buskirk and other officers of the mounted patrol unit and they asked him to become part of their dream, he knew he’d found his perfect niche. “I was taken by their dedication.”
Tenges cited the officers and their horses as “some of the best ambassadors the city has to offer.”
“This is a collaborative community effort … and thanks to the diocese for almost miraculously bringing us to this perfect location.”
“In a few months we’ll be celebrating a new home for the guys and the boys,” Tenges said. He explained plans are on track for the facility to be ready to welcome the horses in October, though everything will not be quite complete at that time.
Brooks, now Downtown Bethlehem Association Manager, served in the mounted unit with Raven, also now retired, 2009-14. “This is a special day in the history of the Bethlehem mounted unit,” he said with a broad smile after the ceremony, adding having a facility like this “was always our long-term goal from the beginning.”
Those attending from the diocese included Paul Acampora, secretary of the Secretariat for Stewardship and Development; Mark Smith, secretary of the Secretariat for Temporal Services and CFO; and Mary Ellen Ingeno, administrative assistant to Msgr. Schlert.
A reception followed the ceremony.
A Stable Future’s naming sponsor is Quadrant Private Wealth. Other sponsors and contributors to the new stable include Air Products and Chemicals; Straight Arrow Inc., makers of the original Mane ‘n’ Tail and Cowboy Magic; Just Born Quality Confections; the R.K. Laros Foundation; the Bethlehem Parking Authority; The Philadelphia Trust; and Altronics Security Systems.
For more information or to make a donation to A Stable Future, visit http://friendsofthebethlehemmountedpolice.com.