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STARTING OVER: Owners of The Inn at Narrows Creek bed and breakfast rebuilding

DuBOIS — For Henry and Linda Shaffer, owners of The Inn at Narrows Creek bed and breakfast in Sandy Township, the decision to rebuild their business after a February fire destroyed it was not a difficult one.

Both in their 70s, the Shaffers realized it would be a lot of work to start all over again — recreating the bed and breakfast, a reproduction of a 250-year-old New England country inn they originally built and opened in 1998.

“But there’s also a little bit of excitement about it,” said Henry Shaffer. “So we pondered. We could have taken a settlement and moved anywhere we wanted to or something like that.”

“We like it here. We like the area. We like our location,” said Linda Shaffer.

“We don’t want to live anywhere else ... our roots are here, our support system is here, our friends are here and it’s where we raised our kids,” said Henry Shaffer.

Both grew up in the area — Henry in Rockton and Linda in DuBois.

The Shaffers said they had four choices when thinking about rebuilding the bed and breakfast nestled in the woods.

“One of them was, take the money and run,” said Henry Shaffer. “Second one was to take part of the money and then the other part just build a house. A third choice was to replace the bed and breakfast as it was. And the fourth was/is to rebuild the bed and breakfast and modify it — and that’s what we chose.”

The original inn had four suites and two rooms, a country store and two tiny houses which were part of their rooms.

Linda Shaffer said it’s time for her to quit the country store because it has been the most time-consuming part of the business.

“And in consulting with our kids who are going to inherit this some day ... as a result of their advice, they felt that a bed and breakfast would be, if they had to liquidate, it would be more difficult to sell something that was designed specifically for a bed and breakfast. So we decided to make this place here into a bed and breakfast, but relatively modified, very simply can be changed into a house ... a regular conventional house for somebody,” said Henry Shaffer.

The new bed and breakfast, with a garage integrated with it, will have four units and be downsized slightly. There will also be an apartment above the gathering area for Stacey and Craig Wick, who operate the bed and breakfast for the Shaffers.

“We used most of the same footprint for the foundation,” said Henry Shaffer.

The Shaffers, recalling how they got into owning a bed and breakfast to begin with, said it began when Henry was a contractor.

“First we were in a ministry for about seven years and lived in Oklahoma City, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh,” said Henry Shaffer. “And then we left there, we came back to DuBois and I taught school for five years. But I always had a desire to want to build my own house. So over the years I’ve learned basic skills just by volunteering and helping other people in different projects. My father and I built our first house by ourselves. So we built a house. Next year, like a lot of teachers starting out, they’re always looking for something to supplement their income, especially in the summer.

“We built a house and then we had enough equity, we could borrow against a house, so I built a spec house. We liked the spec house better than the house we built,” said Henry Shaffer. “The next year I built another house and then another house and people started to like what I was doing. And that was right at a time when Treasure Lake was exploding. So all of the contractors started at the same time ... because there was plenty of work out there and I did likewise. I had three people that wanted me to build houses. I had to make a decision whether I was going to leave teaching or build them.”

Although he loved teaching special education at the high school, Henry Shaffer decided to focus on building houses. Over the years, he estimated that he built between about 125-150 homes in Treasure Lake.

He said one of his goals in life was to take each one of his three sons to a third world country to experience a different culture and how the rest of the world lives.

“I happened to be building an addition on Cole’s Orthodontics. They had a place out in Main Street at that time,” said Henry Shaffer. “I was talking to one of the Coles over lunch one day telling him, I don’t know how it happened, but I told him about this goal that I had. That night he called me and said, ‘I’m on the board of this mission that goes to the Caribbean and would you be interested in going. And what they do is they build things down there.’ And so I said, ‘Sure.’”

After going to Jamaica, Henry Shaffer called it “a life-changing experience.”

After the first trip, he kept going to Jamaica as often as he could. Eventually, others he told about his experience, including area high school students, wanted to go, too.

“Our mantra was to share the love of God with these people, by helping them with whatever their greatest needs were,” said Henry Shaffer. “So consequently, after that, the whole thing exploded down in Jamaica and we’ve taken 25,000 people down over the years. Plus I had my business, which was growing and one of them had to be sacrificed.”

“It wasn’t going to be Jamaica, I knew that,” said Linda Shaffer.

“As a contractor, Linda had moved, I don’t know how many times. We would build a house, live in it a year or two, somebody wanted to buy it, so then we would build a bigger house,” said Henry Shaffer.

At one point, a piece of land from Treasure Lake Development just outside of the Treasure Lake gate off Route 255 became available for sale and Henry Shaffer presented his idea to his wife.

“I knew she’d be interested in a craft store, but I know that she didn’t want to go to some mall or something like that. I didn’t really think that craft store would be able to sustain the financial. So if I could find some kind of compatible business to go along with it, then the idea of a bed and breakfast came up, because there wasn’t any bed and breakfasts in our area. So I brought it up to her and she said, ‘When can we start?’”

“Easier than he thought,” said Linda Shaffer.

And they’ve lived on the bed and breakfast property ever since.

“We’ve never regretted it,” said Henry Shaffer. “We were cash positive the day we moved in and every year after that.”

“And I think we can make it on this without the store too,” said Linda Shaffer. “The bed and breakfast makes more than the store, obviously, but the store’s a lot more work.”

The fire was the second challenge that the Shaffers have had to face since they opened the business.

Eight years ago, a major flood in DuBois caused damage to a portion of the bed and breakfast rooms, as well as the store inventory, which they kept in the basement.

“That was a really big hit,” said Henry Shaffer. “But at the same time it was one of the most humbling because immediately people showed up to do everything, a couple hundred at least ... for a four-week period ... cleaning up. They were contacts through Jamaica and their lives were challenged. We kind of pay it forward and now they’re paying it back.”

“Then we had a fire here, and to a degree, the same thing happened with the people,” said Henry Shaffer.

“The whole town was very, very supportive,” said Linda Shaffer. “But that’s the way the body of Christ is supposed to be. That’s how we’re supposed to act with each other. And you know how everybody says giving is more of a blessing, we’ve definitely found that out in Jamaica. But sometimes you have to be on the receiving end of it. It’s very humbling, to let people do for you. But we have to do it, because we can’t take the blessing away from them. They need to have that blessing too.”

The cause of the fire was undetermined, probably electrical in nature, though, said Henry Shaffer.

Although losing a home as a result of a fire shook the Shaffers up, Linda Shaffer said, “You realize what’s important, and it’s not stuff that you gathered over the years.”

“Takeaways from all this for us is, God is always preparing you now for something that’s in the future,” said Henry Shaffer. “We had two big events, and so we went through all those other things in life that people go through with the attitude that it’s making us into a better person. There’s a Bible verse that says you should consider no joy when you encounter various kinds of trials, knowing it’s a test of your faith. And let the event produce endurance that you may become perfect, complete, lacking in nothing. So these events led up to a flood and a fire.

“And so people would ask us ... how do you take all this in?” said Henry Shaffer. “And I said, ‘Well, it’s part of life. Just, things happen. And it’s only things, and things can be replaced.’ A lot of things you don’t need even to begin with.”

“There are so many reasons to be grateful,” said Linda Shaffer.

The new bed and breakfast construction is expected to be completed around Thanksgiving.

Penn State DuBois campus has continued to grow since 1935

DuBOIS — Over the past several decades, Penn State DuBois campus has continued to grow and expand to better serve its students and the community.

“Today, Penn State DuBois offers six baccalaureate and seven associate degrees and minors,” said Marketing Director Jessica Mondi.

The campus also offers the first two years of around 160 baccalaureate degrees that can be completed at University Park in State College, or at other colleges/universities.

“Penn State is excited to celebrate years of providing quality education, community partnership and dedication to excellence,” said Mondi.

Looking back

First established in 1935 with 42 students, The DuBois Center of The Pennsylvania State College only consisted of one part-time and four full-time instructors, said Mondi.

“By the end of 1938, enrollment increased, which encouraged the school board and the heirs of the late John E. DuBois, Sr., to present the DuBois Mansion and four acres of land for the development of the institution,” according to the history. “After extensive repairs, the center relocated to the DuBois Mansion and began expanding. Not long after the center moved in, admission rates continued to increase and reached full capacity for the facility.”

Mondi noted that during this time, World War II erupted in Europe, creating new challenges for PSU undergraduate centers.

“Because of this, an ‘accelerated program’ was added to the institution, allowing students to take summer semesters starting in 1942. An Educational Defense Training Program was also offered to adults via evening classes,” according to Mondi’s research.

The campus closed for some time in 1944 as a result of the war.

Patrick Joseph Swift incorporated the DuBois Educational Foundation (DEF) in 1945.

“Once sufficient funds were raised for the project additional space was added, as well as a fieldhouse for student activities,” said Mondi.

The campus reopened following World War II in 1946.

After officially becoming The Pennsylvania State University in 1955, “commonwealth campuses” were designated in 1959, according to the history.

“The old ‘DUC’ became known as the DuBois campus, honoring the family that donated their estate. There have been multiple buildings added to the DuBois campus since this time,” Mondi noted.

One of the Penn State DuBois buildings – Swift Memorial Building – was constructed in 1962 thanks to funds generated from businesses and residents in the area.

Since then, the campus has expanded with adding the Symmco House, Hiller Student Union, and Smeal buildings, Mondi said.

“In 2004, the DEF Workforce Development and Technology Center, and again in 2012 with the addition of the Fairman House,” she said.

Recently, the Idea Lab – which houses 3D printers, scanning hardware, industrial vinyl printers and other equipment – was incorporated into campus. Part of the North Central PA LaunchBox, the Idea Lab encourages innovative thinking and creativity, and is “designed to serve the region for economic development, entrepreneurship, and innovation,” said Mondi.

In its most recent expansion, the campus plans to open its Physical Fitness, Athletics and Wellness (PAW) Center in fall of this year – a $17.3 million project.

“This will transform the former Multipurpose Building into a state-of-the-art facility to include a fitness center, wellness classes, gymnasium, health services offices, and more,” said Mondi.

Penn Highlands Healthcare, BC3 at Brockway partner for nursing program

DuBOIS — Penn Highlands Healthcare and Butler County Community College at Brockway entered an agreement Thursday for PHH to fund tuition for up to 30 students in the college’s registered nursing program each year, provided those nurses sign an employment agreement with PHH.

Officials representing both Penn Highlands and BC3 Brockway joined at Penn Highlands DuBois Thursday morning for the signing of the agreement between the two organizations. This will move the relationship between the two from an affiliation to a true partnership.

Heather Franci, chief nursing officer for Penn Highlands, explained the agreement.

“We announce a program that will expand BC3 Brockway’s Registered Nursing program by sponsoring tuition for select students who sign an employment agreement with Penn Highlands Healthcare to work at one of our hospitals or facilities,” Franci said.

The program will begin this fall. The hospital will also expand clinical space at Penn Highlands for nursing students.

College applications will have information related to this program for students, and they will be asked if they are interested in the PHH cohort. Students who apply and are accepted will be expected to sign a three-year employment agreement with PHH. This agreement can apply to any of the eight hospitals and three long-term care facilities in the Penn Highlands network.

Nick Neupauer, president of BC3, said the program is going to be a benefit to the entire region, as now more than ever “it’s important that we put qualified nurses into the workforce.”

“BC3 at Brockway nursing students and the region will benefit for years and years to come,” Neupauer said.

Students attending BC3 this fall will have the opportunity to apply for the program through an information session during orientation. PHH recruiters can come and discuss the program and help students get enrolled in it.

Applications for next fall’s BC3 at Brockway nursing program open on Aug. 1, with information about the PHH partnership available.

This partnership comes as the nursing shortage reaches all-time highs following the pandemic.

Patty Annear, dean of BC3’s Shaffer School of Nursing and Allied Health, said the school is looking forward to expanding its footprint more into the Penn Highlands community.

Annear said the nursing shortage began well before the COVID pandemic, but that accelerated it. She said in the last 20 years, nursing has changed to focus more on “the independent thinker.” Nurses are not “just taking direction from doctors,” but are instead having to make critical decisions and have to have good clinical judgment.

Neupauer said the Brockway campus is the most successful additional branch of BC3. Annear backed this up by saying the numbers in the nursing program have been up consistently for the last several years.

Annear said she believes the two organizations are well on their way, and that the breaking down of barriers for effective partnering is what was done here.

“The opportunity to achieve the level of integration between hospital and academia is innovative and totally embraces the ideal for working for the greater good, which is what we’re all about, ultimately,” Annear said.