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Construction on Pine Lodge Begins!

Construction began this week to replace Pine Lodge, a senior residential building at the Fellowship Community that was Destroyed by Fire in 2020

After nearly 2 years, construction began this week to replace Pine Lodge, a senior residential building at the Fellowship Community in Chestnut Ridge, NY that was completely destroyed by fire in May 2020. The fire left 11 senior residents and 2 employees of the Fellowship without a home, and prompted an outpouring of support from the larger community that included donations of clothes, furniture and over $340,000 to help provide temporary auxiliary housing and replace lost items.

On Sunday, April 10th members of the community gathered to hold a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the occasion. Katherine Scharff, Chair of the Board of Trustees and daughter of the Fellowship Community’s founders Ann and Paul Scharff, acknowledged the solemnity of the occasion in her opening remarks. “It was almost two years ago that the Pine Lodge building that stood here became ash and rubble. Once that was cleared away there was time for rest. The earth could replenish and regenerate. Now I see new life grows in this space. It seems appropriate that we would be breaking ground this Holy week as the secrets of the earth begin to awaken and show themselves. Spring brings new possibilities, a new impulse that can live and grow here for the community.”

Renate Hiller, a former resident of Pine Lodge, shared her excitement at the beginning of the new construction. “We will get to witness – over the course of several months – the building process that will culminate in a new Pine Lodge building! The design that until now has only existed in the mind of the architect and on architectural drawings, will become a physical reality, will be incarnated into matter, into stone, wood, metal, glass and so on. And many people will be involved in this process.”

Losing the building early in the pandemic created extraordinary challenges for the Fellowship Community, on top of those brought on by Covid. Rebuilding has proven to be a long and slow process, exacerbated by skyrocketing construction costs due to supply chain delays, and further slowed by the complications of negotiating with the insurance company about the cost of a new building. After nearly 2 years of negotiations and planning, the work of rebuilding has finally begun.

Michael Scharff, brother to Katherine Scharff and son of the Fellowship Community founders Ann and Paul Scharff, played a critical role in the long and complicated process of designing the building, working with contractors and the insurance company. Michael took inspiration from the architect of the original Pine Lodge, Walter Leicht, who lived in the community for many years, and himself designed all of the main buildings at the Fellowship and the nearby Green Meadow Waldorf School. Renate Hiller noted that “Walter Leicht carried Rudolf Steiner’s building impulse deeply in his heart, an impulse for an organic style of architecture, where function and beauty form a balanced whole. Where the building is in harmony with its surroundings and supports the well-being, spiritual and social striving of the human beings living and working in it.”

The Fellowship Community’s 90 year old co-founder, Ann Scharff, moved the first shovel full of dirt at the ceremony, symbolically breaking the ground for the work that will be done in the coming months. She was followed by other members of the Board of Trustees, long-time community co-workers, and other Scharff family members from three generations.

Fellowship Community Administrator, Tari Steinrueck, took the opportunity to thank the many people who were involved in the process of rebuilding Pine Lodge. “Our sincerest thanks to the former residents of Pine lodge for their resilience and support. To our development team headed by Peter Heatley and Scott Williams. Our Trustees, the backbone of the Fellowship Community, and an extra special thank you to Michael Scharff, our architect and the person who has been at the forefront of navigating the whole process from demolition, insurance negotiation, new design and project management. Thank you all for being here today and making this moment so very special. The talent that was shared, reinforces the beauty of our community and what we all have to contribute.”

Tari ended the ceremony with a blessing from Rudolf Steiner, the philosopher whose work provided the spiritual inspiration for the founding of the Fellowship Community:

May there reign here Spirit -strength in love;

May their work here Spirit –light in goodness;

born from certainty of heart,

and from steadfastness of soul,

so that we may bring to all human beings' bodily strength for work,

inwardness of soul and clarity of spirit.

May this place be consecrated to such a task.

May our minds and hearts here find servers of the light

Endowed with strength, who will

Guard and Cherish them.

While insurance will cover a large portion of the cost for rebuilding Pine Lodge, the Fellowship Community will need to raise an additional $1,200,000 for the building. In addition to the original fundraising for temporary housing, $295,000 has been raised thus far towards that goal as part of a comprehensive fundraising campaign.

Donations to help rebuild Pine Lodge will be graciously accepted, please visit this link.

Thank you for your support of Pine Lodge and the Fellowship Community!


The Fellowship Community is a 501(c)(3) non-profit inter-generational community serving the needs of elders through the phases of aging, from independent apartment living to more direct care, all the way through the end of life, based on the principles of Rudolf Steiner's Anthroposophy.

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