PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s called the Pittsburgh Crèche, and it has attracted thousands of visitors since its dedication 15 years ago.

“This has now become a Pittsburgh destination at Christmas,” says Fr. Ron Lengwin of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.

But it almost didn’t happen this year because of accumulated weather damage to the 37-foot tall, 30-ton structure.

“Where all the water lays and the snow lays had weakened, and some people were concerned — the people that built it — and the Carpenters [Union] stepped forward and said, ‘We’ll build it’ and they built it, rebuilt it for us as a project for their apprentices, so now it’s brand new,” said Lengwin.

That’s the good news, but there’s no guarantee it will return next year.

Why?

Lack of money.

“It costs anywhere from $50,000 to $60,000 a year to put it up, take it down, so that’s what we’re looking for.”

And that’s on top of the time, talent, and materials donated by local labor unions like the carpenters and electricians and many others.

Responsibility for the Pittsburgh Crèche belongs to the Christian Leaders Fellowship, the local heads of 10 main-line Christian churches: Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, Byzantine Catholic Church of Pittsburgh, Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, Evangelical Lutheran Church of SW PA, Greek Orthodox Church of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Presbytery, Salvation Army of Western PA, United Church of Christ Penn West, and United Methodists of Western PA

But Fr. Lengwin says money set aside to support the Pittsburgh Crèche took a big hit during the recession.

“We lost a whole bunch of money during the downfall, the financial downfall, 2008,” he said.

So the Christian leaders are requesting contributions to the Pittsburgh Crèche in care of the Pittsburgh Foundation, which maintains the funds.

With ecumenical support across the faiths, leaders hope the Pittsburgh Crèche should survive another 15 years.

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