More than 70 years of song with Pine Haven Men's Chorus

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SHEBOYGAN FALLS, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The Pine Haven Men's Chorus started in 1951 as a way for men to express their faith, and also to raise money to support senior citizens at the Pine Haven Christian Home in Sheboygan Falls.

"Everybody have their cards cleared? Alright, our first number is B9," the bingo caller announced to a room crowded with seniors.

It's an afternoon of bingo for the residents at Pine Haven. The only sound is the caller, as the players concentrated on their cards.

"G54," she said. "Hope you guys are getting close."

This senior living facility in Sheboygan Falls offers everything you'd expect.

"We have a full continuum of care today, all the way from independent living through entry level assisted living, memory care," explained CEO Ron Walvoort.

Nearly 300 people call Pine Haven home over its three campuses. Neva Walvort worked here for more than 37 years and is now a resident herself.

"It's a good place to be when you can't be at home," she said.

And so there are little touches around the facility to make it feel more comfortable.

"In the summer, they have a stream going through here," said Donna Caljouw, a retired nurse who spent years working at Pine Haven.

Caljouw also showed us the raised garden beds outside and the new glass inside the chapel. So many projects, all made possible by the Pine Haven Men's Chorus.

"It's just amazing how God works. There's a purpose for everything, you know," said chorus member Wayne Reimes. "In the years when I joined, never give it a thought that it would still be going now yet."

A lot has changed in the last seven decades, but Reimes has been one constant. He started with the group back at the beginning, when he was just 17 years old.

"This season is 71 years for me," he said. "And we were the only young guys, the rest of them were all old, older gentlemen."

Now, at 88 years old, he stands up front as the lead tenor.

"I've had very little training in it. I sing by position and ear," he said.

None of the men are professional singers. Reimes spent his career driving trucks. But their voices come together as a powerful force. 

"It's very moving to hear a group of men singers in a church, singing," Walvoort said.

"And some weeks, everything just jells real good together, but it's the commitment that we have together," Reimes said of their connection.

The other faces in the chorus have changed over the years, but their mission has stayed the same.

"With this here, we're all in it for the same reason," Reimes explained. "We want to serve God through music."

The Pine Haven Men's Chorus performs at churches around Sheboygan County and beyond. They did 12 concerts this year. There are no tickets sold, but those filling the pews are asked to make a donation, if they can.

"You can't help but think of the words, in your heart and in your mind, and praise God right along with them. It's very moving," Walvoort, who's been with Pine Haven for 23 years himself, said.

Each year, the funds raised by the chorus pay for those different improvement projects around Pine Haven. Reimes said they raise between $7,000 and $8,000.

"But it really goes beyond that. There's support that can't measure in terms of dollars," Walvoort said. "They're out there, first of all, singing for God's glory, then also being great ambassadors for Pine Haven."

For a minute there, Reimes thought his days as an ambassador may be over.

"I thought after Covid, I wouldn't start again, you know," he said. "I had thought I was going to hang it up and the guys said, come on, Wayne, you gotta come back."

And whether motivated by the music, or something else, Reimes has kept at it. The pandemic has actually expanded the chorus's reach.

"People were hearing us livestream all over the world. That just, yeah, that just got to me. It was just more than I ever anticipated, that we'd be heard worldwide," Reimes said with emotion.

Voices raised in service to others, for 71 years and counting.

"Whatever God has in store for me," Reimes said, "If he has plans for me to keep on singing, I'll keep on singing."

The Pine Haven Men's Chorus has its final performance of the 2022 season on Saturday, May 7 at the Gibbsville Church, N3145 State Rd. 32, Sheboygan Falls, at 6 p.m.

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