Adult Education in the Abingtons Getting to know AAAC/The Gathering

First Posted: 6/16/2014

It’s Thursday night at a local church. Wonderful aromas of Italian specialties emanate from the kitchen, laughter spills from a classroom of people learning computer skills and enthusiastic questions bombard the basketry instructor. All this is the Abington Area Community Classroom reaching out to our town and bringing knowledge and fun to our residents.

How does an organization like ours find its way into the community consciousness? We have been conducting adult education classes and workshops for the last four years, and still people tell us “We’ve never heard of you.” or “I didn’t know you existed.”

So what to do? Maybe a column in the local paper? Some place everyone will be able to find the Abington Area Community Classroom and learn what we do. We are delighted to join the other civic-minded columnists the Abington Journal editors have seen fit to print.

We want to inform you about our origin, our mission, our committee members and what they do, our classes and instructors and our plans for the future at The Gathering Place.

As a committee of friends, we met in the spring of 2010 to plan the first semester of the Abington Area Community Classroom. Our model was a hybrid of the Montrose Adult School and the Dietrich Theater/Wyoming Cultural Center. We wanted to present affordable classes taught by local instructors which would respond to our community’s needs and desires; the classroom would be a mix of the fun, the practical, and the creative. The Abington Area Joint Recreation Board agreed to become our “umbrella” as we embarked on this venture.

At this point we had no funds, just a desire to revive adult education in the Abingtons, and a zillion ideas for classes that we could offer. Enter Pat McMahon at One Point who graciously printed our first brochure and supported us for several semesters as we got our feet on the ground.

In the beginning, all we had was a vision and a dedicated committee, many hands doing the search for instructors, writing the brochure, and scheduling classes. Mary Ann Nichols organized the schedule of cooking classes. Judy DeCarlo volunteered to keep track of finances, Paula Baillie offered to set up our website and she and Anne Armezzani planned our bus trips and organized literary classes.

Loren Selznick, Warren Watkins, Sue Wittman and Melba Fialko advised and helped out in various ways. Judy has now been succeeded by Sarah Dawgert as treasurer; we are so pleased that a dynamic younger person has joined us. Sarah is making a huge imprint on our community, originating the idea for the Finish Shop “pocket park” on Depot Street, and raising funds to make it happen.

Other than newspaper articles, distributing the AACC brochures to various venues around town was the one way we became known. We discovered EDDM ( Every Door Direct Mail) a few years ago, and now we are able to mail about 2,500 or more brochures to a revolving number of neighborhoods. This has increased our visibility quite a bit, but every household does not receive a brochure every semester. However, AACC brochures are always available each semester at The Abington Community Library and at a few businesses and churches around town.

Not long after its inception, AACC began looking for an opportunity to have a permanent home. However welcoming and encouraging our host churches have been, and they have been both, we are constrained to having classes only a few nights a week and one Thursday at Presbyterian can see up to four classes going on at once. We felt we could be a better classroom if we could offer more flexibility. We needed one place for our face, and more than one night for our classes.

Dori Waters and Nichols approached the Borough and proposed re-purposing the old fire hall (the lower level of the borough building) into the Gathering Place, a community center for art and education. This center would house the Abington Area Community Classroom, as well as, community events, a satellite of the Verve Vertu Art Studio, an Art gallery, and a gathering place for all age groups and abilities. With Duffy’s a popular destination, the new pocket park a reality, and Depot Street getting a face-lift, the Gathering Place would help complete the revitalization of that corner of downtown Clarks Summit. AACC hopes you agree, and that you will support the Capital Campaign to raise funds for the renovation of the old fire hall into The Gathering Place.

Next month I hope to say a few words about our new volunteers, and give you a preview of our next semester, and all the exciting classes and events we have in motion for the fall. Until then, talk to us and let us know what you think. Contact us at and visit our website for the latest at

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