CLARKS SUMMIT — Board members of The Gathering Place for community arts and education held an event on July 23 outside the Clarks Summit Borough Building to recognize their supporters and announce the acquisition of a $100,000 Local Share Account (LSA) grant received on behalf of the borough.
The funds will be used to renovate the first floor of the old Clarks Summit firehouse into an inclusive community arts and education center.
“It’s the answer to a vision, a prayer and a dream,” said Dori Waters, president resident of the Board of Directors of The Gathering Place. “I’m so excited about everything. It’s not finished, but it feels like a reality now. A lot of our financial backing has come from donations as small as $5. We have the community behind us and I think the community is very excited to have a gathering place.”
Capital campaign committee chair Mary Ann Nichols recognized donors for their support of the nonprofit organization.
“I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to The Gathering Place,” Nichols said. “Your generosity means the world to us.”
According to state Sen. John Blake, local community contributions likely played a role in the borough receiving the grant.
“The Local Share Account money is collected at Mount Airy (Casino Resort) and offered on a competitive basis,” Blake said. “There is usually about $13 million each year. Half the money stays within Monroe County, the other $6.5 million can be sought from eligible projects sponsored by local government for the contiguous counties. The ask (for public money) is really an issue of if the public can meet the project because it’s been supported by so much private, local support.
“(The grant money) allows them to phase the project, so they can leverage public money with a considerable amount of philanthropic support as well as private contributions from the community.”
The new space will feature an art studio, kitchen, classrooms and an open area to accommodate small events, exhibits and theatrical productions.
“This has been an extraordinary journey,” Waters said. “The Gathering Place is an idea that grew out of the Abington Area Community Classroom. In 2010, a group of committed and creative people got together and said this community needs adult enrichment classes. We were using church basements and other community buildings and it limited what we could offer. We looked at the (borough) building and the vision formed. We decided this would be the perfect place.
“Without the support of the Clarks Summit Borough Council members, mayor (Patty) Lawler and (borough manager) Virginia Kehoe, we would not be here today,” Waters added. “If you asked me to sum up in two words how we got here, I would say inspiration and perseverance.”
Lawler thinks the venue will provide a big boost to the area.
“I think it’s going to bring a lot of people downtown,” Lawler said. “It’s so rewarding to the borough to give life to that building. It brings a lot of excitement and complements the development going on all the time. I have to commend Dori Waters and Mary Ann Nichols; it was a dream of theirs for years and they never lost hope. I like the idea of having a gathering place where people can go from all over the Abingtons and beyond.”
Blake, who, along with state Rep. Sid Michaels Kavulich advocated for the funding, believes the community center will provide great opportunities for people of all ages.
“It will be a safe space for kids to advance their artistic talent and also connect seniors with the kids,” Blake said. “There is an opportunity for intergenerational engagement.
“I think the best things that happen in our communities are the things that come from the people in our communities and that’s what The Gathering Place is all about,” Blake added.
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.