Todd Foresman, owner of Way Cool Beans coffee shop in the Pajama Factory, has been roasting coffee for close to five years, but opened the shop only about two years ago because he felt so connected with the community. He says the atmosphere here is open-minded and welcoming. He loves interacting with the people who come into his shop because the conversations and possibilities for connections is amazing to witness.
The people in the Pajama Factory are receptive and kind, which Todd wishes could branch out into other areas of Williamsport. “Everybody that I have met here just wants to help everybody else: if I do better, you do better,” he says. There is a woman who brings food into the coffee shop on Thursdays just because she wants to, and if you know she’s coming you can just come, sit, and eat with her. That kind of energy is contagious in that neighborhood. “The best way to describe it is ‘way cool.’ Everyone here is way cool,” he states. This is something that I noticed while sitting in the courtyard of the Pajama Factory conducting interviews. There were people surrounding the area working on their individual projects and no one was bothered by the work we were doing or felt like we were intruding upon their space. This kind of unconditional acceptance of a diverse group of people is something that Todd admires and notices in his community, and wishes could be prevalent in the rest of the city. “I would really like to see the powers of Williamsport change,” he says.
Another resident, Chuck Black, said he feels that same kind of acceptance in Williamsport, but wishes that there could be more of it. “There are people in Williamsport that are, of course, homophobic, but I feel that being here I am a lot more accepted,” he says. Chuck is a social worker and teacher who is involved in the community Odyssey of the Mind and is an activist in the Lycoming County Democrats. By being involved in these groups, he feels a sense of acceptance, but also hopes that diversity is more appreciated in the future by bringing people together in an open-minded way. He would love to see the media talk more about the positives than the negatives. He thinks that Williamsport’s reputation is falsely perceived because people don’t publish or read the positives. “I really wish people could see that Williamsport is bigger than the negative headlines. We are not a city that is falling apart,” he states.
In order for this kind of acceptance to be felt in the entire community of Williamsport, there needs to be an open-minded mentality among all groups of people, like the kind Todd finds in the Pajama Factory, or how Chuck felt growing up in the community theater downtown. In order to bring in a younger generation of individuals, those positives need to be highlighted and showcased so that people understand Williamsport to be a welcoming place to live.
Story by Sophie Herzing
Video by Christopher Cizek
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