Incredible Generosity

Tommy Grieco is an artist from Lock Haven who uses the Pajama Factory for his studio space to create his paintings and chalk pastel pieces. “It’s great to get together and share ideas and creativity,” he comments about the atmosphere at the Pajama Factory. Tommy says that he feels a sense of community within the Pajama Factory, but felt an even greater sense of it when people from across the Williamsport and Lock Haven area donated to his GoFundMe site for a new wheelchair.

Incredible Generosity


TommyGrieco_Still (1)Tommy had posted a photo on his Facebook account of a wheelchair that he would love to have, but couldn’t afford. is friends put together a GoFundMe site in order to gain donations. However, to everyone’s surprise, within 24 hours they had the amount for the $3,500 wheelchair. “I just couldn’t believe it,” Tommy says. Even after they reached that amount, people kept donating towards the fund even after the goal was reached. “It just show you that no matter what, a lot of people around here really do care,” he says.

Along with his close friends at the factory, Tommy has also found a community at The Center for Independent Living. He recently joined the board in order to do some arts and crafts program and maybe start a basketball league and other activities for the community to participate in. The center works towards making sure the disabled members of the community can easily move around the city and can interact with other people who understand their lifestyle. “I think that I would be lost without them,” he concludes.



Story by Sophie Herzing

Video by Christopher Cizek
Want to share your story with us? Take our survey: or contact us about setting up an interview by sending us an email here:

Bloom Where You Are Planted

Jason Fitzgerald, president of Penn Strategies, a consulting company in Pennsylvania, is a great example of someone who is growing in the place in which he was born. He has lived in Williamsport his entire life and stayed because of his family. His  children are sixth-generation residents. “Some of the best and brightest in my class moved away, and if you can do good in the place you are from, you should,” Jason says, “I wanted to restore that.”

Bloom Where You Are Planted


JasonFitzgerald_StillHe says he feels especially close to City Hall and the building itself, representing his ideal aesthetic for a place of power and pride in the city. He says he has always been fascinated by city government because he could directly see the change they produced. He hopes that the region’s elected officials and members of Chamber of Commerce can address the concern of having family-sustaining jobs in the area so young people will be attracted to the area and want to remain. “I would love for my children to be able to stay here, but I would understand if they had to leave,” he says from a personal take on the issue. He expressed his hopes for this to change so that Williamsport can continue growing.

Jason also talked about how he believes in a balance between tradition and being more open-minded to change. He said he would like to see the motto of the city change from “The Will Is in Us,” to something more vibrant and engaging. “We need to do more to promote the concept of Williamsport as a city that is winning and one people want to be in,” he says.

Through his work, Jason has seen other cities and how they operate, but says he still feels the Williamsport is the place to be and that it has a lot to offer in terms of culture, nature, and history. Outside of his work, he also involves himself with the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership and serving on the Salvation Army board of directors. He says that he believes in the potential of Williamsport and feels a responsibility to work towards that, and to bring others in. “Maybe when people feel their mobility no longer stifled by old ideas and institutions, then we will start to get better,” he concludes. 


Story by Sophie Herzing

Video by Christopher Cizek
Want to share your story with us? Take our survey: or contact us about setting up an interview by sending us an email here:


Becoming a River City

DallasMiller_StillDallas Miller is a volunteer for the Williamsport community who works as a registered architect, telecommuting on design projects in places such as Florida. He grew up and lives in Jersey Shore, but always considered Williamsport his downtown. He started work back in 1998 with the project Our Towns 2010, which worked to revitalize the downtown area as well as the surrounding neighborhoods by connecting natural aspects back to the city. “It’s kind of neat to walk along The River Walk and visualize the old saw mills and and see the mountains and shadows of the sun,” he comments. Dallas says that he feels connected to nature and loves having that as a focal point and attraction of the city.

Becoming a River City

Local artist, tinsmith, and musician Lena Yeagle also loves that access to natural beauty. She has become a part of the historical district and the downtown through her work and her relationships with those businesses in the community. “I think we could really be a river town,” she says, “we don’t really utilize the fact that we have this beautiful river running right through our town.” She would hope to see more available access points to the River Walk and to eventually see a culture start to surround that river lifestyle. Lena also likes to ride her bike up Sylvan Dell Road and explore the woods beyond Packer Street. That connection to nature is something she feels fuels her love for the city. “I feel like we are a cultural gem,” she says. In the city of Williamsport, Lena admires the unique setting of people who are working to better the community, and says that if you want to be a part of that, you easily can because everyone is welcoming and can be open-minded.


With people like Dallas who have the creative mind to foresee and design such projects and architecture to better the city aesthetically, and Lena who uses that natural connection in her work and art, the river can truly become the heartbeat of the city. “I have a deep belief in optimism and the future of Williamsport,” Dallas says, “I think the only question is how far can it go.”





Story by Sophie Herzing

Video by Christopher Cizek
Want to share your story with us? Take our survey: or contact us about setting up an interview by sending us an email here:

The Future is Female



AnnaFalat_StillAnna Falat, owner of Eagle Rock Winery located at the beginning of the Historic District, came back to Williamsport to be with her family, but then decided to enter the business world. She opened a winery and small art gallery where she features local artists. She says she believes strongly in the power of women and their ambitions to succeed. “I would like to see our financial institutions and businesses embrace the fact that there are other people besides males that can run a business,” she says. She values the diversity within Williamsport and would like to see that represented on major fronts. Being active in the Arts Council earlier in her life, she says she saw this movement happening, but it sort of collapsed. She would like to see this start back up again to improve the city’s community. A single woman living and working on her own, Anna also works to help her family succeed, as well.

The Future is Female


Anna has passed her same strength and independence onto her granddaughter, Miah Dunkleberger, who is pursuing her dreams at college. Miah, a graduate of Loyalsock Area High School, now attends MiahDunkleberger_StillDuquesne University in Pittsburgh. Having transitioned from a small town atmosphere to the metropolitan of Pittsburgh, she says she values the history and culture of Williamsport. She says if she could, she would tell anyone growing up in Williamsport, “don’t take it for granted, because when you leave, it won’t be the same and you will miss it.” From one generation to another, both Anna and Miah are proving that women are starting to move forward in business and education with confidence.





Story by Sophie Herzing

Video by Christopher Cizek
Want to share your story with us? Take our survey: or contact us about setting up an interview by sending us an email here:


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.



ToddForesman_Still 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. ChuckBlack_Still

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
Want to share your story with us? Take our survey: or contact us about setting up an interview by sending us an email here:


Artistic Revival

JohnYogodzinski_StillOne of the things that we are finding is that people in the community of Williamsport value the art culture downtown and the First Friday gatherings. One of the people who contributes to that facet is Converge Gallery owner and Graphic Hive Director John Yogodzinski, who returned to Williamsport and opened the gallery about five years ago. One of the things he noticed was how much Williamsport has matured and grown. “I’m trying to do something, going against the grain, trying to elevate the culture of what’s available here,” he says. When he first opened the gallery, he brought in work by artist Daniel Dallmann, which included some of his nudist pieces. The show was not well-received; however, John knew that he had to push this kind of progressive contemporary art on the residents if he was ever going to change their artistic perceptions. Recently, he’s shown some more work showcasing nudity and it was generally accepted by the community. This is the kind of growth he had foreseen  when he first arrived — that Williamsport has the potential to sustain. “Art is a luxury item. People are not coming here looking for a specific thing,” he states. John also has a great deal of respect for the other innovative thinkers in the area who are becoming a part of that growth and maturity, such as those downtown at The Brickyard or Stonehouse. John also helps other independent businesses with good design and the work he does with The Graphic Hive, a creative marketing firm.

Artistic Revival

Another original thinker who came to town looking to revive the art community is Mark Winkelman. He arrived nine years ago and fell in love with the old Pajama Factory building. He became devoted to bringing MarkWinkelman_Stillnew life to that building, a giant complex of eight buildings around a courtyard.  He’s created a unique setting for people, as well as tenants and artists in residence, to gather and collaborate. They have a community dark room and a community wood shop for people to use. “I hope to change the neighborhood. I hope we can bring it up,” Mark comments about the area surrounding the Pajama Factory, which is separate from the downtown. What he loves about Williamsport is the accessibility of the industries and businesses. He says that it’s like New York City, where he resides most of the year, but more accessible and functional. Not only did Mark fall in love with the building, but he also has come to love the people in this smaller art community he has built. Owner of the coffee shop in the area, Todd Foresman, recognizes that “it’s a building full of characters,” to which Mark agrees. “The neighborhood around the Pajama Factory is what I hopefully like to someday call a ‘Makers’ District,’ which is the idea that you can live and work in your home,” he says.

The kind of innovation and development that these two men have brought, and continue to bring to Williamsport, is a huge part of that beloved art culture. They are catalysts for the movement of an elevated community as well as collaboration with other businesses and entrepreneurs.




Story by Sophie Herzing

Video by Christopher Cizek
Want to share your story with us? Take our survey: or contact us about setting up an interview by sending us an email here:



Otto’s Bookstore,  located in the heart of downtown Williamsport, is full of books, ranging from fiction, to poetry, to nonfiction, to funny little finds that could only be housed at a place like Otto’s. This independent store is owned and operated by Betsy Rider, who is full of spirit and devotion for the downtown area. Ever since she was a little girl, she can remember coming to that part of the city, and since then has become involved not only with her business, but with war reenactments, parades, and other promotional events. Being in the heart of the area, she experiences many different interactions with diverse groups of people, which is something she says to value. “I love the individual people with their independent businesses. I love working downtown.”


BetsyRider_Still Throughout her life, she has been able to pass that infectious love for the city to others, including long-time customer Becky Renner. “This has got everything right. It’s an independent bookstore that managed to thrive even in the ages of Amazon,” Renner says.”It’s not just an independent bookstore, it’s a really good bookstore.” Becky came to the city of Williamsport in order to experience an outdoor lifestyle, which she was able to find in groups like the Greevy Paddlers and other avid kayakers. However, she still loves to come into town to visit Otto’s, as well as participate in other events such as First Friday.

We tend to believe that generational gaps, especially with the millennial age, have grown too big; that there simply isn’t enough in common to create a connection anymore. But when you visit Otto’s and talk to Betsy, you realize that a singular love for the community and the area reigns in each individual. She is 81 years old and still resonates the same vibrancy as she did when she was younger. She passes that on to other generations, pulling in people from all over. “We get a number of people from the hotels that they want to see what the small town is really like, and they come in and say, ‘this is wonderful place, I wish we had one like it in our hometown,’” she says.

Betsy has noticed a “brain drain” happening in the city, where talented individuals are leaving the area to find high-tech jobs that are not available in Williamsport. She would like to see more opportunity for them. She wants to see a bridge between that space of one generation and the next so that the older residents and younger ones can reside in the same town and be successful. 


In a city that sometimes seems as though it is falling apart, it is important to remember that similar values can be found throughout generations. The gap isn’t so big after all, and even if you can’t seem to find that, just go talk to Betsy in her store. “How dare they! Come see me, I’ll straighten them out,” she proclaims.







Story by Sophie Herzing

Video by Christopher Cizek
Want to share your story with us? Take our survey: or contact us about setting up an interview by sending us an email here:


If you were to peel back the layers of the vibrant downtown, the local construction of the neighborhoods, and the booming developmental actions being taken to bring different aspects of industry to Williamsport, you’d find a town rooted in rich history. If you take a walk down Millionaire’s Row, you’d see the complex architecture of mansions that used to once house visitors such as Singer/Actress Lillian Russell and Author Mark Twain. Once touted as the “Lumber Capital of the World,: Williamsport used to be home to more millionaires per capita than any other U.S. city. Not only that, but a majority of the beautiful buildings downtown such as Eagle Rock Winery are original structures that have been re-purposed.


StephanieYoung_StillRevitalization is something that is found at the core of a lot of our conversations with residents, especially City Hall employees John Grado, the Community Developer Director and city engineer, and Stephanie Young from the Community Development Department. “I think if the history were to be lost, it would change the whole fabric of the city. If that somehow were no longer to exist, Williamsport wouldn’t be what it is today,” Young says.

Grado also has worked extensively to keep the natural beauty and resources of the urban landscape alive. He said he believes in finding a balance between that metropolitan development and keeping landscape a focal point.He would love to see trees dispersed among the downtown and the neighborhoods in order to have a compliment between urban and rural.  “We need to get the people involved., You can’t plant a tree with only 30 inches between a curb and sidewalk, and people don’t always value it on their property, but they should,” he says.JohnGrado_Still

Something else that both Grado and Young hope for the city is to make it a place where younger people have an opportunity to find work, but also so that the older generation can still stay in city without having to leave due to economic struggles. Grado says that losing the connectivity between the older and younger generation would be a shame to the city, because he feels a great importance in keeping that history strong while also bringing in a new generation of workers and families. “It’s a very secure feeling to feel that you are so rooted,” says Young, who has found herself constantly circling back to her family’s foundation in Williamsport, and now lives in her childhood home.

Both Grado and Young either came or returned to Williamsport because they felt so connected to the community and the environment. That kind of emotional pull and attraction is something they hope Williamsport upholds in order to sustain a historic and robust community. Young then concludes, “A lot of people move away and then come back because they’ve missed it, and sometimes you have to go away to understand the value of what’s here.”



Story by Sophie Herzing

Video by Christopher Cizek
Want to share your story with us? Take our survey: or contact us about setting up an interview by sending us an email here:

Williamsport Healed Me


“Relationships and the love I have for my family is what’s most important to me.”

When you walk into Mary Woods’ home, you immediately feel a centered energy. Her historic home, located in Woodmont, Williamsport, is nestled beneath four huge trees.  They canopy her backyard in beautiful shadows that play with the light shining through them. She takes a certain pride in her home, “I love being home. I love my house and my backyard,” she says. She reigns with a quaint persona and gentle smile that invites anyone who enters to share in the same kind of positive energy she radiates. However, this mindset was not always a constant in her life.

Williamsport Healed Me

“I came here in the year 2000 to be with my sister because I was going through a painful divorce,” she said.”I came for healing,” she says, “I began working at FreshLife where I became a wellness coach and helped others to heal, while healing myself in the process.”

Williamsport became her grounding place, where she could rediscover who she was in order to move forward in her life. “Williamsport is on one of the major ley lines,” she explains. These ley lines go around the globe, and there is one that shoots up from the Bermuda Triangle, through Washington, D.C., and directly through Williamsport. She shared with us her personal maps that reveal a healing vortex historically founded by the Native American Indians who saw Williamsport as sacred land. “I came here for healing, so for me this idea of us being on a vortex is very significant,” she said, adding,”I even call this Williamsportal.”

In part with upholding those ideals, Mary and her husband, David DeFebo, hosted a Native American sweat lodge for many years. There, they combined meditation, intention and group prayer to create positive change. “I feel that as I evolve and work towards changing and being my highest potential, then I’m really helping others simply by being the change that I want to see in the world,” she says.

Not only is Mary involved in starting her own groups for change, she is also part of “The Beloved Community,” a group that commemorates and embodies the ideas of Martin Luther King Jr. he members conduct round table discussions and bring in guest speakers to create a qualitative change in the souls of residents, which then creates a quantitative change in lives. She also is active in the Heart of Williamsport, helping connect bridges and make Williamsport a more “equal and balanced community,” as she explains.


While sipping her homemade green tea, Mary reveals her hopes to remove the fluoride from our drinking water, rid consumers of the GMOs in  foods, eliminate the overuse of pharmaceutical drugs in exchange for natural remedies, and replace fracking for fossil fuels with clean, natural energy. “I would like to see Williamsport expand its heritage as a healing center by implementing holistic practices to improve the health of both individuals and the environment, as it transitions into the new paradigm.

Story by Sophie Herzing

Video by Christopher Cizek
Want to share your story with us? Take our survey: or contact us about setting up an interview by sending us an email here:

HOW Agenda: May 18, 2016, Minutes: May 4, 2016

On May 18, 2016, the Heart of Williamsport team will meet from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. in the Student Board room on the 3rd floor of Lycoming College Wertz Student Center.  We will be ‘training’ for story gathering by collecting stories from each other, using outline scripts, audio recorders and flip cameras.  If you have an interest in helping us to collect stories from the community please plan to attend.  If you cannot attend at that time but would like to be involved, please respond by e-mail to so we can schedule another ‘training’ – at a time that works for you.
Important upcoming dates:
Wednesday, 5/18 11am – 1pm  Team meeting for story gathering – we will be offering a story gathering ‘training’ at that meeting.
Thursday, 5/26 – Beloved Community Council hosting a round table gathering for Heart of Williamsport storytelling. Mary Welch Honors hall 5:00- 8:30pm. (see attached flyer)
Saturday, 5/28 – 2nd St. Block Party (we will attend and have a table, maybe record some stories, definitely capture rack card responses (see attached)
Friday, 6/3 – First Friday, we will have a setup downtown for capturing stories.
Friday, 7/1 – First Friday, we will have a setup downtown for capturing stories.
For this project to be a success we will need volunteers to assist with gathering stories, analyzing stories, and data entry.  Not all of this work involves public outreach or meeting attendance; some of these tasks can be done working independently in your own home.  If you have an interest to be involved please let us know and we will find a way for you to be involved that works for you.
Notes from our last meeting are found below and can be downloaded here:

Meeting Minutes: May 4, 2016

Richard James, Scarlett Littman, Dallas Miller, Alice Trowbridge, Jerry Walls, Mary Woods

Update from Saturday’s events:
Mary, Richard and Alice promoted  at both Unity Fest (Brandon Park) and Taco on the Block (West 4th Street) on Saturday, April 30, 2016. A diverse representation of the City attended each event, and a total of 54 rack card responses were submitted and 3 interviews were audio recorded.

As of 5/3 the on-line survey had 177 submissions, with a wide diversity of respondents; this is 21 days after the survey was posted.   

Mission Statement

Feedback from persons in the general public indicated that they are unclear as to what it is that we are doing.  To address this the following revised mission statement was proposed – to be more specific about what it is that we are doing and why. (this can still be ‘word-smithed’)

Using storytelling as a way to connect with the people of Williamsport to hear what they like, what they want, and what they want to see change. Collecting stories from a group of people as diverse as our community, identifying what they value, and using this to develop vision statements to guide local decision making. 

Draft Master List of Interviewees –

  • We are developing a list of persons for one-on-one story-gathering.  We reviewed a draft list of categories of data we will want to collect to help us ‘code’ their stories for qualitative analysis.
  • There are currently 107 names of persons to approach for interviews. 
  • Volunteers:  we need to engage more people with doing our work.
    • Volunteers are needed to assist our interns; meeting with people to collect their stories.
    • Training for persons interested in volunteering with story-gathering will be offered at our next meeting on 5/18 from 11am – 1:00pm. A second date/time will be offered for another training to accommodate schedules of potential volunteers and include interns.
    • All stories will need to be analyzed and entered as ‘data’ – volunteers will be needed for this as well.
  • We need to begin outreach to schedule interview times. Interns will be available as of May 23, so we could have interviews scheduled as early as 5/25.  Maybe team members could be interviewed by interns first – possibly May 24th – allowing everyone to get comfortable with the setup before we interview the general public.

Upcoming Events (May- June)

  • May Fest – Sat. 5/7 Mary, Richard, Jerry and Alice will host a table from noon – 8pm (Pajama Factory). This is an arts fest located in the Memorial Avenue neighborhood that will attract a broad demographic of attendees.
  • May 26 – HoW / Beloved Community Council Round Table for Storytelling, Thursday, 5:30 – 8:00pm (doors open at 5pm). Mary Welch Honors Hall (Lycoming College) corner of Basin and Fourth Streets. This will be ‘’Group Stories” – breakout groups of approx. 6 persons with a facilitator.
    • Story Gathering Training – next group meeting 5/18 11am – 1pm.
  • May 28 – (new) Second Street neighborhood block party, with a rededication of their Peace Pole.  Organized by the Neighborhood Strategic Area (NSA).
  • June 3rd – First Friday. Alice spoke with Bonnie Katz who said to check into her store at 4pm, pay $10 fee, and get assigned a location.  She will distance us from the live music to reduce background noise for recording stories.

Next Steps

  • All – work on volunteer recruitment; who would enjoy connecting with people in this way?
  • Robin will promote our upcoming events on our social media pages.
  • Richard will confirm the May 26th BCC venue and develop a flyer to promote the event.  He will post this flyer on the BCC social media pages and provide it to Robin for the HoW pages. (Alice will send logo images)
  • Alice – purchase additional audio recorders for the training.
  • Alice – update Master Interviewee list and circulate for review and comment. Contact persons doing outreach to network connectors to see how they are progressing.
  • Alice – organize training materials for 5/18/2016.
  • Scarlett – develop excel spreadsheet based on Orton Foundation guidance. Begin to input data from the rack cards.

Team / Group meeting – Wednesday, May 18, 11am to 1:00pm

This meeting will focus on training facilitators for gathering stories for Heart of Williamsport.  Anyone who can attend the May 26th round table and assist with story gathering should attend. Unless otherwise noted, we will continue to meet in the Student Board Room on the 3rd floor of the Lycoming College Wertz Student Center at this time each 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month.

Local Black Community History Project Screening

Students in the Lycoming College FYS, Digital Storytelling, have spent the semester learning the art of digital storytelling and partnering with members of the local Black community to tell their stories. Please Join us for the premiere screening of their projects:

Local Black Community History Project Screening

Heart of Williamsport partner Richard James also is part of the program, as an interviewee and as a filmmaker.

“Several weeks ago Lynn Estomin of Lycoming College asked me to be part of a Williamsport Black History project of Digital Storytelling. I accepted. I am one of several black Williamsport residents participating in the project. I was paired with a freshman student to create a video about my life in Williamsport. During my initial conversation with the student, Kyra Beltrandi, I talked about my experiences in Williamsport. We decided to focus on the years 2005 to 2008. I gave Kyra, photos and film clips relating to that time, ” James said. “Since I am an amateur filmmaker, I decided to create my own film about my life in Williamsport, too. I finished my film and Kyra’s will be shown together. The students’ work (and mine) will be posted to a couple of websites as examples of Digital Storytelling. The Black History project is part of a larger initiative to collect stories from rarely heard voices in our community.  Lycoming College’s Black History Project contribution of student videos fit nicely into the Heart of Williamsport’s mission and will act as a jump start for the program.”

Student Partners:
Kaitlyn Adams, Kyra Beltrandi, Sophia Davis, Ryan Donofry, Bob Elia, Janiece Gonzalez, Jen Grove, Kelsea Kenniff, Sam Lamport, Jake Lewis, Perla Licona-Vazquez, Cali Miller, Chris Sniscak and Billie Strickler.

Community Partners:
Tonya Anderson, Sam Belle, Lucille Evans, Emily Gale, Velma Grimes, Vanessa Hunter, Linda Jackson, Richard James, Shaheed James, Marie Brown Maddox, Marguerite Royal, Spencer Sweeting, Janice Todd and Jeremiah Washington. The project also includes a story recorded by Mamie Sweeting Diggs in 2003.

Conflict Resolution Workshop Slated at Firetree Place

A workshop to be held May 21-22 at Firetree Place in Williamsport offers the basic level experience from the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP), an international volunteer nonprofit offering nonviolent conflict resolution practices.

 Alternatives to Violence Project
Alternatives to Violence Project

According to its organizer, Tony White, this two-day experiential workshop is based on principles of affirmation, community building, communication, conflict resolution, and the power within each person to transform oneself and one’s community. In an environment of respect and trust, through a series of fun and empowering exercises, participants build self-esteem, connect deeply with others, develop communication skills, and practice creative nonviolent conflict resolution.

Tony White has completed the AVP basic, advanced, and training for facilitators workshops. He is co-facilitating the May workshop, hoping to follow up with more workshops in the area to establish a local AVP chapter. Others who complete all three levels can likewise become facilitators to further spread the techniques learned. This may be of special interest to those who work in social, correctional, or educational organizations or wish to reach out to marginalized persons. The skills are also helpful for personal development and everyday family, work, and social interactions, so the workshop is open to the general public.

Space is limited. To learn more or register, contact Tony White at or 570-971-9509. Total cost for the two day workshop, which includes two lunches and break snacks, is $25. Scholarships are available and no one will be turned away for lack of the fee.

AVP, founded in 1975, is active in communities, schools, and prisons in 45 countries and has been shown to reduce anger levels and prison recidivism (visit It is a nonsectarian nonpolitical organization. Tony White, a Williamsport native, teaches Philosophy at Pennsylvania College of Technology and Misericordia University.

Unity Festival and Race Against Racism

animation no  yearThe YWCA Northcentral PA invites you to join its first annual Unity Festival on April 30th beginning at 7:30 am.

The festival, designed to highlight the beauty and importance of our community’s multicultural and diverse population, will be held in conjunction with the YWCA’s Race Against Racism 5k. We are reaching out to groups and organizations that promote diversity in all its forms – from religious organizations, to groups who care for those with disabilities, the LGBTQ community and more. The goal of the YWCA’s Unity Fest is to promote peace and openness by providing a safe place to be together.

The YWCA believes that just by being together and sharing information in one location, we foster dialogue, diminish prejudice and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. The YWCA’s Race Against Racism, expected to draw about 200 runners, is one of dozens that will happen at the same day and time at YWCAs across the country to create a nation-wide movement toward equality.

Set-up time for the Unity Fest would be at 7:30 and tear-down time is planned for 11 am. If you have any questions or concerns, please call (570) 322-4637. We look forward to speaking with you and seeing you on April 30

Tacos on the Block

Tacos on the Block Party: celebrate spring in Williamsport!Tacos Poster

The first Williamsport block party of 2016 promises to be a blockbuster—and a bellybuster. Starting April 30 at 2:00 pm, the Tacos on the Block community party will feature live music, activities for all ages, street vendors and, of course, plenty of tacos.

Organized by neighborhood businesses, churches and organizations, Tacos on the Block will salsa into Williamsport from 2:00-5:30 pm on April 30. Located on West Fourth St. between Elmira and Center Sts, the party will feature dynamite local bands and delicious local food and drink in a family-friendly atmosphere. Tacos on the Block will be a great community party where neighbors can meet neighbors—with plenty of room for dancing, strolling, play and feasting in the spring sunshine.

Tacos on the Block will feature performances by the Epic Percussion drum circle, John Panaccio solo guitar, the Church Band, Christ Community Worship gospel singers and more!  Other activities include:

  • a children’s play area hosted by Pop Up Play
  • face painting
  • pinatas
  • arts and crafts vendors
  • and Mexican-themed food and beverages for sale from several local restaurants and food trucks

A wine and sangria bar will be available at Eagle Rock Winery, and other adult beverages will be for sale on the patio at the Peter Herdic House. (All alcohol must be consumed on licensed premises.)

Boogie on down to Williamsport’s Historic District and celebrate our lovely city, a beautiful spring, and a wonderful local community. Let’s get everyone dancing in the streets!

What: Tacos on the Block: a neighborhood party

When: Saturday, April 30, 2-5:30 pm (rain date: Sunday, May 1)

Where: At the intersection of Fourth and Elmira Sts.

Cost: free to enter!

Who’s performing: Epic Percussion drum circle, John Panaccio solo guitar, the Church Band, Christ Community Worship gospel singers and more

Who’s involved: City Alliance Church, the Eagle Rock Winery, the Peter Herdic House, Love Unlimited, AV Datacom Solutions, Christ Community Worship Center, and many others…

Interested vendors should contact Brittany Tasch at or inquire through Facebook at City Alliance Church.

HOW Agenda: April 6, 2016

Williamsport – Developing Working Groups & Intro to Storytelling


  1. Explore “storytelling” in terms of Heart and Soul
  2. Sharing what was learned at the PHC workshop
  3. Next Steps – preparing for events and interviews

Follow up from 3/21/16 Meeting

  • Review of Communications/Outreach group ‘Elevator/Grocery Line Speech’.

“Promoting community unity by sharing common beliefs and values while honoring unique stories of individuals.”


“Developing an identity and cultural renaissance, while connecting neighborhoods with the downtown area, and blending hearts and souls of Williamsport into one cohesive community.”


  • Share draft events list – so we can infill after our Storytelling Group Activity (which method, etc.)

PHC Workshop Information

  • What did we learn, and how will this help us moving forward?

Storytelling Group Activity (45 min)

  • What is a ‘story’ in terms of H&S, and why is it important?
  • Review of engagement methods
  • Typical questions and how to ‘dig deeper’ for meaning
  • Developing a storyteller list

Identifying Next Steps

What will be our first event?

  • How many people are needed?
    • who is willing to take the lead role?…assist?
  • What needs to be done in the next two weeks?
  • What materials will be needed?

Team / Group meeting – Wednesday, April 13, 11am to 1:00pm

Unless otherwise noted, we will continue to meet in the Student Board Room on the 3rd floor of the Lycoming College Wertz Student Center at this time each 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month. We can begin with working groups giving updates and then break out into groups to work on next tasks.

What’s New

What’s new with the Heart and Soul Community in Williamsport, Pennsylvania?  The Pennsylvania Association of Colleges and Employers, (PennACE) a statewide organization that “provides professional growth and networking opportunities for career development and recruitment professionals to enhance practices that benefit  Pennsylvania college and university students and graduates” has chosen two Lycoming College students for their JoAnne Day Student of the Year for Liberal Arts Award.

Students Christopher Cizek and Sophie Herzing participated in Lycoming College’s WISE (Williamsport Intern Summer Experience) Program for 10 weeks during the summer of 2016. The students worked with volunteers of the Heart of Williamsport community engagement program, an initiative supported by Susquehanna Greenway Partnership, Pennsylvania Humanities Council and the Orton Family Foundation. The stories will be used to craft vision statements as guidance for policymakers in the city and region.

Lycoming College students win award
Lycoming College students win award

Cizek and Herzing, working with their mentors, conducted video recording interviews, transcribed the stories and produced promotional films and online ads for the Heart of Williamsport group. The students also participated in disseminating and gathering over 900 data rack cards at public events. Traveling across the city, the students interviewed over 70 Williamsport residents during their internship.

To be eligible for the JoAnne Day Student of the Year Award Cizek and Herzing must have completed an internship or co-op assignment that was related to: educational services, social science/service, humanities or human services, government, communication, arts, or entertainment. Each student will receive a cash award of $250.00. Both students are in their senior year at Lycoming College.

The interns were also interviewed at the end of their internship. Sophie Herzing spoke about all the different people she met, I think they are what make it the Heart of Williamsport and what makes it so wonderful… makes it such a wonderful place to live.Christopher Cizek appreciated the experience of perfecting his filmmaking skills, I know the basics but had I not been with the Heart of Williamsport, I could have never approached my senior film at all…”

Sophies and Chriswork can be viewed on the Heart of Williamsport website,

Heart & Soul Method

The step-by-step framework outlined in this section describes a model Heart & Soul process using four phases and eleven steps. Each phase is built around specific learning, capacity building or engagement goals, and together they lead to the overall project goals.



Phase 1. Lay the Groundwork

Laying the groundwork is about getting organized to conduct a successful Heart & Soul process. This is when you gather partners and a team of volunteers, figure out how they will coordinate with each other, set goals, and establish what will be included in the process. It is also an important time to find out who lives or works in the community and set up a communications strategy to reach them.

Below are each Step of Phase 1 in the Heart & Soul method. Download the complete Field Guide below for more details and specific guidance on using Heart & Soul in your town.

Step 1. Get Organized

This is when you assemble a team, size up your community’s strengths and weaknesses, and set goals. Take this step seriously. Each of its tasks plays an enormous role in the overall success of your Heart & Soul project.

Step 2. Create a Work Plan

A roadmap, or project work plan, is a basic requirement for good project management, and it also works as a communication tool that helps people understand what will happen when. The roadmap should include specific activities and tasks, timing, and budget.

Step 3. Spread the Word

This step is about building public awareness, interest, and good will for your Heart & Soul project. Community members will want to know about the Heart & Soul principles and the particular details of the project. Before you start getting the good word out, assemble all the tools, information, and people-power required to support communications.

Phase 2. Explore Your Community

Explore Your Community is the heart and soul of the Heart & Soul approach. It is about discovering what your community cares about—its shared values—and building a vision for the future based on those shared values. Activities in this phase focus on bringing a broad mix of people into the process to help identify these values. Telling personal stories about local experiences is a key engagement strategy in this phase, bringing people together and helping them to find common ground.

Below are each Step of Phase 2 in the Heart & Soul method. Download the complete Field Guide below for more details and specific guidance on using Heart & Soul in your town

Step 4. Gather and Share Stories

Before you start throwing around ideas or crunching data, take some time to simply hear what people have to say about their community and what questions they might raise. In this step, stories are gathered from a broad range of community members. This very intentional and active listening helps you discover what is important to people, what they value, and what they are concerned about, which sets your Heart & Soul work off on the right track—as open, inclusive, and worthy of trust.

Step 5. Identify What Matters Most

This is the cornerstone of Community Heart & Soul. In this step the Heart & Soul team and community members compile the stories and harvest information and data about what matters most, from which they develop a set of community values. These values provide the starting point for discussing issues, opportunities, and ideas for the future of the community.

Phase 3. Make Decisions

Making decisions is about figuring out how to protect and enhance your community’s values and how to build toward a future that honors them. What are the options available to your community and which should be pursued? Also important to the decision-making process is figuring out when things will be done. What will you do this year and what will you work on later?

Below are each Step of Phase 3 in the Heart & Soul method. Download the complete Field Guide below for more details and specific guidance on using Heart & Soul in your town.

Step 6. Consider Context and Develop Options

This step involves generating ideas, turning them into options, and developing criteria to evaluate and prioritize those options. Whether you’ll use your community values to inform an economic development strategy for the Chamber or land use plans for the City, you need to know your options. You also need to know how to weigh those options and choose the best ones.

Step 7. Make Choices

This is the step where you make choices to narrow down the options. In order to do this effectively, you’ve got to think about which options will lead to the best results, which are most needed, and which will take years to put in motion. It’s time to do a cost-benefit analysis, prioritize, match actions to local capacity, and stay realistic about timing.

Step 8. Formalize Decisions

This step is about turning the recommendations into formal decisions and an action plan, and ensuring that commitments are secured to make things happen. Commitments could include the local government adopting policies or civic and non-profit organizations formally adopting ideas for actions.

Phase 4. Take Action

Taking action is about following through with the action plan and doing the work needed to produce results. A particularly important action is to create a stewardship team that will keep watch on how the other actions are progressing. This leadership team coordinates the work and communicates progress to keep community members engaged and decision-makers accountable. This team also looks for ways to infuse civic culture and any community decision-making process with the principles of Heart & Soul.

Below are each Step of Phase 4 in the Heart & Soul method. Download the complete Field Guide below for more details and specific guidance on using Heart & Soul in your town.

Step 9. Mobilize Resources

In this critical step, your team needs to shift resources and leadership toward long-term follow-through and implementing the action plan. Without an organized, deliberate effort to transition the leadership to stewards who can make the actions happen, even the most dynamic community plan will not be achieved. A lot of energy and good will went into the plan’s creation so make sure it doesn’t get filed on a shelf to collect dust.

Step 10. Follow Through

Heart & Soul establishes a path to the future that includes many incremental actions. It also establishes a compass that helps the community reorient itself as circumstances change. This step is about initiating that first set of actions and then keeping an eye on the compass to be sure that you are heading in the right direction.

Step 11. Cultivate Heart & Soul

The Community Heart & Soul process is about inclusive and meaningful community participation and using community values to inform decision making. You are cultivating the heart and soul of your community by encouraging these concepts to spread and by building capacity where necessary to help make it happen.

Orton Family Foundation founder Lyman Orton on the history and mission of Community Heart & Soul

Have you watched this video yet? Don’t miss Orton Family Foundation founder Lyman Orton speaking about the history and mission of Community Heart & Soul

Subscribe to the Orton Family Foundation’s YouTube channel to watch dozens of inspiring stories, organized by areas of impact, show the many ways Heart & Soul transforms communities. These include insights from people in Heart & Soul towns sharing first-hand knowledge of how the process shifts the narrative in communities and triggers positive change.


Susquehanna Greenway Partnership Receives $25,000 Civic Engagement Grant from Pennsylvania Humanities Council


WILLIAMSPORT, January 13, 2015— The Pennsylvania Humanities Council (PHC) has awarded a one-year civic engagement grant of $25,000 for connecting with downtown neighborhoods to identify the shared values that reflect Williamsport’s Heart and Soul.  This resident-driven approach to community planning and development will be a collaborative of organizations including the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership (SGP), Lycoming County Celebrates the Arts Alliance, Our Towns, Short Mountain Group, Hands on Heritage, Lycoming County, City of Williamsport, Lycoming College, Penn Strategies, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, and the Orton Foundation.

Williamsport’s Heart & Soul team is dedicated to building bridges in the Williamsport community by bringing diverse groups of people together to identify shared values.  Over the next 10 months the Team will plan and facilitate public events to meet with residents, students, business owners, and municipal leaders and engage them in “story telling” about living and working in Williamsport. These stories will be recorded and analyzed to uncover common themes, desires, and needs. This information will be used to set community goals and develop vision statements that express Williamsport’s unique sense-of-place. These vision statements will be shared with City Council as guidance for making decisions that reflect a shared vision for revitalizing Williamsport neighborhoods while strengthening connections to the downtown. 

“With outreach into the neighborhoods we will be capturing the stories of people whose voices are not always heard. By making these connections we hope to identify new community leaders, strengthen neighborhood connections, and build working relationships and trust,” said Alice Trowbridge, SGP’s project coordinator. “The Heart and Soul process will bring together people who live and work in the City, many of whom may never have interacted with each other before. By understanding Williamsport’s core common values, we seek to promote a shared vision for revitalizing neighborhoods and to build bridges between the downtown and its neighborhoods.”

PHC’s civic engagement grants support humanities-focused approaches to community development throughout the commonwealth. Williamsport joins three other Pennsylvania communities that will receive civic engagement grants from PHC this year: Carlisle, Meadville, and the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia.

To achieve the greatest impact and broadest reach through the civic engagement grants it awards, PHC has partnered with the Orton Family Foundation to bring its Community Heart & Soul™ method to PHC’s grant communities. Community Heart & Soul is a proven process that empowers people to shape the future of their communities by creating a shared sense of belonging that improves local decision-making and ultimately strengthens social, cultural, and economic vibrancy.

Key to the process is learning what matters most to the community through gathering stories from and engaging as many residents as possible, including those who don’t typically participate in public processes.

“We believe the humanities can inspire people to come together and make a difference in their communities,” said Laurie Zierer, PHC’s executive director. “With storytelling at the heart of planning and development, local values and voices become the foundation for building communities that are connected, innovative, competitive, and strong.”

About Susquehanna Greenway Partnership

Susquehanna Greenway PartnershipThe Susquehanna Greenway Partnership encourages the conservation of productive farmland and natural resources, and investment in our core river town communities. We promote the exploration of Susquehanna river towns, and provide technical assistance to river town communities for revitalization initiatives.

About the Pennsylvania Humanities Council

The Pennsylvania Humanities Council (PHC) connects Pennsylvanians to each other through stories, ideas, and experiences that can change lives and transform communities. PHC champions and redefines the role the humanities play in educating citizens and strengthening communities through programs that create pathways for learning and creativity, spark dialogue and civic engagement, and encourage diversity of expression. An independent partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities, PHC is part of a network of 56 state humanities councils that spans the nation and U.S. jurisdictions. Learn more at

About the Orton Family Foundation and Community Heart & Soul

With its Community Heart & Soul™ method, the Orton Family Foundation empowers people to shape the future of their communities by improving local decision-making, creating a shared sense of belonging and ultimately strengthening the social, cultural and economic vibrancy of communities. The Foundation assists the residents of small cities and towns in the use of the Community Heart & Soul™ method, a barn-raising approach to community planning and development that invites residents to shape the future of their communities in ways that uphold the unique character of each place. For more information visit

To learn more about the project visit:

Click to view Heart of Williamsport on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.