Peace in the Port

Khamila, Khalil, Rahim Baines and Shaheed James discuss Peace in the Port and the fight they are facing for change in the community and a better generation to come.

Peace in the Port

Peace in the PortWe had a chance to sit down with the Baines family, who moved to Williamsport 15 years ago for new opportunities and to be able to get their dad the help and attention he needed.

Khamila, Kahlil, and Rahim Baines, along with Shaheed James, shared their stories about how the community helped them grow as children and their hopes for what their children will experience, as well. They say that they hope their can be more community involvement for them as they grow up.

“That’s why we started the Peace in the Port Movement,” Khalil says, “to try to get the younger people involved in different activities and to bring that spark back to Williamsport.”

Peace in the Port was started by Khalil and his family in order to bring peace back into the community, as well as highlight the positives that individuals are doing rather than the negative.

They wanted to create a platform for people who had lost loved ones because of shootings or drug overdoses, to be able to discuss their heartache as well as create change so that these things did not affect any other families, or help others cope who have been affected.

“We all stand for peace and we all want a difference,” Khalil says.

Peace in the Port has a Facebook page that the community can follow to hear about their events, such as First Saturday.

The day after First Friday, Peace in the Port has started First Saturday in which to bring organizations together that strive for the same mission they do and so others can then learn about that mission. They also had an event at Short Park in June where they held a basketball tournament, brought in food from places such as Qdoba, sold T-shirts, and set off lanterns to honor those lost in the past year due to violence and drugs.

They also have meetings every Wednesday evening at the James V. Brown Library to open up discussions on how they can spread their message and peace across the city.

The Baines family is using organizations like Peace in the Port to bring positivity back into the community, as well as give their children positive role models to follow.

“I want the next generation to realize their options,” Rahim says, “follow your goals and your dreams before you follow your friends.”

Even more than just themselves, Khamila spoke about her wish for there to be more African-American role models in the community to be mentors for the youth.

“If everyone would write down something that we could do for the city to make it better and we could come together and read that aloud and start conversations, we could make a change to the community,” Rahim concludes.

The Baines are an example of a family that took their situation from a young age, learned from it, and wanted to change the future for the next generation by spreading peace, warmth, love, and the belief in personal success beyond stereotypes and expectations.

“I’m just going to keep up the fight,” Shaheed says, “If we can do that, we can win.”

Diving In

Cliff Stevens opens up about his recent move to the area, diving into parts of the community, and how he has embraced the culture of Williamsport.

Diving In

Cliff StevensCliff Stevens and his wife, Veruschka, moved to the Williamsport area from center-city Philadelphia, and even though they have only been in the city a little over a year, they have felt a distinct welcome in the community.

They were searching for a new lifestyle outside of the one they had in Philadelphia, and they discovered Williamsport when they came into town for coffee while camping in Laporte, PA. Once they had a cup of Alabaster coffee, they were hooked.

After searching for loft apartments, they eventually connected with Mark Winkelman about building a loft apartment at the Pajama Factory. Now, after the remodeling and construction, you walk into the Stevens’ apartment and immediately feel like you are transported to a NYC loft. The design by Mark transformed a small space into one that is liveable, unique, and quintessential to the Pajama Factory vibe.

“My favorite memory is moving day,” Cliff says. “Six or seven people just wandered in and wanted to know who we were and just ended up hanging out on the couch and having conversation. It was just a really great experience.”

Something that Cliff says he admires is the merging of the beautiful locale with the big-city feel. He can look out his window and see the mountainous landscape while still pursuing his business, Culture Spots, which provides mobile web-based software for museums and galleries to use to provide their visitors with mobile audio tours.

Even in the small amount of time that he has been in Williamsport, Cliff has thrown himself into the art and music scene. He started the Williamsport Music Scene Summit, which was held last August.  At the summit,  17 people came out to share their music and ideas with people, such as Dave Brumbaugh and different orchestras in the community.

He’s also working on organizing Pajama Jam, which uses the community space in the Pajama Factory. There, musicians and bands can play on stage in front of a live audience without having to be concerned about people paying cover or buying drinks; they are just there to play and have people listen.

Cliff has become an example in the community for those who are new to the area and want to be involved. It’s all about finding something you are passionate about and putting your talents into that effort.

“I am excited about the future of Williamsport,” Cliff says, “There seems to be a momentum and we came at the tipping point.” He says that he believes there is going to be an explosion of fantastic things here, and that we can see it already happening. “I’m just excited to be a part of it,” Cliff concludes.

Giving Back

Local filmmaker and business owner Phoebe Frear discusses her love for collaboration and artistic expression, as well as how she gives her gifts back to the community of Williamsport.

Giving Back

Phoebe FrearWe had the opportunity to sit down with Phoebe Frear in the studio for her business, Elephant Trunk Films, located in the Pajama Factory. When you go on her website, her mission statement concludes, “Each story has a purpose and a motivation behind it to help make the world a better place. Every film has the collaboration of other talented people with vision and dreams. Together we can help each other grow hopes, dreams and spirits,” which she discussed at length in our conversations, revealing how she administers her gifts in order to better the community she grew up in.

Growing up in Williamsport, Phoebe says she has always loved going downtown and to the Little League World Series.

She discovered her love for filmmaking in high school, and now works out of the Pajama Factory where she is able to collaborate with a community of writers, photographers, and other creative individuals.

One of her other favorite things about Williamsport is First Fridays. “It’s not just incorporating art, but the people behind the art,” she says. She also says she loves the idea of leaving one’s own table or studio in order to meet other artists and hear their ideas. “It’s like saying ‘hey, you matter and so does what you think and so does your art,’” she explains.

One of the ways that Phoebe uses her talents and work ethic is by helping make promotional videos and other works for groups like Family Promise and Thrive. She says that she loves being able to create films and videos for people in her own city, rather than always having to reach outside of it.

“That’s how I show my support in the community,” she says, “by giving my gifts back.

‘I Love Williamsport’

Father John Manno tells stories from his past, present, and uses those to gage his hopes for the future of Williamsport and the deep love he has for the community.

‘I Love Williamsport’

johnmannoWith one of the most familiar faces and engaging energy in Williamsport, of course we had to sit down and talk with Father John Manno, recently retired Pastor for the Roman Catholic Church, about his belief in the future of Williamsport.

Although born in the area, Father Manno did spend some time in Brooklyn, NY.

“I mean that’s a city, but this is my city,” he comments about how Williamsport always stayed connected to him despite his travels.

Something that resonates with the community of Williamsport regarding Father Manno is his authenticity, colorful humor, and the way he can tell a story. He relived some great memories for us (ask him about the time he got “arrested” as a kid), as well as his admiration for people like Vanessa Hunter and Mr. Chasey of the city who work with different programs to better the community.

Father Manno spends a portion of his ecumenical life teaching youth about positive sexuality and other healthy concepts.

“I would like to see us approach drugs and other things from the experience of knowledge,” he explains, “how we stimulate people’s minds.”

He says that in order to solve certain issues, it starts with the people and their mindset. He also talked about his belief in engaging with people in the community from a simple “hello” on the street to more in-depth conversations in order to bring unity in the already present diversity he finds.

He also, in relation to those conversations, would like to see more people out on the streets of Williamsport. He says that he walks the streets at night and he knows he has people looking out for him; that it is a safe community that people should enjoy.

All in all, the most beautiful and profound story that Father Manno shared was about visiting Bill Picklener in the hospital towards the end of his days.

“I went to visit him and on my way out he said, ‘Oh fudge, John,’ I turned around and he just looked at me and said, ‘I love Williamsport.’”

What did Father Manno have to say in reply? “I love Williamsport. What else could you say?” he concludes.

The Same

By joining together over similar interests for common good, we can produce change. No matter who you are or where you live we all make up Williamsport, and we all want to see it thrive.

The Same

sunset2I have this spot on Lycoming College’s campus tucked up behind the quad by the Sterling Gates. On the hill sits a small wooden bench dedicated to the memory of “Ginny,” which connects back to my grandmother’s name, and I’ll bring a small gray blanket to lay across it.

I like to sit there in the summer about thirty minutes before the sun will set with headphones in, a blank page of a legal pad, an iced tea, and bare feet. It’s not the best view, but I like how secluded I feel underneath tree canopies, watching the sun move through the silhouetted leaves.

The sunset might look a little different there than from the Scenic Overlook, driving 15 South, from the parking lot of Hanna, on the roof of the American Rescue Workers, but it’s still the sunset. The orange hue still glows from behind paved highways or the mountain ranges. We can all still see it.

I think that’s something that transitions into how we view our city. You might live in Newberry, an apartment on West Fourth, a small suburban home in Loyalsock, but you still could potentially view something the same way as someone who lives on 2nd Street, Grampian, or Millionaire’s Row.

When it comes to politics, school district decisions, involvement with organizations, we all have different opinions. People’s values are naturally going to differ and some voices are going to sound louder than others, but that doesn’t mean we all don’t have them.

My values are just as important as the persons who lives down the street from me or in the room across the hall. Just because we all look different: skin tones, hair length, clothing choices, cars we drive, does not mean we don’t have commonalities.

In order to produce real change we have to understand that perhaps one person might want the basketball courts reestablished at Memorial Park and another wants more low-income options for summer activities, but together they both want the same thing: a safe space for the next generation to learn and grow.

By joining together over similar interests for common good, we can produce change. No matter who you are or where you live we all make up Williamsport, and we all want to see it thrive. Communicate with people who seem different from you, listen and absorb their ideas, share yours.

Regardless of how we decide we want to get there, we all want to get there. We all see the same sunset.

Sophie Herzing

Community Woodshop

Members and founder John Meyer of the Pajama Factory’s Community Woodshop discuss the opportunities Williamsport has given them and their love for the woodshop.

Community Woodshop

Williamsport Community WoodshopThe Pajama Factory encompasses many different creative facets from small business owners, to entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, coffee lovers, but tucked in the back part of the building past the courtyard is a special place for people to use their hands and learn a new skill.

The Community Woodshop was started by John Meyer, who originally came to the Pajama Factory to rent a space for his own woodshop. When he mentioned wanting to bring in other members and perhaps teach some classes, he rallied a couple guys together to convert the space into a non-profit woodshop.

“It’s a kind of labor of love for me,” John says. He wanted to create a space that allowed residents of Williamsport to come in and learn how to use tools in a safe environment while also giving them the freedom to experiment with their projects.

When we sat down with John, he was joined by Robin Cupp and Diane Sennet. Both wanted to come to the woodshop because of their love for the craft and didn’t have the right space in their homes to create their own.

“I can come over here and create and if I have any questions there is always a monitor here so it’s like having your own private lesson,” Diane says.

The Woodshop is run by membership and each one is a different package with various benefits, which you can choose to pay for based on your needs in the woodshop. Even more than gaining the skills and knowledge of woodworking, the Woodshop is really a community of people who want to create things with their own hands. “Here, you get to visit with people and exchange ideas,” John comments.

All three agreed that what makes Williamsport so wonderful are opportunities like the woodshop, the wine and design, and other do-it-yourself establishments that can teach the community skills that they can then take home.

“It’s unique,” John says about the Woodshop.

“You can do almost anything here,” Diane concludes.

You can visit the Woodshop’s website at http://williamsportcommunitywoodshop.com/ to learn how to obtain a membership or how you can become involved.

 

Change is Coming

When you first meet Richard James, shake his hand, and introduce yourself, you’re overcome with his presence, immediately understanding that this is a guy who is genuinely interested in your story and also has a couple good ones of his own. Even though Richard did not grow up in Williamsport, he has a deep admiration for the town. “I like the small town feel,” he says.He’s lived in the town for about 16 years now, coming from Philadelphia to gt a break from the desolate job search down there. “I ended up staying because I fell in love with the place,” he says.

Change is Coming

Richard JamesRichard has moved about the city of Williamsport, from  a small “tacky” place, as he calls it, to now living in the beautiful and historic section of Millionaire’s Row, which is a collection of older houses and stately mansions built in the late 1800s. No matter where he has lived, however, he always finds a sense of camaraderie and belonging within the town. “Here, any time you walk into the grocery store, you’re bound to find somebody you know and have a conversation with them even if you saw them just last week.”

When asked what he would hate to lose about Williamsport, he felt compelled to say the fresh air. He loves the mountainous landscape that he can trace with his eyes as he walks along the River Walk, his favorite spot. “It’s very peaceful… you’re within the city, but you feel like you’re in the country,” he says. The access to nature and the small town feel is what Richard said he believes to be Williamsport’s greatest asset. He hopes it can be retained by finding a balance between commercial development and preservation of older sites.

Richard is involved with the Beloved Community Council, which works to uphold the ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The group also inspires service opportunity for residents. This sort of project relates closely with Richard’s own personal story of working at a newspaper publication company, called Web Weekly back in 2003. He was the first African American to hold a management position.Through the Beloved Community Council, and the work he does with Heart of Williamsport, he is seeing change beginning to manifest. “You saw people from all walks of life come together: young people, old people, rich and poor and we said that we are going to let this be our town,” he says, “we aren’t going to let it go to the drug dealers and the gangs, and it’s working. I’m proud of that.”

 

 

Richard added that he believes the hard work isn’t over. “I see a bright future for Williamsport,” whether that be through uniting different groups of diversity or enhancing the wonderful architecture or natural aspects we have in the city. “There is going to be new opportunities. I can feel it. I want Williamsport to be the crown jewel of Pennsylvania,” he said. “People are going to point to us and say ‘these people, they got it right’”

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: https://heartofwilliamsport.org/tell-us-story/ or contact us about setting up an interview by sending us an email here: https://heartofwilliamsport.org/contact/

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: https://heartofwilliamsport.org/tell-us-story/ or contact us about setting up an interview by sending us an email here: https://heartofwilliamsport.org/contact/

 

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.

LenaYeagle_Still

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: https://heartofwilliamsport.org/tell-us-story/ or contact us about setting up an interview by sending us an email here: https://heartofwilliamsport.org/contact/

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: https://heartofwilliamsport.org/tell-us-story/ or contact us about setting up an interview by sending us an email here: https://heartofwilliamsport.org/contact/

Acceptance

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.

Acceptance

 

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: https://heartofwilliamsport.org/tell-us-story/ or contact us about setting up an interview by sending us an email here: https://heartofwilliamsport.org/contact/

 

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: https://heartofwilliamsport.org/tell-us-story/ or contact us about setting up an interview by sending us an email here: https://heartofwilliamsport.org/contact/

 

Generational

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.”

Generational

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. 

BeckyRenner_Still

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: https://heartofwilliamsport.org/tell-us-story/ or contact us about setting up an interview by sending us an email here: https://heartofwilliamsport.org/contact/

Roots


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.

Roots

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: https://heartofwilliamsport.org/tell-us-story/ or contact us about setting up an interview by sending us an email here: https://heartofwilliamsport.org/contact/

Williamsport Healed Me

16_05_23_001

“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: https://heartofwilliamsport.org/tell-us-story/ or contact us about setting up an interview by sending us an email here: https://heartofwilliamsport.org/contact/