HoW Focus Group Dates

Heart of Williamsport's upcoming dates for Focus Groups

Heart of Williamsport’s Next Step

Mark your calendars

Our Round Table discussion involved groups from the community brainstorming ideas for action corresponding with our value statement. Now, our next step is to consider our value statements in depth. The purpose is to draw attention to the areas that need improvement and recognize the Williamsport’s potential. Here are the upcoming dates of our Focus Groups.

  • Diverse Community: Monday, August 7th
    • 7:00-8:30 PM @ Firetree Place
  • Arts, Culture, & Heritage: Thursday August 10th 
    • 5:30-7:00 PM @ City Alliance Church sanctuary
  • Urban Amenities & Recreation: Tuesday, August 15th
    • 5:30-7:00 PM @ YMCA
  • Beautiful Natural Environment: Monday, August 28th
    • 5:30-7:00 PM @ Susquehanna State Park Pavilion
  • Small- Town Feel: Thursday, August 31st
    • 5:30-7:00 PM @ Sun Gazette
  • Educational Assets: Wednesday, September 6th
    • 5:30-7:00 PM @ Curtain School auditorium
  • Health, Safety, & Welfare: Tuesday, September 12th
    • 5:30-7:00 PM @ YWCA
  • Opportunities & Economic Growth: Monday, September 18th
    • 12:00-2:00 PM @ Trade & Transit 2. (3rd floor)

If you’d like to evaluate the value statements ahead of time, click here

See you there!

Value Statement No. 6

Opportunities and Economic Growth

Appreciation of positive change 

We appreciate our strong economic growth, diverse job opportunities, and a low-cost of living that raises the quality of life for more citizens, and encourages young people to stay in the community.

Williamsport’s positive change is supported by:

  • Pro-active planning
  • Geographic location
  • A good transportation system
  • Privately owned businesses
  • An entrepreneurial spirit promoting revitalization

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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/