Change is Coming

Heart of Williamsport is deeply saddened that our dear friend and founding member Richard James has passed away. We will always cherish our time with Richard, and appreciate his dedication to freedom and racial unity through love and engagement for all people.

By Sophie Herzing
Heart of Williamsport

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 get 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 James
Richard James

Richard 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 the 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 opportunities 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’”

Heart and Soul Statement No. 1

Arts, Culture, Heritage

We celebrate the arts through cultural events and activities capturing the spirit of the community and providing opportunities for socializing, expressing creativity, and supporting local businesses that revitalize our city and enrich our lives. We treasure our rich history and culture reflected in the quality and diversity of our architecture, Little League Baseball, and our lumber heritage, that we preserve for the next generation instilling pride in our community.

Heart and Soul Statement No. 3

Diverse Community

We value the diversity of Williamsport and its people by recognizing the variety of arts, entertainment, restaurants, employment, and worship opportunities maintained within the quaint small-town community that practices kindness, acceptance, respect, and inclusivity.

Heart and Soul Statement No. 4

Educational; Assets, Activities, and Events

Participation in learning opportunities

We value the diverse educational opportunities and programs provided by our schools, colleges, libraries, and organizational collaborations that offer mentors and activities for everyone, promoting a strong sense of community pride.

Heart and Soul Statement No. 6

Opportunities and Economic Growth

We value the positive change and entrepreneurial spirit that creates an abundance of privately-owned, small businesses revitalizing our downtown area and neighborhoods within Williamsport. We appreciate strong economic growth, diverse job opportunities, and low-cost of living that raises the quality of life for more people, which encourages young people to stay in the community.

Heart and Soul Statement No. 7

Small-Town Feel

We treasure the character and friendliness of our small-town that allows the compassionate members of this community to connect with one another. We appreciate the size of our town because of its accessibility to the local shops, restaurants, attractions, destinations, and nature around the city.

Heart and Soul Statement No. 8

Urban Amenities and Recreation

We appreciate our vibrant center city, with easy access and public transportation to a wide variety of destinations, including restaurants, bars, specialty shops, theaters, sports, and recreation… creating a distinctive urban atmosphere where people live, work and play.

Cityfolk seeking safety, diversity

Williamsport Sun-Gazette, April 27, 2017

Richard Hosch could see a common theme developing on his table at the Heart of Williamsport “Summit Up” event Wednesday night.

The theme was the transition of the city’s downtown as a destination with more attractions, such as the Susquehanna River Walk, and a myriad of restaurants and specialty shops connected by a network of streets and nearby neighborhoods.

Hosch, a chef with a catering business on West Fourth Street in the Historic District, was one of about 50 individuals who gathered for a few hours inside the Cochran Primary School to go over the results of a communitywide survey. It included the thoughts of 944 respondents who explained what was important to them about the city and what changes they wanted to see.

Ruth Keller, a former public relations director, said the summit was “good to get people out.” She said she has a special interest in seeing neighborhood watch groups spread throughout the city to deter crime.

A fun time for all

Participants first filled out a demographic chart listing details such as their age, housing status, gender, ethnicity and household income.

The returned data from the survey was organized by themes for groups on the tables. They included educational assets, activities and events; opportunities and economic growth; urban amenities and recreation; arts, culture and heritage; small town feel and location; beautiful natural environment; health, safety and welfare; and diverse community.

“I enjoy taking part in the ‘Safe, Clean and Green’ in my neighborhood,” said Margaret Tupper, of Arch Street in Newberry, who was on the education assets table. The event she referred to is a bi-annual litter collection promoted by the Newberry Community Partnership.

The collection often brings people together, but more volunteers are needed, said Alannah Gabriel, a longtime coordinator of the group, who joined her friend Tupper for the summit.

David Defebo, of Woodmont Avenue in the Vallamont section of the city, sat on the opportunities and economic growth table. He read dozens of the responses, breaking them into sub-sections. They included ideas such as the city’s low-cost living compared to places such as New York or San Francisco, and its educational opportunities, with a college on either side of the city.

One response focused on the connectivity of the arts, culture and opportunity as a means for quality of life.

A predominant theme was the changing look of the downtown since 1999 and how its revitalization continues to bring opportunity for employment, entice new developers and improve neighborhoods.

Tradition rules

Some 109 of the 944 responses involved Little League — not just for a superior form of supervised recreation and sport but also as a measure of the importance of Little League in the city’s heritage, as the place where Carl E. Stotz grew up and as the site that was the birthplace of the game, said Alice Trowbridge, of Susquehanna Greenway Partnership.

“Organized youth baseball and softball is a recreation, but Little League is so much more,” she said. “It is part of our heritage and our tradition.”

The community’s small town “feel” and short driving distance from metropolitan areas were among the favorites for one person. The city’s short distance from state parks, hunting camps, fishing streams, hiking and biking paths, skiing and canoeing and paddling on rivers and creeks was the lure for another.

Many families valued the children’s library at the James V. Brown Library and a responsive city government that makes itself accessible by holding public meetings and hearings.

Another table received numerous responses on the diversity of the community, which is one of its stronger points because of the younger generation that visits and uses businesses, some of which have been developed by young entrepreneurs.

Others valued the city and region’s public transportation system, one that is “cost-efficient and easy to use,” and still others saw value in the shopping district and its outreach toward customers, especially with many big-box stores closing their doors.

At the end of the activity, the responses were collected and placed into two categories: What people value about the city and why it is important. These will be used to create a vision statement, Trowbridge said.

Adding to the delight of the event, a mural created by students in pre-school through third-grade was shared.

The children drew images of what they thought was the ideal city.

The mural showed colorful flowers, happy babies, recycling bins, shade trees growing, baseball played, rainbows in the sky and a house where children could play in safety and secure from harm.

For the past year, Heart of Williamsport has used the content of 72 video stories to identify the common values people share, and develop vision statements that reflect these shared values.

The data along with the survey responses will be shared with city and county planners and may be adopted as guiding principles for decision-making.

The group is identifying projects and/or programs that will support the vision and “sense of place” that people hold dear for Williamsport and build bridges between groups of people who may not know each other.


Summit Up Event

You spoke, we listened.  After a year of story gathering, video interviews, survey questions answered, and story listening, we will review the responses we have received from our community, and work together in small groups to develop our vision statements.  We need you to help us “sum it up!”  These vision statements will become the guiding principles to help influence local decisions and planning to put your ideas into action.

Your friends at Heart of Williamsport request the honor of your presence for our community event:

SUMMIT UP!  What Matters Most

Wednesday, April 26, 5:30-8:30 p.m.
Cochran Elementary School  1500 Cherry St Williamsport
(take Market St. west on Belmont to school;
parking in lot or on the street; enter doors #9 or #10)
Event will be held in the cafeteria.
Dinner and childcare will be provided.
This event is open to the public, please rsvp to Patrice Brunson @570-327-7512; Mary Woods @ 570-327-0103; or email us at  Volunteers are needed!

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:


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:

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.