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/

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/