DuBOIS — Each year, two DuBois Area School District students send out their birthday party invitations, but what they ask their guests to bring may surprise many.
Sophia, 10, and Andreas, 12, of Treasure Lake, have been helping shelter animals for almost as long as they’ve been alive.
Instead of asking for typical birthday gifts, like the latest toy or electronic item, the Sconzos request their guests bring a bag of cat or dog food, cat litter, toys and treats.
It all started in Andreas’ early years when he saw an ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) commercial on television. Everyone has seen them — the heartbreaking, tearjerking videos of adorable, terrified animals in need of help.
“He asked us, ‘Why do those animals look so sad?’” said his mother, Joanne Sconzo. “We told him, ‘Those animals don’t have homes,’ and he said, ‘Well, can we help them?”’
For 10 years, Andreas has been donating his birthday gifts to the Gateway Humane Society in Falls Creek.
His little sister Sophia soon followed his example, and has been donating her gifts for eight years.
“I wanted to help the animals, too, and be like my big brother,” Sophia said.
One of Sophia’s favorite parts of donation day is getting to pick out one of the animals and hold it, she said. Every year, she takes a photo with an animal of her choice, with all the donation items in the background.
This year’s pick was Silly Svedka, a kitten at GHS who was born with a brain defect that causes her to have balance issues.
Sophia and Andreas also buy items for the animals with their own money.
“They try really hard to give back,” Joanne said. “They’re very compassionate and want to help people in need.”
Joanne is a crocheter, making items for foster children and nursing home residents. Andreas has even asked her to crochet blankets for the shelter cats.
The Sconzos have inspired other students their age to donate gifts and do the same thing.
Sophia’s birthday is in April, and Andreas’ in December, so they are able to give two hefty donations to GHS throughout the year.
“What I love is that there is no question — they do this every year, and they are excited and want to do it,” Joanne said. “Let’s just say their parents are very proud.”
Around the holidays, the Sconzo children have also helped serve food at local churches.
“Some people can’t get out and go to the store and cook their own, so they come there to have a big Thanksgiving dinner,” Sophia said. “They are really nice people.”
The Sconzos have their own fur family, too — a cat named Maggie, a rabbit, and two dogs named Buddy and Bear, former GHS residents.
A shelter animal can transform into a completely different pet once they’re in a home and comfortable, just like their Buddy did.
“He was quiet at first, but he’s developed his own personality,” Sophia said. “You have to give them a chance, because Buddy is a completely different dog,” Andreas adds.
Pets provide love and interaction that children and families don’t get from things like watching television, although she really likes television, too, Sophia says with a laugh.
Buddy’s name comes from a book Andreas read called “Buddy” — the true story of a three-legged dog who ended up states away from his family during Hurricane Katrina.
The Sconzos want to teach their own children to donate and volunteer and to pass the inclination to charity along, they said.
“I am always going to donate to the shelter,” Andreas said. “And when we get a pet, we will adopt. We will always rescue them.”
Andreas hopes to do something science-oriented as a career. Sophia hopes to become a veterinarian, finding an ongoing outlet for her love for animals.
DuBOIS — The bad news is that the pool at the DuBois YMCA is closed. The good news is that it will be worth the wait, according to President/CEO Dan Dowling.
Renovation of the pool bottom and pool deck — phase three of a four-year renovation project — is under way and will reopen Aug. 20.
In addition, the old hot tub has been ripped out and a new one will replace it.
“It’ll be in the ground, much more accessible. We’re gonna cut that concrete out, dig it out, and put it in the ground,” Dowling said. “It will be larger, holding 500 gallons more water than the previous hot tub. It will have a handicapped lift so that people can get in it. It will be more efficient and more effective, especially for our older clientele and anyone who has a disability.”
The pool will be relined with Marcite, which is a very common soft plaster finish used on in-ground pools.
“And then we will redo the tile that is on there,” Dowling said. “And we’re going to change the deck, we’re going to put a new decking on it. It’s really rough.”
A urethane product will be put down on the deck.
“They’re going to sand it down. It’s a pretty long process. They’ll sand this old stuff down in preparation and then they’ll put it on in layers. It will be a smooth surface when it’s done. It will have some kind of aggregate to it so people don’t slip and fall. But it will be a urethane product,” Dowling said.
The pool was originally built in 1979. In 1996, the pool bottom was re-done with some basic renovations and new lighting was installed at that time.
“So it’s due, the pool deck and everything has not been done for many years,” Dowling said.
Contractors also painted the walls in the pool area in preparation to do the pool floor.
“They did some cleaning around the pool edges. They ripped out the hot tub deck and new door frames are being put in,” Dowling said.
Hardware Specialities, a local company, is doing that work while William L. Watson is the pool contractor.
“We’re doing a lot of internal repairs, too, to valves and interior plumbing. It’s a commercial pool that has large valves and things that haven’t been changed for a number of years that we’re taking the time to replace motors. The new hot tub will have all new internal parts, heater, filter because it’s bigger and it’s more powerful,” Dowling said. “We’re also changing a lot of the pool motors and things. It’s just part of the process people don’t see on the inside that’s part of that expense that makes the pool run in an effective manner.”
The estimated cost of the pool area renovations is approximately $200,000. The capital campaign raised approximately $956,000.
While the pool is being re-done, the DuBois City pool located in city park will be available for members for open swim, Monday through Friday, 9:30-11 a.m., at no extra charge. Members are just asked to verbally indicate their Y membership when entering the city park.
Dowling expressed appreciation to the City of DuBois for allowing members to use the pool in the morning.
“There are still a lot of members that enjoy the pool and getting their exercise,” he said. “It’s been greatly appreciated. And we’ve made arrangements with some other places for people to go, but that’s at a fee.”
The previous two years, renovations included new rooftop units for the pool, remodeling of the hallway and the locker rooms, new saunas and steam rooms and remodeling of the entire gymnasium.
“So every summer we’ve done a different project as the money from the Capital Campaign came in,” Dowling said.
Next year, the YMCA plans to update some of the childcare facilities, the lobby and Fitness Center.
“Everything keeps getting older. And it’s been great getting the community active. We raised over a million dollars for this project. And as the money comes in we’re doing projects. It worked out real well, we didn’t have to extend ourselves with another loan. And just can only do so much at one time,” Dowling said.
The new pool area will be called The Frank Varischetti Aquatic Center.
“A large portion of our donations came through Varischetti’s foundation, for the pool,” said Dowling.
The DuBois YMCA, which has been in DuBois since 1894, is a nonprofit, 501(c)3 operation.
“No one is denied access, you might say, based on financial need,” Dowling said. “We give out valued over $100,000 in memberships annually. People, based on their financial needs qualify for that. A lot of our programs are operated for the community. Everything’s made to be accessible. Our price is made to be accessible to the community. So we are a nonprofit operation.”
Prior to its current location on Parkway Drive, the DuBois YMCA was in multiple locations. The most recent one was on Scribner Avenue.
“That’s what most people remember, people tell me about where they participated,” said Dowling, who has been the executive director since 1990. “Some of our older members will tell me how they went to the Y on Scribner. I think that was there until 1936 until that closed in the late ‘70s and they built this building. This one officially opened in 1981, but it was under construction from the late ‘70s through the 1980s.”
Anyone wishing to make a donation can contact Dowling by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BROCKWAY — Mengle Memorial Library in Brockway will be giving away a lighthouse yard ornament created by a Brockway man, according to librarian Darlene Marshall.
The public is invited to visit the library at 4 p.m. Tuesday, July 31, as Sam Sleigh, creator of the lighthouse ornament, talks about what motivated him to create lighthouses at the library.
Sleigh will also discuss why he donated his latest creation to the library for its annual fund drive. The drawing for the winner of the lighthouse will take place after the presentation.
Anyone who would like to register to win the lighthouse can stop by the library for a fund drive form any time before Sleigh’s presentation.
The library is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. No donation is necessary to enter the drawing.
CLEARFIELD — Jayna Vicary of Curwensville is the 2018 Clearfield County Fair queen. She is the 30th young woman chosen to be the fair’s ambassador since the contest was revived in 1989.
Vicary was crowned Sunday during the pageant held on the opening day of the 158th edition of the Clearfield County Fair.
Her court is first runner-up, Rebecca Liddle of DuBois. Kyrsten Kowalczyk of Flinton is the second runner-up.
Vicary, 18, is the daughter of Denny and Mag Vicary of Curwensville. She is a 2018 graduate of Curwensville Area High School and the Clearfield County Career and Technology Center. She has been accepted to Pennsylvania College of Technology, Williamsport, beginning with the fall semester, where she will study welding engineering.
In a brief interview following the contest, Vicary said, “I am definitely overwhelmed but so excited for the opportunity to represent the Clearfield County Fair and the Clearfield community.”
Vicary said there is no one thing she could name that she was anticipating during fair week but said she plans to make memories and cherish every moment. “I am looking forward to it all. I know from Emily (Andrulonis, 2017 Clearfield County Fair queen) that it moves very quickly. I want to take in every second.”
The other contestants are Sarah Simcox of Curwensville and Brittney Minnich of Tyrone. There was a sixth contestant but according to the Clearfield County Fair Queen Committee, she withdrew prior to the pageant.
Liddle, 18, is a 2018 graduate of DuBois Central Catholic. She will attend Duquesne University in the fall to study speech/language pathology.
Kowalczyk, 19, is a 2017 graduate of Glendale Junior-Senior High School. She is currently a sophomore at St. Francis University where she is working to earn a degree in international studies.
As part of the scoring system, each of the fair queen contestants wrote an essay using the topic “What My Fair Means to My Community.” The composition was judged prior to the competition.
During the pageant, each contestant presented a 3-5-minute timed speech on the topic, “Why You Should Come to My Fair.” The contestants then changed into evening gowns and return to the stage to provide some background information about themselves. They also answered an impromptu question, “Why is the Fair Important?”.
Fair Queen Committee member and contest Coordinator Rachel Davidson said each of the components adds up to a possible 100 points. She also noted the fair’s competition was created using the state Fair Queen contest as a guide. As the 2018 Clearfield County Fair Queen, Vicary will go on in January to compete for the title of Pennsylvania State Fair Queen.
Sunday’s contest judges are Sam Zaffuto, President of the Sykesville Ag and Youth Fair; Catharine Conner of Milliron & Goodman, Government Relations LLC; and Emily White, past Cambria County Fair queen.
The 2017 Clearfield County Fair Queen Emily Andrulonis gave a farewell speech. “I was given an amazing opportunity this year…I was incredibly proud to represent the community. The emotions I am feeling are hard to put into words.”
Prior to thanking all those who have supported her during her reign, she closed with a play on the adage, “It takes a village to raise a child” by noting she believes “It take a county to raise a fair queen.”
Radio Personality Bob E. Day served as the master of ceremonies assisted by 2016 Clearfield County Fair Queen and the 2017 State Fair Queen Alternate Rachel Duke. Musical entertainment was provided by Heather Olson.