People driving along West DuBois Avenue may notice two cabinets in the front yard of a home. The cabinets each have a special purpose.
Two years ago, DuBois resident Lisa Summerson wanted to share her passion for reading with people who may need a little comfort or guidance.
A friend from Ridgway built a mounted cabinet in front of her house, and from there grew the “Walking Library” — a place from which anyone may take a book and leave a book, or just take one if they need it.
“With a book, you can go anywhere,” she said.
About once a month, Summerson will check the little library, rearranging or adding new books, such as a Bible.
Soon after, her daughter, Savannah Wehler, saw a post on Facebook and was inspired to start a food and essentials pantry. So, another front-yard cabinet was built, and is now called the “Little Free Pantry.” At the bottom of the wooden framework is the quote “Take what you need, leave what you can.”
After hearing of Wehler’s idea, local woman Sharon McGregor offered to help fund many of the pantry’s essentials, she said. It offers everything from nonperishable food items to soap, deodorant, toothbrushes and toothpaste to socks and gloves.
Coworkers of Wehler’s at the Gateway Cafe have also donated items, as have members of Tri-County Church of DuBois, where Summerson worships.
The mother-daughter duo has always been close, they said, but giving back together has been a rewarding experience.
She has a spot in her heart for the less fortunate, and also for women who may be victims of abuse, Summerson says. Domestic violence and emergency shelters are often in need of these items as well.
“We wanted to do it so that people could get things anonymously,” Summerson says.
Living in the middle of town gives Summerson the accessibility to help people, she says. The pantry is refilled about every three days.
The community has been wonderful in contributing, too, Summerson said, dropping items off on her porch. She can remember a time when the DuBois community rallied behind her through her battle with ovarian cancer.
Summerson likes to think that maybe some of the people who donate items have been touched by hardship or poverty themselves and now want to pay it forward.
When asked what the library and pantry provide, Summerson says “One is soul food, and one is real food.”
Summerson attends Tri-County Church of DuBois and currently works as a caregiver in Punxsutawney. Throughout her life, she has always found ways to give back and showed her children to do the same.
“I’ve always been a single mom, so my kids always went with me when I delivered food for the food pantry, or drove to pick up a kitten for someone who had just lost one,” she said.
Someone who needs a book or an essential item may be hesitant to ask for it, which is why the library and pantry are discreet — people can come and take as they please.
Summerson refers to being able to provide these items to people as “a blessing.”
“I love when someone asks me for help, and it’s something I can do,” she said.
They hope their next endeavor will be providing clothing to people in need, Wehler and Summerson said.
People willing to contribute can donate items like nonperishable foods, socks, deodorant, toothbrushes and toothpaste or feminine products.
PUNXSUTAWNEY — A new bearded man wearing a top hat and tuxedo will make his first “trek” to the Gobbler’s Knob stage early on the morning of Feb. 2.
Members of the Inner Circle, more specifically, handlers John Griffiths and A.J. Dereume, do everything from carry Punxsutawney Phil on Groundhog Day to chop up vegetables for his lunch. The Inner Circle has 15 top-hatted members, and eight retired ones, according to www.groundhog.org.
Inner Circle members get to be a part of many Phil-related activities leading up to Groundhog Day, as well as special passes for the day itself. All members are required to “believe in the legend,” as well as wear a top hat and tuxedo, of course.
Jory Serrian is a Punxsutawney Area High School graduate who will join in the 133rd iteration of the annual tradition this year, said PGC Executive Director Katie Donald.
Serrian is the Purchasing and Parts Supervisor for P&N Coal Company who “appreciates what a small town has to offer,” his online biography says.
Although being a part of the PGC is a big responsibility, Serrian says, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a Punxsutawney native.
“It’s the ultimate way to be involved in a great, unique American tradition,” he said. “Also, I want to know what the true, accurate weather is going to be. It’s a great group of guys that make it fun to live in Punxsutawney.”
Serrian will offically put on his top hat after the fireworks are finished on Feb. 2, when he makes his first journey to the Gobbler’s Knob stage, looking out at all of “Phil’s Phollowers,” as well as his friends and family, Donald said.
As a child, Serrian can remember when he woke up early with his mom and brother to witness Phil’s prediction.
“That was before Punxsutawney closed the schools for the day, so we would go up to see the prognostication, come home to get a hot shower to warm up, and then go to elementary school,” he said.
Serrian will even have the chance to pick his Inner Circle nickname at the Feb. 1 Groundhog Banquet, Donald says.
“After reading past articles and looking through old Punxsutawney history books, one of the GHC founding member’s nickname was “Head Huntsman,” Serrian said. “I thought that was an awesome nickname, and also a way to honor the past.”
The public can join the PGC, too, receiving an “official membership card” signed by the keeper of Punxsutawney Phil and PGC president, as well as a copy of his official proclamation made on Feb. 2 and an advance notice of celebration activities, according to the PGC website.
PGC members will be invited to an Inner Circle reception on Feb. 1, where they can mingle with other club members and meet Phil’s handlers. Members also receive the “Groundhogese,” a quarterly-published e-newsletter.
For more information, visit www.groundhog.org.
PUNXSUTAWNEY — The Punxsutawney Police Department and Punxsutawney Area School District board members have come to an agreement to house school resource officers in both area schools.
Punxsutawney Police Department Chief Matt Conrad said the current plan is that officers will be placed in PASD elementary and high school buildings at the beginning of February.
At the start of the 2018-2019 school year in September, the middle school began housing the students of six elementary schools, and Punxsutawney Area High School seventh through 12th graders.
Both students and staff have had to adjust to larger student populations and different age groups in the same location. So, board members agreed further safety measures wouldn’t hurt.
The suggestion for a school resource officer was brought up at August’s Punxsutawney Area School Board meeting. In September, Board President Dr. Kyle Lingenfelter said committee members met with the Punxsutawney Borough Council and Punxsutawney Police officers, where an agreement was reached.
“We came to the conclusion we are going to ask the administration to work with the borough and police to develop a system in which they can be our resource officers,” he said. “The most important thing is to have an armed officer in each of our buildings to ensure the safety of our students, in the event of an attack on them.”
Other members of the board commented in approval, stating it was good to see “positive” new community partnerships forming. A trial period for the officers was also suggested.
At December’s PASD board meeting, a motion to approve entering the “School Resource Officer Agreement” for the second semester of the 2018-2019 school term was made by member Deneen Evans, and seconded by Jean Martino-McAllister.
“Our ultimate goal is to make our students feel safe when they come to school every day,” said District Superintendent Thomas Lesniewski.
The approval was to be “in accordance with the draft of the agreement supplied to the Board, but subject to further negotiation by the Administration with the Borough, and any changes changes which may be made, in the discretion of the Administration and the approval of the Solicitor (David Young) with regard to the form and legality of the agreement,” according to the meeting agenda.
“The safety of the school, students and staff are the main priority,” Conrad said. “I believe it’s a good step in the right direction for the safety of the school, students and staff in the district.”