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Community comes through for DASD instrument donation drive

At first thought, just one instrument would have made the DuBois Area School District’s donation drive worth all of the planning efforts, said Assistant Superintendent Wendy Benton.

In reality, the district received a donation of 17 instruments and a significant amount of sound equipment.

“Once again, the DuBois Area School District has been abundantly blessed by the heartfelt generosity of our community,” said Benton.

In November, the district started a drive, asking that anyone wishing to donate simply drop off any instruments, lesson books or donations of unused reeds, valve oil, guitar picks or other music supplies to the front office of any DuBois Area school and promised that a district music teacher would get the donation into the hands of a young music student.

The demand for instruments was outweighing the district’s current supply, so the school reached out to the community for help.

The first-ever drive continued through Dec. 21.

The sound equipment alone, which was donated by a “very generous gentleman from Punxsutawney that ‘just wanted to help the kids,’’’ is valued between $6,000 and $7,000, she said.

His donation helped the music department more than he could have ever imagined, Benton said.

“The donated sound equipment is in better condition and is of better quality than the sound equipment we have been using,” said Benton. “This donation also provided us with equipment that will substantially enhance our ability to perform outside of the auditorium.”

Another noteworthy donation was a 73-year-old Glockenspiel.

The historical instrument was donated to C.G. Johnson Elementary School in honor of elementary music educator Julie Gutowski.

“This donor, a former member of the marching band, wanted Ms. Gutowski to have her Glockenspiel because of the profound impact she has had providing music education to her grandchildren,” said Benton.

“One donor shared that the only reason she was provided with an opportunity to learn to play an instrument was because of a donated instrument when she was a child,” said Benton. “She wanted to provide the same opportunity to a child in need.”

“Reaching out to the community for donations of instruments is a way to help the community invest in the future of our younger generation’s involvement in music,” said music teacher Kristina Keith. “As more students in our district demonstrate an interest in instrumental music, there is a greater need for instruments. Our district expressed this need, and the community generously responded. We are grateful.”

Becky Sensor of the middle school music department said it was wonderful to see how supportive the community has been.

“We are so fortunate to have so much support from our administration and our community,” said Sensor.

“It was really cool to see new instruments coming into our school office and knowing that we were going to get to use them,” said eighth-grade student Michael Angelo.

High school band Director Melinda Swauger said the study of instrumental music is a brain builder.

“Knowing that our students will develop from the process of powering the musical ‘machine’ and the cognitive benefits of reading/translating the musical language is amazing,” Swauger said. “Every instrument that has been donated will reach our students for many years. The possibilities for developing our students’ enjoyment and passion for playing and performing for our community is the ultimate payback for the generosity of these donations.”

“I’d like to send out my sincere thanks to those who donated to our instrument drive,” said choir Director Nick Kloszewski. “With these donated instruments, our students will have opportunities that they may otherwise not have had. Our show choir at the high school, The Dynamics, has also benefitted from the drive, as a sound system capable of amplifying the group while on tour has been donated to the high school. Equipment like this proves invaluable to us, especially during the winter season when we do the most touring.”

Aside from receiving instruments and equipment to benefit students, Benton said she met a lot of wonderful people that are true advocates for the students and music education.

“Thank you doesn’t seem like enough,” Benton said. “I wish the donors could have been present when the instruments were placed into the hands of the children who were on the waiting list to receive an instrument. It doesn’t get much better.”

Volunteers provide free clothing to people in need through 'God's Closet'

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Punxsutawney volunteers who believe in giving back have been providing clothes to people and families in need for approximately 15 years.

God’s Closet was founded by Shelley Rowan, and operates out of the First Church of God on Skyview Drive. Longtime volunteers Carol and Boyd Wachob and Valerie Lloyd also play a large part in the community effort.

Twice a year, in May and October, the FCOG gymnasium is full of racks of clothing, organized by sections and sizes like a department store, Rowan said. In May, there is a focus on spring and summer clothes; and in October, fall and winter items.

God’s Closet is also open to the community year-round, Rowan said. People can call and arrange for a time to come to the building next to the church. Rowan and other volunteers will pick clothing and shoes out for people or families based on age and size.

In 2017, more than 1,000 people received services from God’s Closet, Rowan said. Last fall, they gave around 300 pairs of shoes.

The Closet isn’t just open to Punxsutawney or close communities either, Rowan said. People have traveled from places like Johnstown. Services are open to anyone who needs help.

“People can’t believe it’s all for free,” she said. “They’re really appreciative.”

There are about six volunteers involved, who are also free to take something if they need it, Rowan said.

She and her family grew up attending the FCOG, Rowan said, and her grandparents were always giving clothes away.

Rowan works in the Punxsutawney Area School District as a substitute teacher. Her mother was also a preschool teacher, for 21 years.

“With the kids (in school), I see how hard it is for them to learn if they’re hungry or if they’re cold,” she said.

She also keeps a spare set of dishes on hand; and other items like socks, underwear and maternity clothes. Even new wedding dresses have been donated.

“I help people who’s house may have burnt down, flood victims, foster care families,” Rowan says.

It’s been a rewarding experience to help people through God’s Closet, Rowan said.

She has given to children who don’t have socks or families who can’t afford clothes for their baby.

A lot of her generosity, Rowan says, stems from her faith.

“We are told in the Bible to provide to others,” she said.

In the future, Rowan hopes to possibly open a soup kitchen and keep giving back in different ways.

Anyone who may be cleaning out their closet or getting rid of clothes they don’t need is welcome to bring them to FCOG, Rowan said. She often runs short on larger sizes like 3-5X.

Anything that comes out of God’s Closet goes to someone in the area, Rowan said, so people can know they are helping someone in their own community.

“You know it’s all going to people who really need it,” she said. “There are so many local people you can help.”

For clothing requests or donations, call the FCOG from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday at 814-938-6670.

Elaine Haskins / Elaine Haskins  

Shown is Pastor John Emigh of First United Methodist Church in DuBois.

C.R.E.A.T.E. Brookville hosts art show, reception featuring Jeff Tech students

BROOKVILLE — A Main Street Brookville studio hosted 96 pieces created by Jefferson County Vocational Technical School, more commonly known as Jeff Tech, students during an art show and reception Jan. 11.

Community Resources Encouraging Artistic Talent and Education Brookville opened the shop to the public, displaying an entire wall covered in student artwork that evening.

Founded in 2011, C.R.E.A.T.E. brings the community together through creative projects, aiming to give people a space to highlight and showcase their talents to the public.

Owner Chrissie Hoffman refers to everything C.R.E.A.T.E. Brookville is as “her dream and her passion.”

They are very excited to showcase the artwork of local students each year, she said.

“Our mission is to promote the arts and expand ideas in the create field,” she said. “We are excited to give these kids a place to display their work. It’s important to help give them that acceptance, and the idea they can do anything.”

The art show contained work from Jeff Tech students who aren’t in art club or art class and have another focus, but wanted to participate anyway, Hoffman said.

Students can also sell their artwork through C.R.E.A.T.E.

“A lot of these kids aren’t focusing on an art, but art is an outlet for them,” she said.

The shop offers several outlets, including a framework business and a community market every Saturday featuring local farmers and artisans. The organization also offers several classes and workshops, including fiddle jams, a book and writers’ club, microgreen growing, clogging, crocheting and more.

Jeff Tech culinary students prepared refreshments and treats for the evening’s reception.

Jeff Tech mathematics and art instructor Angela Dragich said she started with about 60 entries and 46 students participating, and ended up with a lot more by the night of the art show.

The artwork varied from landscape paintings to charcoal portraits and other creations.

For more information, contact C.R.E.A.T.E. Brookville at 814-271-7726 or its Facebook page.

Officials talk use, price of salt for winter roads in area counties

The region was under a winter weather advisory on Wednesday, and is expected to see more precipitation in the next few days.

On Wednesday, salt trucks were seen regularly coating the roads in Clearfield, Jefferson and Elk counties.

While some surrounding areas may have seen an increase in the price of salt, Jefferson County experienced only a five percent increase, said Lee Gouhring, maintenance manager of the Indiana County PennDOT district, which oversees it and other nearby counties.

Some areas of the state have reported increases in prices over last winter of nearly 50 percent.

The price for salt in Jefferson County is $60.90 per ton, and American Rock Salt is the vendor, Gouhring said.

Jefferson County Department of Emergency Services Director Tracy Zents said his agency monitors precipitation on a day-to-day basis.

One of the salt trucks’ main priorities is keeping an eye on Interstate 80 conditions.

“We get involved in road salt issues if there is a shortage, and we have to request an un-met need,” he said. “Some winters, they hardly use any at all, and others, they use everything they had and have to request more.”

DuBois reported using 1,459 tons of salt last winter and had ordered 192 tons through December. Salt was purchased from American Rock Salt at a rate of $70.89 per ton both years. The figure actually represents a reduction of cost from the winter of 2016-17, when salt was purchased at a rate of $72.31 per ton from the same vendor.

Currently, St. Marys reports paying $74.97 per ton for salt, an increase of $3.50 per ton from last year. The city is contracted through the state’s Costars cooperative purchasing program for 1,600 tons of salt for winter 2018-19. They are required to buy a minimum of 960 tons, and can purchase as much as 2,240 tons at that price. The city estimates an average of 1,300 tons is used each year.

Falls Creek Borough Manager Cindy Fritz said the amount of salt they order depends on the severity of the storm.

The borough has two salt trucks, which are often seen out early in the morning and late at night, helping people commuting to and from work. One truck is designated for the alleys and one for the roads.

Last week, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation in State College stressed the importance of drivers preparing vehicles for winter. “Winter Driving Awareness Week” lasted until Jan. 12, but PennDOT recommends exercising major caution during winter conditions at all times.

Courier Express reporters Elaine Haskins and Jacob Perryman contributed to this story.