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Agape begins 'Fresh Start' program to help those in need

DuBOIS — For years, the region has been seeing a decline in the quality of life for those in the lowest income levels, according to AGAPE Executive Director Gina Gray.

“It’s not just that they lack money, but that they lack the skills to make the most out of what income they do have,” she said.

Just having completed its 30th year of reaching out to make a difference in the lives of many, AGAPE is determined to take a new, more effective approach to aiding those in need, she said.

“We started something called, ‘Fresh Start AGAPE,’” Gray said. “It’s a fresh start for AGAPE in addressing old problems in new ways, and it’s a fresh start for our clients to come in, and without condemnation, strict confidentiality, share some of the issues that are causing them to have a hard time meeting all their family’s needs. Needs for housing, food, clothing. Things of that nature.”

There are four new programs being offered by AGAPE:

A Better Way

Learn how to get current with bills and retire debt; live within a reasonable budget with needs met and peace of mind.

Keeping the Roof Over Your Head

Maybe people have had difficulties finding and keeping a decent home for their family. Following five proven steps AGAPE wants to share with people will turn their situation around and give them the fresh start they are looking to find.

Clean . Sober + Saved

This is for those who need a fresh start in life due to drug or alcohol use. This program was used by real people who have been there, Lori and her former professional baseball player husband, Daryl Strawberry, will help set people free. Lori, now a minister, has developed this video program and AGAPE offers it locally with the assistance of trained leaders. For more information on the program, go to

Contact the AGAPE office at (814) 375-9120 for dates and times.

Meeting the Needs

AGAPE wants to sow need-meeting seeds into local lives. By this, it means that AGAPE wants to offer practical assistance to those who need it and want to come in to participate in one of the new programs. When people make an appointment to come to the office for the Better Way program, AGAPE will provide a budget-stretching bag with toilet paper, garbage bags, dish detergent and laundry soap to meet their needs until their next check arrives. Call for an appointment.

Agape is seeing the same problems as always within the community, but they are intensifying in nature.

“We’re dealing with folks that are becoming homeless at a far more higher rate than we used to,” said Gray. “We’re dealing with people that have drug dependency issues, which makes it difficult for one spouse to pay all the bills on time when the other spouse is taking the money to spend on their habit.”

Agape is also trying to help a lot of people with fixed incomes that are having a hard time making it.

“At Agape we are addressing those basic needs of life in even better ways than we used to,” Gray said. “We talk about a spending plan rather than a budget. A budget is like going on a diet. No one likes that. With a spending plan we help people see how they can take what they have and address their needs in more efficient ways. Anytime you don’t have a plan or a destination for your money before it comes, it’s going to fly in places you never thought it would and you don’t remember where it went,” Gray said. “It doesn’t matter if you make $25,000 a year, or $2,500 a year. There’s a way to live with what you’ve got, and we would like to show people how to do what they need to do in a self-sufficient way. We love helping people help themselves.”

Agape expands with office in Punxsutawney

DuBOIS — To better serve those in need AGAPE now has two locations — not only an office in DuBois but one in Punxsutawney as well, according to Executive Director Gina Gray.

AGAPE, which comes from the Greek word, and means unconditional love, Gray said.

“That’s the approach we try to take with people. Everybody has a need at some time in life, but not everybody has family members that can help them, or knows a lot about the community resources,” Gray said. “It’s our job to get out there and let people know what we can do. We’re a conglomerate that meets needs We refer a lot of people.”

Everything AGAPE does is based on faith — the idea of reaching out and helping those who need it, Gray said. AGAPE serves residents in Clearfield, Elk and Jefferson counties.

“We now have an office in Punxsutawney, as well as we still have our building here in DuBois and still rent rooms and efficiency apartments,” Gray said. Currently, the two efficiency apartments and 10 rooms it rents out are full. The purpose in obtaining the property at 804 DuBois St., was to provide low-income adults without subsidies, an affordable housing option. The DuBois office is located on the first floor of that building.

The Punxsutawney office is located on West Mahoning Street.

“It’s tough for low-income people without a means of transportation to get to our office in DuBois,” Gray said. “In order to cover some of those Jefferson County clients, we have moved into Punxsutawney as well. It was a goal of ours for about four years. We’re glad that goal has finally been realized.”

AGAPE is also the administrator of the Furniture Bank on Shaffer Road in DuBois. There, donations of gently used furniture are processed and distributed to residents of Elk, Clearfield and Jefferson counties. The cost of the furniture is generally less than yard sale prices and is based on income and free to families who have lost their furnishings due to a verifiable fire.

The staff encourages people to come and find suitable furniture at a low cost instead of renting to own from a retailer. Their dollars will stretch much further at the Furniture Bank, and they only pay once, not every week.

St. Marys Chamber talks goals for new year

ST. MARYS — The St. Marys Area Chamber of Commerce is poised and ready to take on the new year.

Its new managing director Ann Pistner Gabler, who started there in September, said the Chamber will keep up all of its flagship events like the fireworks and the Wing Fling, but is working to find moneymaking projects to allow it to invest back into the community.

“We need to have some events that enable us to generate money to actually support the downtown,” Gabler said. “It should be the goal of the Chamber of Commerce to promote our town.”

This year’s goal is to publish a glossy Chamber book promoting the community as well as holding a Women’s Appreciation Night purse fundraiser. It also produced a St. Marys Monopoly game as a fundraiser.

Gabler said 2017 was a transitioning year for the Chamber as it was without an official leader and was kept afloat by the hard work of 10-year veteran employee Charlene Fledderman. Gabler is hopeful 2018 will bring the organization back on track.

Gabler recognized the impact the internet is having on the shape of Main Street businesses, and says she is hopeful the Chamber can help with that transition.

It is also working to expand its website so members can include photos, ads, and additional information on the Chamber website.

Additionally, Gabler said the community has expressed in overwhelming voices the need for a new grocery store in town, she is currently working on finding a solution.

With industries expected to continue to grow by approximately 34 percent in the coming years, according to Gabler, she also hopes the Chamber can help to find a way to meet those demands by finding ways to keep young people in the area to fill those positions.

“We’re really working to move to be a part of the city and to work as a team,” Gabler said. “The image of the Chamber will change if we do something for our town.”

“Whatever anybody needs, I’ll do it,” Gabler said.

Brockway council updated on recreational plan

BROCKWAY — Peter Varischetti stopped by the Brockway Borough Council’s regular meeting Thursday to update the council on a new initiative.

“Brockway has something special,” Varischetti said. “Not too many places have a trout stream running through town, rails-to-trails, and parks nearby. We need to fully realize the recreational assets of this area.”

Varischetti told the council about the Brockway Recreational Revitalization Plan he has been working on with several stakeholders in the area. The idea is to have the Herbert, Rowland, and Grubic (HRG) civil engineering group work with the community through town halls and surveys to see what the community wants to do with the recreational areas available to it. Over an eight-month period, HRG will gather information and then give a list of improvements.

“It’s really exciting,” Varischetti said, “and will be a tremendous benefit to our residents and visitors.”

Inzana, Turnbull
take oath of office

Mayor Bill Hrinya officiated the oath of office for incoming Councilman Lu Inzana. Inzana is taking over Floyd Work’s term. Hrinya also swore in returning borough health officer Emerson Turnbull.

Fire calls at 16 so far

The volunteer fire department responded to four calls in the borough since the January meeting, 16 for the year.

FEMA grants

It has also applied for two FEMA grants. One is to replace radio equipment first purchased in 2006. This grant includes departments in Jefferson, Clearfield, and Elk counties. The other grant is to replace some fans which were installed decades ago.

Fire Dept. fundraiser

In addition, the department is hosting a fundraising spaghetti dinner to kickstart the Jeffrey Fustine Memorial Scholarship Fund from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 18. The spaghetti and sauce was donated by Del Grosso’s. The scholarship is for Brockway Area Junior-Senior High School seniors who will be going into a field related to emergency service. Another fundraiser going on is the Gun Bash on March 24.

Officer training

The fire department will have a battalion chief from Harrisburg come in to train chiefs, captains, and lieutenants from this area on March 10. This training is designed for areas like Brockway.

Local ambulance
saves nearly $80,000

The Brockway Area Ambulance turned its 2007 ambulance into a 2018 E350 ambulance by taking the back end of the ambulance where the EMTs and the patients ride, refurbishing it, and then putting it on a new chassis. This process saved nearly $80,000, according to Council President Chris “Smoke” Benson. The ambulance is two-wheel drive, but Brockway Ambulance still has two four-wheel-drive ambulances in service.

Student representatives

Student representatives Angelo Inzana and Jordan Faith updated the borough council on events at Brockway Area Junior-Senior High School. This prompted Benson to say that sports events at Brockway are well attended but could be better attended. He pointed out the current basketball season – including Leah Lindemuth scoring her 1,000th career point this past week.

Hrinya also pointed out “the girl singing the National Anthem does a great job.” Faith sings the National Anthem at Brockway sports events.

Young people
in the community

Related to the student representatives and volunteers to fill Work’s position, Benson said that he hopes the community could get more young people involved.

“There are so many things that can be done in the community,” he said. “Young people going to college can come back in the summer and find something to help out with.”

Openings on Rec Board

One area that needs help is the recreation board. The board has two borough-resident openings and one Snyder Township-resident opening.

Lu Inzana said board members tend to do a lot of work at Taylor Memorial Park, so there’s a frequent turnover as members get tired. Anyone who would like to serve on the recreation board should send a letter of interest to the council at the borough building.

Next meeting

The council will meet again Thursday, March 1, at 7 p.m. at the borough building.