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Heart & Soul

Wyoming County is rich in natural beauty and landscape, a combination of rolling farmlands and vast woodlands situated along Route 6 and the Susquehanna River, interspersed with quaint rural villages, historic sites, tumbling streams, and scenic vistas.

The true beauty of Wyoming County lies not in one specific area but in a colorful combination of residents of rural towns and neighborhoods united in the single splendor of a Kaleidoscope of Communities.

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The Pennsylvania Humanities Council (PHC) has partnered with the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) and the PA Route 6 Alliance to support Carbondale, Youngsville, Wyoming County, and Tidioute along their paths to becoming stronger, more vibrant communities using Community Heart & Soul®, a humanities-based approach to community and economic development. Additional support is provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR)

Through this unique partnership among government agencies and state and regional nonprofits, PHC is providing training and technical support valued at an estimated $50,000 per year to each town in partnership with the Community Heart & Soul national staff. In addition, the communities may receive up to $25,000 per year in combined funding over the course of two years from PHC, DCED, PA Route 6 Alliance, and DCNR for a total investment valued at up to $150,000 per community.

Since 2015, PHC has worked to bring Community Heart & Soul®, a model originally pioneered by Orton Family Foundation, to communities across Pennsylvania. Carbondale, Youngsville, Wyoming County, and Tidioute join the towns of Ambridge, Beaver Falls, Rochester, Dillsburg, Upper Chichester, Cameron County, Greater Carlisle, Mount Holly Springs, Meadville, and Williamsport.

“The humanities have proven a powerful tool for community and economic development in Pennsylvania,” said Laurie Zierer, PHC’s executive director. “Despite the present challenges, our resilient Community Heart & Soul towns are finding innovative and safe ways to engage residents, build relationships, honor homegrown talents and assets, and reclaim and reshape their communities.” 

“Our mission at DCED is to provide resources to help our communities flourish,” said Rick Vilello, DCED’s Depuhttps://www.communityheartandsoul.org/ty Secretary of Community Affairs and Development. “This partnership with the Pennsylvania Humanities Council and the Heart and Soul project will serve to strengthen efforts already underway in these communities, making them better places to live, work, and play.”

PHC will provide overall training to the Route 6 cohort on using the humanities as a tool for community planning. Communities will learn how to gather residents’ stories, develop unique town values, and create an action plan for the future. In addition, each town is matched with an official Community Heart & Soul® coach, a trained professional tasked with mentoring the community through the planning process. As a result, communities work together to become more connected, resourceful, and resilient. 

“With its vast natural, cultural, scenic, recreational, and historical resources, the Pennsylvania Route 6 Heritage Corridor is primed for growth,” said Candace Hillyard, executive director of the PA Route 6 Alliance. “I am thrilled to see Community Heart & Soul® come to the region, which will put residents first in planning for their future.”

Called “one of America’s most scenic drives” by National Geographic, the Route 6 Heritage Corridor traverses the northern tier of Pennsylvania from Ohio to New York. At over 400 miles, it is the longest highway segment in the Commonwealth. Community Heart & Soul® will start in all four locations in March of 2021.

“Wyoming County is thrilled to be named a Heart & Soul community by the PA Humanities Council. We are excited to partner on this journey to gather residents’ stories and create an action plan for an inclusive, connected, resourceful, and resilient Wyoming County” states Project Coordinator Debbie Shurtleff.

The project will commence in March as we welcome volunteers to our Community Heart & Soul team and coordinate with local leaders. Join us and take this opportunity to share your talents and vision for Wyoming County!

Current committee members include Ernie King, Wyoming County Commissioner, Lynnelle Farber, Wyoming County Community Planning Office, Gina Suydam, Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce, Erica Rogler, Wyoming County Cultural Center and Dietrich Theater, Cain Chamberlin, Endless Mountains Heritage Region, Jean Ruhf, Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau, Allison Schultz, Community Liaison Member, and Debbie Shurtleff, Community Heart & Soul Project Coordinator, Wyoming County Community Alliance.

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