A goal of the CAN DO Planning Committee more than 25 years ago was to establish an affiliate organization to support worthwhile projects that would enhance the quality of life in Greater Hazleton. In 1992, the CAN DO Community Foundation was founded as the organization to carry out CAN DO’s intention. This organization, initially funded with seed money from CAN DO, has grown through the generosity of donors to its annual fund drive along with donations of real estate and bequeathed endowments.
The Foundation leverages these funds through the application of funding through other foundations and governmental programs. The Foundation created a unique model to carry out its mission of “Conservation, Preservation and Reclamation CPR – Breathing New life into the Community.” The Foundation partners or “adopts” a project with nonprofit organizations to support a focused project that meets its mission. Scholarships have also been endowed.
Current projects that are underway include:
CORREALE STADIUM LITTLE LEAGUE PRACTICE FIELDS
The Foundation was asked to take a leadership role in the restoration of the Little League practice fields at Correale Stadium. The Foundation teamed up with Hazleton Little League, the City of Hazleton and CAN DO to improve the fields needed to meet the increased demand for children with a desire to learn to play baseball. Funding was received for the completion of a master plan. With the plan in place, permitting has been approved for the initial phase. This phase will alleviate a drainage problem that erodes the fields during heavy rain storms. Local contractors, the City of Hazleton and Greater Hazleton Sewer Authority have donated equipment and labor to assist with the project. The bidding process is being completed and the Foundation is working with the Little League to secure funding for additional work.
FERRWOOD MUSIC CAMP
Beginning in the first week of July, the Ferrwood Music Camp in Drums will be in full swing. The capacity enrollment continues a long local tradition begun by “Father Joe” Ferrara in 1969.
The Foundation adopted the Ferrwood Music Camp and, working with the Greater Hazleton Philharmonic Society over a number of years, was successful in the restoration the facility and having it placed on the National Register of Historical Places. The collective effort of so many individuals, businesses, organizations, unions and government entities saved this historic gem. The beautiful campground was originally a "fresh air camp” for children predisposed to tuberculosis. Other uses today include a wellness and nutrition camp, a camp for visually impaired students and a venue for other youth arts-related activities. With the assistance of CAN DO, the responsibility of maintaining and operating the facility has been assigned to the Foundation. Ferrwood is the sight of the Foundation’s annual meetings. Board members enjoy the camp’s practice sessions and a presentation by the students.
The Foundation is working with the Freeland YMCA and the Borough of Freeland on a project that is restoring the front façade of the building to its original look. Previous work on the front of the facility has diminished the architectural integrity of this well-utilized community center. The façade project is part of a community-wide capital campaign. Applications to fund the façade work have been completed and received with the assistance of the Foundation to augment the capital campaign fund drive. Phase I of the façade work is complete. Additional work will commence this summer.
DOWNTOWN HAZLETON ALLIANCE FOR PROGRESS
Following a CAN DO Community Foundation “ideation” meeting in February of 2013, a prospective project approved by the Foundation board is the revitalization of downtown Hazleton. It was decided that the first step would be the development of a plan. The project was energized by a group of volunteers, and in less than a year, the Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress had been established. With an ambitious goal to revitalize the downtown, DHAP is well-organized, well-led, and well-positioned to carry out its mission. The organization is providing a focus and leadership at this critical time in our city’s history in order to take advantage of the new economic development opportunities that have been presented to us. These include the completion of the Broad Street Corridor Project and the private investment for the rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of our historic bank buildings to house DBi, Inc. corporate headquarters, bringing 130 employees to the downtown. A total of 20 net new businesses have been located in the central business district recently. The Foundation, CAN DO, the Chamber of Commerce, the City of Hazleton, and business, education and professional leaders that include the Latino community have joined together to achieve this goal. As part of a community fund drive, the Foundation is a benefactor to support the efforts of DHAP.
HAZLETON HISTORIC DISTRICT
The Foundation offered support to the Greater Hazleton Historical Society in their efforts to establish a Historic District in the City of Hazleton. The mission is to designate the neighborhood and focus on the restoration of historic homes and secure available incentives to support the preservation. The Foundation is working with the Historical Society to receive a planning grant from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
SAINT GABRIEL HOUSE
The Foundation has adopted the Saint Gabriel House and is working with the Housing Development Corp. of NEPA to restore the 80-year-old building that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The former Sisters of Mercy convent was repurposed to residential use over a decade ago. The plan is to restore and preserve the structure to assure its continuing presence. The unique and irreplaceable stone, masonry, woodwork and stained glass require specialized attention.
Other projects that the Foundation was involved in include:
THE FORMER HAZLETON HIGH SCHOOL “CASTLE” RESTORATION
The Alice C. Wiltsie Performing Arts Center was a benefactor of foundation funding to restore the former Hazleton High School auditorium that at one time was slated for the wrecking ball. The Foundation worked with the committee that succeeded in accomplishing certain conditions on the grant that included National Register of Historic Places restoration requirements along with the completion of a development and business plan to support the success of the restoration and operations of the center.
TRI AREA RECREATION
Aided the Tri Area Recreation Authority with their reclamation of land for the development of the recreation area named the Louis Schiavo City View Park that includes active and passive recreational opportunities.
SHEPPTON MINE DISASTER SITE
As part of the 50th anniversary of the Sheppton Mine Disaster, it was learned that the site did not have a marker designating the location. In conjunction with Standard Speaker staff volunteering their time, an application was submitted to the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission for a marker and received approval. The signage, funded by the Foundation, was placed during a ceremony last year.
The CAN DO Community Foundation also provides scholarships for area students. These include:
PENN STATE HAZLETON SCHOLARSHIPS
The CAN DO Community Foundation has a fully-endowed scholarship program that makes awards annually to Penn State Hazleton students who reside in the CAN DO service area.
EDGAR L. DESSEN COMMUNITY LEADERSHIP AWARD
The founding father of CAN DO, Edgar L. Dessen, is memorialized with Community Service Awards named for him. These awards provide area high school juniors scholarships annually to join the Junior Leadership of Greater Hazleton program in their senior year.
FERRWOOD MUSIC CAMP “CAMPERSHIP” AWARDS
Joseph Yenchko, CAN DO’s first Executive Director, is memorialized with "Camperships" named in his memory that are awarded annually to 10 area youth that do not have the means to attend the Ferrwood Music Camp. These “Camperships” take the lead in the procuring of numerous awards that continue to grow funded by individuals, businesses and foundations.
For more information on the CAN DO Community Foundation, visit www.candocommunityfoundation.com or call 570-455-1508.