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Beyond The Mission Statement: Leadership Wilkes-Barre

Leadership Wilkes-Barre Core Program

 

2020 Core Program aims to improve NEPA one inspiring project at a time.

Since its inception in 1981, Leadership Wilkes-Barre has been molding young leaders and developing strong ties between local leadership and the community. For nearly 40 years, the nonprofit organization has committed itself to promoting and proliferating the exceptional quality of life in the Greater Wilkes-Barre Area and Northeastern Pennsylvania at large.

Through six dynamic programs, Leadership Wilkes-Barre has consistently spurred the public, local business and industry and the nonprofit sector into meaningful action. To date, nearly 3,000 participants have graduated from Leadership’s programs. And many in their vast, yet close knit alumni network now run their own businesses. Some have launched nonprofits or climbed to influential leadership positions. A few have even been elected to local political offices.

 

 

Small groups, hard work and big ideas combine to build a stronger community.

The foundation of this remarkably successful organization is the Leadership Core Program. Every September, after a summer-long selection process, the Core Program begins anew. An eager group of nearly 50 local professionals comes together for what will be nine life-changing months. They come from a wide array of backgrounds, interests and occupations. Some descend from the rural reaches of NEPA – others, from nearby cities and suburbs. By the time they’ve reached the end of the 2-day opening program, however, their focus is singular – improving quality of life in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

The larger group is sectioned into several, smaller project teams. Each team identifies a specific community need and designs a plan to address it. Throughout the ensuing months, teams organize fundraising events, collaborate with nonprofit organizations, develop working relationships with local businesses and meet myriad challenges thrown their way.

In the end, they’ve worked together, overcome differences, celebrated strengths and built something that transcends the program. Each Community Impact Project raises awareness, meets a community need and echoes through the region with resounding positivity.

 

Meet The Teams

 

 

We recently took some time to meet each of the Leadership Wilkes-Barre Core Program teams. We quizzed them on their Community Impact Projects, the planning process and all of the hard work and dedication involved. Get to know the Leadership Wilkes-Barre Class of 2020.

 

The Sand Lot

 

 

Team Members

Erin Alenciks — Geisinger
Michael Czerniakowski — Vive Health & Fitness
Olin Covington — Baker Tilly
Jennifer Henniges — Penn State Wilkes-Barre
Chris Kresge — Borton-Lawson
Emily Lorenzen — Geisinger
Brandon Meshkofski — Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins
Gianna Moulton — King’s College

 

Nonprofit Organization

Wilkes-Barre Little League

Community Impact Project

Renovating the concession stand at the W-B Little league field / building the league website

We didn’t know each other before Leadership Wilkes-Barre but focusing on one goal together has brought out the best in ourselves and the best in our community and we have truly become a family.

Gianna Moulton

 

How did The Sand Lot come to the decision to partner with Wilkes-Barre Little League?

Leadership Wilkes-Barre holds an opening retreat for the new class each year and a few of the fathers from the Wilkes-Barre Little League (WBLL) pitched their idea to us. This is the second year the little league will be combined to serve the entire city of Wilkes-Barre and there were a variety of projects each of their two fields needed to make them fully usable.

Our group, the Sand Lot, felt working with the WBLL would be an opportunity to bring the community together and make an impactful change on the children and families who are a part of the league.

How will your team’s project benefit Wilkes-Barre Little League?

The Sand Lot’s mission is to revitalize and transform the spirit of the Wilkes-Barre Little League. In an effort to do so, we will first be renovating the concession stand at the South Wilkes-Barre Little League Field. The stand needs a little tender love and care, so we are raising money to buy new flooring, appliances, paint, cabinets, and shelving.

Additionally, we are working with Socialocca, a marketing agency in Wilkes-Barre, to create the first-ever WBLL website. The website will include a place for families to register their players online and access game schedules. The site will also be translated into both English and Spanish.

Can you describe a moment from this project that your team will never forget?

Many of us grew up playing sports and fortunately had the resources to play and practice on updated fields. When we did our site visits to the little league fields, we saw that there was a great need for our help, and it solidified how important this project was going to be.

Go ahead and drop a shout out to any local businesses or organizations that helped your team along the way.

We would like to send a huge thank you to all of our sponsors and supporters for their incredible generosity, especially Wise Crackers Comedy Club for holding our fundraising event and to our employers for their donations and endorsement which include Borton-Lawson, King’s College, Baker Tilly, Penn State Wilkes-Barre, Geisinger, Vive Health & Fitness, and the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins.

Our fundraiser could not have happened without Circles on the Square, Gerrity’s, Nucleus Raw Foods, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Chiropractic Rehab, Best Cigar Prices, Philadelphia Hair Design, Meta Physical, The Woodlands, Mohegan Sun Arena, Alexanders Spa & Salon, Kalahari Resorts and Conventions, Red Rock Scoop, and The Embroidery Factory for their contributions as well.

What do you hope you and your teammates will take away from this project?

Our team hopes to finish this project knowing how much influence a small group of committed community members can have. We didn’t know each other before Leadership Wilkes-Barre but focusing on one goal together has brought out the best in ourselves and the best in our community and we have truly become a family. We are hopeful that this experience will lead us to participate in or create future projects that will continue to make NEPA even brighter!

 

Dream Builders

 

 

Team Members

Nicholas J. Marinelli, Esq. – Rosenn, Jenkins & Greenwald, LLP
Christopher Langley – Allied Services
Dawn Smith – Luzerne County Head Start
Donna Caruso – Eleventh Element
Jean Holmgren – Maternal & Family Health Services
Kay Winn — Geisinger
Kevin Walsh, Esq. – Hourigan, Kluger & Quinn, P.C.
Mark Hoover – Times-Shamrock Communications

 

Nonprofit Organization

Brandon’s Forever Home

Community Impact Project

Renovating the playground at Brandon’s Forever Home.

The children who visit Brandon’s Forever Home have been through a lot in their young lives, and we want to transform the backyard into a space where they can relax and feel like kids again.

Nick Marinelli

 

How did The Dream Builders come to the decision to partner with Brandon’s Forever Home?

We considered several non-profits in the area for our project, and it wasn’t easy to make a decision. They all were doing great things in the community. What helped us make our decision was to consider which project could have the largest impact over time. Brandon’s Forever Home has made a huge impact on foster families in Luzerne County. They are also poised to expand into Lackawanna County. Eventually, Brandon’s Forever Home could become a model of foster family services replicated across Pennsylvania. We hope our project will become part of that model as they expand.

How will your team’s project benefit Brandon’s Forever Home?

Brandon’s Forever Home has a small backyard, and there’s nothing to do outside there right now. We are going to take this under-utilized space and create a fun, safe outside play area. Our goal is to install a play set, as well as some STEM inspired outdoor toys. The children who visit BFH have been through a lot in their young lives, and we want to transform the backyard into a space where they can relax and feel like kids again.

Can you describe a moment from this project that your team will never forget?

We’ve had some pretty great moments so far. We believe the moment we will never forget, however, will be when we finally have the playground installed. We can’t wait to see the children play in their new backyard for the first time. That will definitely be the moment we will never forget.

Go ahead and drop a shout out to any local businesses or organizations that helped your team along the way.

Thank you to our friends, families, coworkers and the rest of our Leadership Wilkes-Barre class for all of their support. We’d also like to thank the following businesses who have supported us:

Cougar Prints Misericordia University Printing & Mailing Services
Topp Copy
Falvello Law

What do you hope you and your teammates will take away from this project?

Most importantly, we want to know that we’ve done something that will help the foster children in Luzerne County. We hope this playground will be something they can enjoy, and that it makes their experience in foster care a little brighter.

It’s also been a great experience working as a team, and we’re walking away with new friendships, and a lot of experience in problem solving, communication and working as a team.

 

Mission Nutrition

 

 

Team Members

Chad DeBona –Assured Partners of NEPA
Terri Shaner — Martz Group
Beth Doherty — King’s College
John Shemo — Geisinger Health Plan
Duane Frank — Axiom Payment Solutions
Alexandra Treslar — Luzerne Bank
Ryan Lovett — CVS/Caremark
Stacy White — UGI Utilities, Inc.

 

Nonprofit Organization

Volunteers in Medicine

Community Impact Project

Provide an industrial refrigerator for the storage of fresh produce in the Volunteers in Medicine kitchen.

The whole process of the Leadership Wilkes-Barre Class of 2020 is something we will never forget!

Ryan Lovett

 

How did Mission Nutrition come to the decision to partner with Volunteers in Medicine?

We wanted to help hardworking people in NEPA who cannot afford health insurance or who are under-insured. This includes many types of care; primary and preventative care, dental and chiropractic care. Volunteers in Medicine offers all of this and more including a food pantry to provide fresh food to their patients. They also reached out to Leadership Wilkes-Barre as a local non-profit in need of assistance. Once we visited their location, and learned about their mission, we were all excited to create our team: Mission Nutrition.

How will your team’s project benefit Volunteers in Medicine?

Volunteers in Medicine hands out donated food on Mondays in their food pantry. They are limited due to the lack of capacity and the short shelf life of food since they do not have a refrigeration unit. Our goal is to provide a large commercial refrigerator and shelving so they are able to distribute food on a daily basis, including fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy. This will help them serve their patients as food is medicine. We want to provide a sustainable contribution and the refrigerator and shelving will be able to continue benefiting them long after our project has ended.

Can you describe a moment from this project that your team will never forget?

The whole process of the Leadership Wilkes-Barre Class of 2020 is something we will never forget!

Go ahead and drop a shout out to any local businesses or organizations that helped your team along the way.

Shout to the following businesses and organizations: Fitness Headquarters, Geisinger Health Plan, Assured Partners of NEPA, King’s College, Axion Payment Solutions, Martz Group, CVS/Caremark, UGI Utilities, Inc., Luzerne Bank, Rob Friedman and the River Street Jazz Café and Discover NEPA.

What do you hope you and your teammates will take away from this project?

We hope to get a better perspective and understanding of who needs help and who is doing the helping. Through servant leadership, this project will help equip Volunteers in Medicine with the tools necessary to help those in need in NEPA, and continue to provide support in the future.

 

Art Story

 

 

Team Members

Patrick Creedon – The Commission on Economic Opportunity
Leah Fuller – Benco Dental Supply
Kelly Gulvas – FNCB Bank
Kevin Hosler – InterMetro Industries
Megan Mundy – King’s College
Samuel O’Connell – Coal Creative
Anne Rodella – F.M. Kirby Center of the Performing Arts
Tara Wagner – Geisinger

 

Nonprofit Organization

Verve Vertu Art Studio

Community Impact Project

Kitchen renovation at Verve Vertu Art Studio.

Having this first-hand experience and opportunity to connect with the artists of Verve Vertu was really special.

Tara Wagner

 

How did Art Story come to the decision to partner with Verve Vertu?

A few members of our team were familiar with Verve Vertu and their mission. Once the rest of our group heard about Verve Vertu, it was an easy decision. Who wouldn’t want to help such a unique nonprofit that’s using art to help those with diverse abilities in our community?!

How will your team’s project benefit Verve Vertu?

We’re providing them with a full-service kitchen to accommodate their special needs, allowing them to add more opportunity for programming for the community.

Can you describe a moment from this project that your team will never forget?

The Verve Vertunes (a musical group of artists from the studio) performed at our fundraiser. Watching them perform, while their peers danced and enjoyed themselves was magical! Having this first-hand experience and opportunity to connect with the artists of Verve Vertu was really special.

Go ahead and drop a shout out to any local businesses or organizations that helped your team along the way.

A considerable number of individuals and businesses have supported our fundraiser and the overall project – too many to list them all! We truly appreciate the donations we have received from family, friends and local businesses like Pizza Perfect, Bernie’s Pizza and Benco Dental, who provided some of the refreshments and raffle baskets for our fundraiser. In addition, Joe Calore, Jeff Rysz and Nick MacDougall from the Commission on Economic Opportunity have provided in-kind services for the kitchen renovation and have been amazing to work with! It has been very humbling to see the community pull together in support of the mission of this wonderful organization.

What do you hope you and your teammates will take away from this project?

In addition to being proud of what we’ve done for Verve Vertu, we’re all very thankful for the friendships and the amazing bond we’ve created as a project team.

 

Fostering Magic

 

 

Team Members

Lori Bednar – Navient
Shelley Centini, Esq. – Dyller Law Firm
Jennifer Haddick – Prudential Financial
Nicole Hurchick – Leadership Wilkes-Barre
Matt Marriggi – Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine
Rhonda Rabbitt – Wilkes University
Aaron Richards – Tobyhanna Army Depot
Jessica Yurek – Keller Williams Real Estate

 

Nonprofit Organization

Unicornucopia

Community Impact Project

Raising awareness of Unicornucopia by updating website and creating a promotional video.

When we spent a night wrapping Christmas presents for the foster children, we were all struck by the “wish lists” the kids filled out. These items, like clothes, toys, shoes, socks, etc., are all items we take for granted in our day-to-day lives.

Shelley Centini, Esq.

 

How did Fostering Magic come to the decision to partner with Unicornucopia?

One of our team members was already volunteering with Unicornicopia, so when she told the group about this nonprofit and what it needed, we all jumped on board and decided to support it.

How will your team’s project benefit Unicornucopia?

Unicornucopia is a fairly-new nonprofit. It became an official 501c3 in 2019. Our project group is working to raise awareness of this new organization and create a new website for them to utilize. We’re also raising funds and soliciting donations for holiday and birthday gifts for the foster children.

Can you describe a moment from this project that your team will never forget?

When we spent a night wrapping Christmas presents for the foster children, we were all struck by the “wish lists” the kids filled out. These items, like clothes, toys, shoes, socks, etc., are all items we take for granted in our day-to-day lives. Some wish lists were fulfilled, but not all were and that was really tough to see.

Go ahead and drop a shout out to any local businesses or organizations that helped your team along the way.

We’d like to thank the following local businesses for their support:

Wilkes University, Tobyhanna Army Depot, Prudential, Navient, Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine, Dyller Law Firm, Leadership Wilkes-Barre, Senuna’s Bar & Grill, The Polished Look, Sabatelle’s, Cebulas, Plains Pub, Brickhouse Tavern, Vino, Valenti’s, Theo’s Metro, American Grill, Beauty Counter, The Downpour, Montage Mountain Resorts, Pampered Chef, Pittston Ketchup, Hooligan’s, Six String Saloon, Brace’s Orchard, Eden-a-Vegan, River Street Jazz Café, Abide Coffee House, Pour Coffee House.

What do you hope you and your teammates will take away from this project?

We hope that, through the work we’re doing, more people will be aware of Unicornucopia and its mission, and want to volunteer their time or make a donation. It’s such an amazing organization that’s doing a great job supporting these kids, but because they’re so new, they definitely could use more help.

 

Keystone Generations

 

 

Team Members

Steve Alessi — Penn State
Betsy Baggs — O’Donnell Law
Ryan Hertel — Socialocca
Jessica Ives — Family Service Association
Jackie Kendzor — Berkshire Hathaway GUARD Insurance
Rob Lopata — Benco Dental
Theresa Morgan — Kings College
Karen Sepko — Geisinger
Lou Spaciano — Borton-Lawson

 

Nonprofit Organization

Keystone Mission

Community Impact Project

Working with Keystone Mission to improve availability of resources offered to grandparents raising their grandchildren in NEPA.

We hope to show that a group of professionals, all from different backgrounds, can unite to develop a sustainable program that will help the NEPA area for years to come.

Lou Spaciano

 

How did Keystone Generations come to the decision to partner with Keystone Mission?

We went around one by one and discussed our interests at our first team meeting. Based on this session, it was apparent that our group wanted to help those in need. We especially wanted to help children in the NEPA area. One of our team members noted they had a contact at Keystone Mission and set up a meeting. We met with Justin Behrens at Keystone Mission shortly thereafter. One of the first topics we discussed was the rising trend of Grandparents raising Grandchildren. Everything clicked at that point in time!

How will your team’s project benefit Keystone Mission?

The Keystone Generations project consists of purchasing an enclosed cargo trailer that will help improve distribution operations of clothing, hygiene products, and other essential items to Grandparents raising Grandchildren. The trailer will be used to store these items as well as allow Keystone Mission to deliver the items directly to the Grandparents.

Can you describe a moment from this project that your team will never forget?

We’ve had a lot of memorable moments, especially at our fundraising event at Benny Brewing on January 26, 2020.  However, one of the most memorable moments was meeting at 4 A.M. on a cold January morning to make an appearance and promote our project on WNEP’s Leckey Live segment.  It was great!

Go ahead and drop a shout out to any local businesses or organizations that helped your team along the way.

We’d like to thank Benny Brewing, Benco Dental, Borton-Lawson, O’Donnel Law, Gregory Center for Autism, Primerica Financial Advisors, Berkshire Hathaway Guard Insurance Companies, Fino’s Pharmacy, Borton-Lawson, Mericle Commercial Real Estate Services, Nocito Law Firm, Conversion Worx, DJ Ryan Kenton, Center City Print, and Intermetro.

We’d like to send a special thank you to all of the organizations that donated towards our raffle baskets!

We’d also like to thank our employers (Benco Dental, Berkshire Hathaway GUARD Insurance Companies, Borton-Lawson, Family Service Association of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Geisinger, Kings College, O’Donnel Law Offices, Penn State University, and Socialocca) for nominating us for the Leadership Wilkes-Barre program.

What do you hope you and your teammates will take away from this project?

We hope to show that a group of professionals, all from different backgrounds, can unite to develop a sustainable program that will help the NEPA area for years to come.

In our effort to create Northeastern Pennsylvania’s most comprehensive nonprofit directory, we came across hundreds of amazing organizations. Naturally, we wanted to share their inspiring stories.

In this series, we aim to highlight the hard-working organizations, the good people, the selfless volunteers, the helpers, the healers, the listeners, the comforters and all the great work they do. We hope that, through these stories, you too will be inspired to lend your time, your hands and your hearts. Follow along as we take a look beyond the mission statement.

Courtney Snyder

About the Photographer

Courtney Snyder

Originally from Williamsport, Courtney is a 2019 Marywood grad. She enjoys discovering the often-overlooked beauty of NEPA, making clean Jeeps dirty, and cuddling with her chunky cat, Marley.

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