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Nonprofits compete for biggest grants at Luzerne Forum

Jane Dougherty speaks to the Luzerne Foundation board on behalf of Pennsylvania Theatre of Performing Arts (PTPA)
Haley O'Brien
Jane Dougherty speaks to the Luzerne Foundation board on behalf of Pennsylvania Theatre of Performing Arts (PTPA).

Several movers-and-shakers in the Hazleton and Weatherly communities showed a board what they’re working on and asked for more funding to bring their visions to life. 26 applicants were chosen to be part of the 2nd annual Pasco L. Schiavo Grant Forum that took place at theLaunchBox in Hazleton.

Pasco L. Schiavo was a philanthropist who left part of his estate to benefit nonprofits in the Hazleton and Weatherly areas. The Pasco L. Schiavo Memorial Fund is managed by The Luzerne Foundation.

At the forum, a representative from each organization took the podium for three minutes to show what they could do with the funding that’s up for grabs. Afterward, the Board of the Luzerne Foundation collectively decided the amount that each nonprofit would receive.

David Pedri, President and CEO of the Luzerne Foundation, says about $160,000 was awarded this year, and each nonprofit will receive between $5,000 and $10,000.

“We’re asking our nonprofits to be leaders in the community,” he said. “To come up with new and innovative ideas. What’s new, what’s different, and how can we support you in that mission.”

Presenters had a lot of ideas for how they could spend the money.

“Last year, you did provide funding to help us get started with our outdoor classroom,” said Peter Bobrowski from Hazleton Area Elementary and Middle School. He showed a design of what he hopes the space will look like upon completion and described what still needs to be done.

Michele Kushmeder from the Hazleton Area Library says the 100-year-old building doesn’t have enough electrical outlets.

“What we thought we could do would be a mobile power source,” she said. “They’re rechargeable and you can just take them with you anywhere in the building that you need them.”

Kushmeder presented her research on the short-term solution and showed locally-made power devices priced around $4,000 to $5,000.

Meanwhile, Weatherly’s Library needs furniture for a new computer lab. President Susan Gerhard pointed out that Carbon County’s libraries don’t receive county funding, while Luzerne libraries do.

The requests ranged from arts and education programs to critical needs like the Ronald McDonald House of Danville, the Greater Wyoming Valley YMCA, and Brandon’s Forever Home for children in foster care.

Paul Bray from the Weatherly Fire Company says they need to upgrade their radios, because every other company surrounding them has upgraded to a digital system.

“They can’t talk to us anymore because they’re on a digital channel. Carbon is still on UHF frequencies,” he said. “But if we’re at a scene of a big fire and we can’t talk, that’s an issue. And it’s for the safety of the community.”

Many asked for more than $10,000, including Lew Brill from the Freeland Recreation Board.

“Anything you can give us would be appreciated. I understand that we asked for a lot of money. And we’re not done asking,” he said.