Leadership Wilkes-Barre Projects Benefit Community

May 7, 2019

Helping children, coming to the aid of the physically and mentally challenged, and empowering down-on-their luck women are just a few of community projects that members of this year’s Leadership Wilkes-Barre class are working on.

Other projects in the works include placing mini community libraries inside former newspaper vending machines around the area. Another is teaching pre-schoolers about health and safety and getting them ready for kindergarten. The sixth project is beautifying downtown Pittston.

Leadership Wilkes-Barre is a year-long community service program that educates and trains emerging leaders in the Greater Wilkes-Barre area and encourages networking opportunities.

The program is dedicated to improving the quality of life in the area, as class members are tasked with working in teams to develop influential civic projects. This year’s projects include:

• The Little Leaders group will teach preschoolers at Heights Elementary School about interactive, educational and inspirational experiences. They will provide the children with tote bags with items on dental health, safety and preparing for kindergarten.

• Leaders in the Outfield will renovate the Wyoming Valley Challengers baseball field in Wilkes-Barre.

• Learning with Books: A Little Free Library Project will create six mini libraries in former newspaper stands around the area.

• Dressed to the 9s will help organize and do some remodeling at Dress for Success Luzerne County, which provides women with attire to help them secure employment.

• Back to the Future, Pittston Edition is working on a beautification project in downtown Pittston and adopted a wing at Wesley Village during the Christmas season.

• Parks and Restoration is helping Quality Hill Park Association renovate after a wind storm caused trees to topple fencing around the park last year.

Little Leaders

Group members: Matthew Ceruti, United Way of Wyoming Valley; Caroline Chronowski, Penn State Wilkes-Barre; Jennifer Hetro, the Wright Center for Community Health; John Joseph, Fidelity National Information Services; Bill Konsavage, Navient; Alison Myers, Vinsko & Associates; Rachael Stark, Northeastern Pennsylvania Council, Boy Scouts of America; Joanne Stitzer, Benco Dental and Joell Yarmel, F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts.

Questions answered by group member Joell Yarmel:

Q. What is your project and how did you come up with the idea?

A. The Little Leaders project group will deliver interactive, educational and inspirational experiences to pre-school age children in two Pre-K Counts classrooms at Heights Elementary. We will be delivering three themed tote bags on physical and dental health, safety and the excitement of preparing for kindergarten. The bags will not only include necessary hygiene and wellness items, but also entertaining tools to enrich their academic path and social experiences. We will also be engaging a local policeman, firefighter, doctor and dentist to further enhance these lessons when the bags are delivered. We are additionally looking forward to an end-of-year celebration of the students’ new-found knowledge that will hopefully feature some of their best mascot friends. The third and final delivery will be bookbags for each student full of the required materials for kindergarten along with some special gifts from the group. There were various project ideas that were discussed and the consensus of the group was that we wanted to help children. Each group member had different talents and ideas to contribute so we decided to make it a three-part series and include them all.

Q. Why did you choose this organization to benefit?

A. The group was very passionate about working with children and offering them experiences that excite them and make them feel special. We chose the Pre-K Counts classrooms at the Heights Elementary School in Wilkes-Barre in order to support children and provide them with materials they may otherwise go without.

Q. What will your team do to make it happen?

A. We are raising money through donations and a raffle to purchase items for the themed bags. We are also collecting many in-kind donations to give to the children. We have worked with the school’s administration to set up three dates to go into the classrooms and visit with the children. We will bring in speakers who have donated their time to talk to the children about hygiene and safety. We also have worked closely with the teachers to understand the needs of the children and the items they need most.

Q. Where can people learn more about your project?

A. Visit www.facebook.com/littleleaders2019.

Leaders in the Outfield

Group members: Deanna German, Luzerne County Children and Youth Services; Dave Tosh, Benco Dental; attorney Mary Deady, Luzerne County Department of Conflict Counsel; Joanne Jeffrey, the Commission on Economic Opportunity; Erin Nicholson, CVS Caremark; John Riccetti, PNC Wealth Management; Lauren Scott, Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce and Chloe Winters, Evercor Facility Management.

Questions answered by group member Deanna German:










Q. What is your project and how did you come up with the idea?

A. Our project is to help the Wyoming Valley Challengers renovate their field and make it accessible to all.

They have been playing on various fields for years. Recently they obtained a field of their own, however, it is basically unusable at this time. The field needs major renovations in order to make it ADA compliant. The clubhouse is in disrepair and they need bleachers. We feel that our team can help spread awareness of their plight and, hopefully, procure the needed donations and manpower to get the field ready in time for the season to open in May. In addition, as a team, we are planning on doing the renovations and repairs to the clubhouse/concession stand ourselves as soon as the weather permits. We came up with the idea from Mary, one of our teammates, who had heard about this organization and their needs. She pitched it as a project idea for our team and the vote was unanimous.

Q. Why did you choose this organization to benefit?

A. During our very first meeting as a team, we discussed the type of project we wanted to work on and we came to a consensus that we wanted to do something to help enhance the lives of children in our community. The Wyoming Valley Challengers League was a cause that all of us instantly felt a connection with. We chose this organization because we felt their need was great and we agreed that it was time for them to have their own field to play on and to use as a place to gather for community events.

Q. What will your team do to make it happen?

A. Our team held an “On Cloud Wine” mystery raffle throughout the month of February to raise funds to help renovate the Wyoming Valley Challenger’s clubhouse and to spread awareness of the team and their needs. We have received over $3,400 worth of donations from local businesses, friends and family to help make our raffle a success.

Q. Where can people learn more about your project?

A. People can learn more about our project by checking out our Facebook page @LeadersITO.

Learning With Books: A Little Free Library Project

Group members: Ahmad Ali, Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce; Patty Hughes, City of Wilkes-Barre; Robin Fluke Fanelli, Luzerne County Head Start; Kelly McDonough, GWC Warranty; Audrey Palmer, NBT Bank; Evan Roberts, PNC Bank; Robert Graham, Riggs Asset Management; Megan Filak, Visit Luzerne County and Reginald Miller, Borton Lawson.

Questions answered by group member Megan Filak:

Q. What is your project and how did you come up with the idea?

A. “Learning with Books: A Little Free Library Project” aims to establish six Little Free Libraries throughout our area in order to inspire a love of reading, build community and spark creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges. The idea originated during our September meeting, when Patty Hughes, one of our team members, mentioned seeing a Little Free Library while on a trip. We loved the idea and how it could bring more books to people in our communities.

Q. Why did you choose this organization to benefit?

A. Little Free Libraries are free, community book exchanges. By establishing six of them throughout our area, many people in our area would benefit by having 24/7 access to free books. Not only can books open doors and inspire, the Little Free Libraries will foster a sense of community since, according to the Little Free Library organization, 92 percent of people say their neighborhood feels like a friendlier place because of a Little Free Library.

Q. What will your team do to make it happen?

A. Six former newspaper stands have been donated to us. Our team started the process of refurbishing them and are now being assisted by the students at the Career Technology Center of Lackawanna County. The students are helping to sand, paint and further refurbish the boxes. Once the boxes have their new look, we will place them throughout our communities. We have partnered with a business in each of the communities where the Little Free Libraries will be placed to help us in maintaining them. Locations will be announced soon. We are also registering our libraries with the Little Free Library organization, so people will be able to find them using the website www.LittleFreeLibrary.org.

Q. Where can people learn more about your project?

A. You can find more on our Facebook page Learning With Books: A Little Free Library Project at www.facebook.com/LearningWithBooks. You also can learn about Little Free Libraries at littlefreelibrary.org.

Dressed to the 9s











Group members: Kelly Bolesta, Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center; Tayler Collins, Friedman Electric; Amanda Cromer, Hilton Garden Inn; Sarah Ellis, Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine; Kevin Jones, Luzerne County Community College; Bill Orasin, Berkshire Hathaway GUARD Insurance Companies; Steven Sklanka, Tobyhanna Army Depot; Kyle Stair, UGI Utilities, Inc.; Eric Tschantz, Proctor & Gamble Paper Products Co.

Questions answered by group member Bill Orasin, with input from and review by the rest of the group:

Q. What is your project and how did you come up with the idea?

A. Our project is to help reorganize the Dress for Success Luzerne County at 38 W. Market St., Wilkes-Barre. Linda Armstrong receives many donations, which can be overwhelming. We are helping to reorganize, which includes new shelving units in her storage room, new LED lighting throughout the entire space, and general reorganization. By helping Linda organize, we are hoping to provide the best possible experience for her clients and allow her to best utilize the many wonderful donations she receives throughout the year. We have also been fortunate to receive many donations toward our project from very generous companies in the area, including InterMetro, which provided awesome new shelving for the storage room, and Proctor & Gamble with new storage bin racks. Other key contributors include the Outback Restaurant, Hilton Garden Inn, and Berkshire Hathaway GUARD Insurance Companies. These donations have allowed us to make a difference with sustainable upgrades that will help keep the organization strong into the future.

Q. Why did you choose this organization to benefit?

A. Dress for Success Luzerne County. The mission of Dress for Success Luzerne County is to empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and life. Dress for Success Luzerne County has helped over 1,250 women seeking employment since they opened. By helping the women in our community develop their skills, they will become sought-after employees and career-oriented members of society. We chose this organization because as a small nonprofit, the director of the organization, Linda Armstrong, had expressed to members of our group a need for help in handling the large volume of donations she has received in such a small space. We felt that his was a worthwhile cause and decided that this valuable organization needed our help. By creating a more organized and efficient space for Linda, we felt this would allow her to offer clients the best experience possible.

Q. What will your team do to make it happen?

A. We raised some money through a poinsettia flower sale during the holidays and we are also holding another spring flower sale. We are using that money to upgrade the lighting and purchase items to help organize the large volume of clothing, jewelry, make-up and shoes that are available for clients in a very small space.

Q. Where can people learn more about your project?

A. Visit facebook.com/dressedtothe9sLWB.

Back to the Future, Pittston Edition

Group members: Igor Bodnar, FNCB Bank; Derek Cronauer, M&T Bank; Lauren Gorney, Misericordia; Rose Gryskevicz, Kings College; Danielle Janeski, United Methodist Homes Wesley Campus; Stacy Kreller, Geisinger; Anthony Piccolini, Coccia Ford Lincoln; Tatyana Scoda, Intermetro Industries.

Questions answered by group member Igor Bodnar:

Q. What is your project and how did you come up with the idea?

A. We are doing a beautification project in downtown Pittston as well as supporting the community by adopting a wing at Wesley Village this past Christmas. We partnered with the Pittston Historical Society to present a slideshow of the Pittston of the past to Wesley Village residents. We hope to preserve those memories by vinyl wrapping electrical boxes with geographically accurate photos of what the downtown looked like many years ago.










Q. Why did you choose this organization to benefit?

A. To contribute to a creative community-based revitalization which will enhance economic opportunity, build strong community perception, and bridge the Pittston of the past with the Pittston of the future.


Q. What will your team do to make it happen?

A. We held a fundraiser at the Tomato Bar on Main Street in Pittston and reached out to local businesses looking for sponsorships.

Q. Where can people learn more about your project?

A. Visit/like us on Facebook, LWB ’19: Back to the Future Pittston Edition.


Parks and Restoration

Group members: Tyler Salerno, AssuredPartners of Northeastern Pennsylvania; Matthew Daube, Toyota Sportsplex; Candice G. Dutko, Geisinger; Dawn Gilliland, Service 1st Federal Credit Union; Christine A Mackin, Wyoming Valley Children’s Association; Jeff Kiluk, Sordoni Construction Services; Deborah Telesz, Prudential Retirement; Desiree Voitek, King’s College

Questions answered as a group:

Q. What is your project and how did you come up with the idea?

A. Our group, Parks and Restoration, has chose to work will the Quality Hill Park Association to complete some renovation work at their park on Hill Street in Nanticoke. The park experienced damage to their fencing and premises following a storm in the summer of 2018. Our project will focus on repairing this damage, while also completing other renovations and beautification throughout the park.

Q. Why did you choose this organization to benefit?

A. We were able to find out about the damage sustained at Quality Hill Park through the Puck Cancer charity drive held by the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Matt, who has a connection and helps with the event, informed us about the damage they sustained. We felt that due to this connection, along with the fact that the park is operated by an association, that our help would go a long way.

Q. What will your team do to make it happen?

A. Our team has been busy raising funds and building relationships with local contractors/construction company’s to find company’s who can assist with the renovations. Team members will complete most of the beautification work such as planting new trees and painting existing structures. Our group held a fundraiser on February 21st at Sabatini’s Pizza in Exeter. We raised funds at that event, and have also raised money through donations from local individuals and businesses.

Q. Where can people learn more about your project?

A. Follow our progress on Facebook by following our page @ParksAndRestorationLWB.