Connellsville again becoming nicer place to live, visit
Multi-tasking is a skill mastered only with extreme organization and the sheer determination to accomplish as much as possible — in as little time as possible.
It's difficult to balance two projects at once, let alone three or four or five.
Yet, behind the scenes in Connellsville, that's what has been accomplished in recent years by Michael Edwards and Daniel Cocks with the assistance of positive-minded individuals who believe that it is finally time for Connellsville to again realize its full potential rather than focus solely on the region's illustrious past.
Both men wear several hats. Edwards heads the city's redevelopment authority and serves as president of Fayette County Cultural Trust, the nonprofit group that is working hand-in-hand with local entrepreneur Terry “Tuffy” Shallenberger in constructing the “Connellsville Canteen & Harry Clark Indian Creek Valley Railroad Display.” A grand opening of the West Crawford Avenue facility will be in the spring.
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The railroad display is but one project accomplished by the Cultural Trust in 2012. Its volunteer board of directors — which includes Cocks — publishes a quarterly magazine called “Connellsville Crossroads” that focuses on the good news and interesting people and history of the Connellsville area.
The Trust works closely with ArtWorks Connellsville, a nonprofit gallery and learning center that exhibits and sells the creations of more than 80 area artists and 20 local authors. It also hosts many art-related classes for adults and children.
In 2012, some of the most popular classes were soap-making, painting, sewing and mosaics. Its summer art camp for children was well-received and will be held again this summer.
Cocks, who staffs ArtWorks Connellsville and serves as its curator, spends many, many hours at the West Crawford Avenue facility — all of it as a volunteer.
It's a fact
If there is a community event, Cocks and Edwards are working quietly in the background helping it to succeed. Both are heavily involved in Downtown Connellsville, another project of the Trust that focuses on attracting local citizens to such festivities as the Mum Festival in September, a “Buy Local” farmer's market that offers fresh produce on Saturdays during summer and early autumn, and “It's a Connellsville Christmas Festival” — to name a few.
With the assistance of Edwards and Cocks, who are skilled at obtaining grants through the state and private foundations, the Cultural Trust, Downtown Connellsville and ArtWorks Connellsville seamlessly meshed in 2012 to beautify the town and make it more visitor-friendly.
Whether it was planting flowers and pulling weeds along Third Street, assisting the local Garden Club with planting flower baskets in town or placing benches along Crawford Avenue, the city has benefited from these nonprofit groups and their dedicated members.
In 2012, crosswalk signs were installed downtown, an “Empty Store Front” ordinance was presented to council and a proposal submitted to place Amtrak signs in the city.
The Trust hosted its third annual symposium in May and a “Golden Reunion” for Connellsville area alumni, in conjunction with Connellsville Garden Club's Geranium Festival. Its members assisted Connellsville Historical Society with “Braddock's Crossing” at Yough River Park; “Art on the Yough” was celebrated at the same time. The event, which commemorates Gen. Edward Braddock's crossing of the river during the French and Indian War, will observe its 10th anniversary this year.
Friends to FRIENDS
Carnegie Free Library and its FRIENDS group that raises money for library projects received assistance from ArtWorks Connellsville in 2012. ArtWorks hosted events to benefit the library and also held several book signings for local authors.
The 2013 schedule for the Cultural Trust, Downtown Connellsville and ArtWorks Connellsville is shaping up to be just as full as last year's, with those behind the scenes multi-tasking and continuing their quest to make Connellsville as pretty – and positive – as possible.
Laura Szepesi is a freelance writer.