McCandless non-profit working for new community center
During the past several years, calls for McCandless to build a community center has been high on the list of things residents would like to see to improve the quality of life in the community.
While the actual development of such a facility — including how to pay for it — will require significant action by town officials, a group of residents have created a nonprofit organization called the McCandless Community Association to help make the community center and other projects a reality.
“Our goal is pretty simple — to make McCandless a better place by encouraging a bigger sense of community,” said Cindy Waeltermann, one of the organization's founding members.
Waeltermann said the idea for creating the organization was developed after storms caused severe flooding in McCandless this summer.
When she learned that residents affected by the storms needed help clearing debris from their properties and replacing household and personal items lost in the deluge, Waeltermann helped spread the word on social media and joined the volunteers who responded.
“It gave me the itch to help the community again,” she said.
One of the flood victims who received help, Allyson Kalich, was recruited to serve as the nonprofit's secretary after expressing an interest in a desire to repay the kindness.
In addition to Kalich and Waeltermann, who serves as president, the board of directors is made up of Bill Kirk, vice president; Michele Gropelli, treasurer; and board members Tony Ruffolo, Cindy Kirk and Joe Bierele.
While assisting with the development of a community center is high on the wish list for the group, smaller projects such as creating a community garden and providing assistance to the volunteer fire departments are in the works.
Kirk, who recently was elected to town council, noted that McCandless' environmental advisory committee already has conducted an inventory of properties owned by the municipality.
“If one of the properties on the inventory is suitable for a garden, perhaps the community association can help make it a reality by providing leadership, identifying volunteers to run it and maybe come up with some funding for its support,” Kirk said.
He also envisions the community association getting involved with efforts to increase the amount of programming and activities at the town's McCandless/Northern Allegheny Heritage Center.
The group's first event at the museum is a free Valentine's “Hearts and Crafts” pizza party and cookie decorating activity for kids 4 to 10 years old, scheduled for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 11.
The idea of a separate organization to assist with publicly owned assets is not unprecedented — the Northland Library and the North Allegheny School District both receive financial and other assistance from nonprofit foundations.
“My sense from the team put together to serve on the community association board is that we really want to be partners in the community,” Kirk said. “Part of that role is to help create the synergy needed for that to happen.”