Smithton, other Westmoreland communities receive 'revitalizing' grants
The hometown of actress Shirley Jones of “The Partridge Family” fame felt the need for revitalization, so it started with the petunias.
Smithton Councilwoman Karen Primm came across that adage — “start with the petunias” — while researching community revitalization grants this year.
“What that means is, start with the things you can do that are manageable right now,” she said.
On Wednesday, the tiny borough with a population of 400 learned that it was one of nine communities to receive the latest round of Revitalizing Westmoreland grants from the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County.
The foundation awarded $143,000 to nine small- to medium-sized communities to fund capital improvement projects and spur local investment.
This is the first year that the program was extended to small- and medium-sized communities. In the previous three years, the foundation annually distributed about $150,000 in grants to Arnold, Jeannette, Greensburg, Latrobe, Lower Burrell, Monessen and New Kensington.
The nine Revitalizing Westmoreland grants announced Wednesday will fund projects in Vandergrift, Bolivar, Monessen, Delmont, Irwin, North Belle Vernon, Smithton, New Alexandria and West Newton.
“Our smaller communities don't have full-time staff working on revitalization efforts, so many of the applications came from neighbors working together and informal community groups. They're people who simply care about their community and decided to get together to try to improve it,” said foundation Executive Director Phil Koch.
Smithton will use its $8,065 grant, plus a borough match, for a downtown beautification project that includes planters, flowers, shrubs, hedges, benches and landscaping stones.
“Like many of the communities around here, we know we need to reinvent ourselves,” Primm said. “We're not exactly a trail town, but what we do have is the (Youghiogheny) River, and more and more people are using it for recreation.”
Primm described Smithton as a “walking community” where many of the places people go are within walking distance. So why not beautify the areas where they walk?
Work on the project is expected to begin May 23, with volunteer labor being provided by two local companies, she said.
“It's a tribute to the leadership of the Community Foundation that they're actually looking at the smaller communities,” she said.
Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-1280, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @shuba_trib.