CLARKS SUMMIT —The Gathering Place for Community, Arts and Education moved one step closer to completion during a groundbreaking ceremony Monday, May 16 at the Clarks Summit Borough Building, 304 S. State St.
The Gathering Place will be home to the Abington Area Community Classroom, an adult continuing education program; a Verve Vertu Art Studio, which serves people with special needs; a kitchen; a food and beverage area; and an open area that can accommodate small events, exhibits, and theatrical productions.
“It’s a place for everyone,” Mary Ann Nichols, Capital Campaign Chair of The Gathering Place, said. “It’s a place to socialize and a place to learn, and you should never stop learning.”
According to Nichols, board members began looking for a bigger space after several of its classes outgrew the space in area churches.
“We discovered the old (Clarks Summit) firehouse was available and hadn’t been used for 10 years,” Nichols said. “Council (members) thought the idea was great and we took off.”
The expected completion date for the project is fall 2016.
Members of The Gathering Place’s board of directors held a “Gathering of Givers” event last July to recognize the project’s sponsors and supporters and announce the non-profit organization received a $100,000 Local Share Account grant on behalf of Clarks Summit Borough.
“The support of the community, including financially, has been unbelievable,” Nichols said. “We’re passionate about the cause, there was no way we were going to stop.”
Clarks Summit Mayor Patty Lawler is optimistic the new facility will generate positive buzz in the borough.
“As an eclectic place in the middle of town, I’m hoping it will give the community a boost,” Lawler said.
Barry Kaplan, co-owner of Everything Natural, an organic food and natural products store, in Clarks Summit also believes The Gathering Place will be a valuable addition to the area.
“It will be a wonderful community resource,” Kaplan said. “The business community is excited to help see it come to fruition.”
According to Emily Rancier, vice president and board member of The Gathering Place, the Abington Area Community Classroom has offered more than 160 different classes over seven disciplines, serving 200 to 327 students each semester.
“That is one huge success story and we hope for more success stories in the future,” Rancier said. “Our hope is that this is truly a new day in the community life of Clarks Summit. This innovative, inclusive art and education center has the potential to attract people from all over the Abingtons and beyond and inspire people of all ages and abilities to creative endeavors.”
The project was locally designed by Highland Associates, of Clarks Summit, and A.J. Guzzi General Contractors, of South Abington Township, was awarded the contract for the renovations.