A check for $1,000 was presented from the Rotary Club of the Abingtons to The Gathering Place at a recent Rotary Club meeting, held at the Ramada Inn. Rotary president, John Regula, welcomed Dory Waters, president of the board of directors of The Gathering Place, and Mary Ann Nichols, capital campaign chair, and presented a check from the Rotary Charitable Trust to them. The money will go toward the renovation of the first floor of the Clarks Summit Borough building at 304 S. State St.
This property had once been a fixture as the home of the Clarks Summit Fire Company. The wide firehouse doors of the station opened countless times in the past, allowing local volunteer firemen to rush to battle flames. As the town grew, so did the need for more fire equipment, and in 2004 a new fire house was built at 331 Bedford St., just across town. The old fire house, once so full of life saving equipment, stood vacant for 10 years.
Dory Waters founded the Abington Area Community Classroom, where adult education on a various number of topics was taught in any space available. Many area church classrooms were used. More than 160 different classes have served 200 to 327 adult students each semester. The classes were spread throughout the Abingtons, with no central meeting place. Dory walked past the old firehouse and had a vision for that empty space to become a place where people could meet, the arts could be enjoyed and education could flourish, namely, The Gathering Place.
The State Street firehouse was evaluated by professionals and the cost of changing a large garage into a comfortable area for learning was daunting — so much was needed. The concrete floor slopes down to a center much lower than the sides. Electric units and heating equipment needed replacing. A new kitchen and bathrooms would require adequate water sources. The huge garage doors that faced State Street were great for large firetrucks but did not allow easy access for people. The estimated cost of renovation was about $425,000. Clarks Summit is a small town with limited resources, but stalwart people who had a dream set forth to fund raise every way they could for six years.
Dory sought out the talents from local professionals. Highland Associates developed the design and A.J. Guzzie General Contractor was recently awarded the contract for changing the structure. Ground was broken May 18 to change the old fire house on State Street into The Gathering Place. Final completion is set for the fall of 2016.
The purpose of the space will be an inclusive community art and educational center; a welcoming and inspiring destination for meeting friends or time alone; a convenient location for book groups and business meetings; a place where you can learn everything from a new language to an ancient art; a venue for artists to showcase their work and a central location for the community to gather.
The Gathering Place for Community, Arts, and Education is a 501c3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization. They are currently seeking funds through a Buy a Commemorative Brick for $100. If you wish to give, send your check to The Gathering Place, PO Box 171, Clarks Summit, PA 18411.
When August rolls around and you are thinking of getting your children ready for school, you may look for some enrichment classes for yourself, as well. Just as the old fire house door opened and fire trucks rushed out with bells and sirens blaring, now the doors will open for people to rush in for the pleasure of just coming together for learning and fun in The Gathering Place.
The Rotary Club of the Abingtons is delighted to be part of this exciting adventure.