The Pennsylvania Humanities Council (PHC) has partnered with the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), the Beaver County Planning Commission, and the Orton Family Foundation to support the towns of Ambridge, Beaver Falls, and Rochester along their path to becoming stronger, more vibrant communities using Community Heart & Soul®, a humanities-based approach to community and economic development.
Through this unique partnership among government agencies, a statewide nonprofit, and a national foundation, PHC and Orton will provide training and technical support worth an estimated $50,000 per year to each community. In addition, the communities expect to receive $25,000 per year in combined funding over two years from PHC and DCED, for a total investment valued at $150,000 per community.
Since 2015, PHC has been working to bring Community Heart & Soul®, a model originally pioneered by Orton, to communities across Pennsylvania. Ambridge, Beaver Falls, and Rochester join Upper Chichester, Cameron County, Greater Carlisle, Meadville, and Williamsport, which currently have Community Heart & Soul® projects underway.
“The humanities have proven a powerful tool for community and economic development in Pennsylvania,” said Laurie Zierer, PHC’s executive director. “We are seeing a significant positive change because residents are building relationships, honoring their homegrown talents and assets, and reclaiming and reshaping their communities.”
Each town is paired with an official Community Heart & Soul® coach, a trained professional tasked with guiding the community through the program, including gathering residents’ stories, carefully discerning a town’s values through community events and activities, and developing an action plan.
“With its rich history, beautiful natural setting, and charming, family-friendly towns, Beaver County is primed for growth,” said Lance Grable, Director of the Beaver County Office of Planning and Redevelopment. “Community Heart & Soul® will put Beaver County residents first, relying on their stories and feedback to steward future planning efforts. I could not be more proud of my County Commissioners for allowing us to embark on this monumental effort and teaming with the Pennsylvania Humanities Council.”
Beaver County is located in southwestern Pennsylvania, near the city of Pittsburgh and other amenities and attractions. Walkable towns dot the Ohio River which runs through the county’s picturesque landscape. Beaver County’s transition away from the steel industry has brought new challenges and opportunities to the region.
Community Heart & Soul® will start in all three towns in February 2020.