Collaboration the key to Cameron County’s success with PA Heart & Soul

April 6, 2023
Super Saturday is a beloved summer tradition - one that was revived because of PA Heart & Soul and the Cameron County Project -- among Cameron County residents with music, food and community-wide activities throughout the day.

By Karen Price

Jessica Herzing didn’t know exactly what to expect when she first considered the possibility of bringing PA Heart & Soul to Cameron County. 

But she saw the potential of PA Humanities’ program for equitable community development to help boost morale and bring people together, and knew they needed that in her slice of north central Pennsylvania. Five years after beginning the four-phase PA Heart & Soul process, the project is now complete. Not only did the potential become reality, but the community is seeing a multitude of other benefits as well.

From left, Cameron County Project coordinator Jessica Herzing and Cameron County Commissioners Lori Reed, Ann Losey, James Moate show off the plaque from PA Humanities recognizing their completion of the PA Heart & Soul process.

“It’s humbling to see that change occurring,” said Herzing, the Cameron County Project coordinator.

Cameron County’s PA Heart & Soul journey started in 2016 when Herzing attended an informational workshop in a neighboring town, and they began the process in 2018. From talking with residents and gathering their stories, they identified seven key values – sense of community, nature, local economy, arts and culture, safety, accessibility, and youth well-being. From those conversations, stories and values the group created the Resident Envisioned Community Action Plan, which has since been adopted by local government and is helping to guide short-and long-term decision making for county initiatives and investments. The Heart & Soul process also helped revive and even expand a beloved community tradition known as Super Saturday, spawn continued investment in local businesses and tourism initiatives, and bring a new crop of leaders to the table throughout the community. 

PA Humanities senior program office Jen Danifo recently presented the volunteer group with a plaque in recognition of completion of the project. 

“PA Humanities is so proud of Cameron County’s Heart & Soul effort,” Danifo said. “It is a special place full of dedicated and resilient residents who love where they live. It was an honor to work and learn from them. They are a model for other rural communities exploring community engagement.” 

Seeing residents’ ideas and projects come to life is exciting, Herzing said, and PA Heart & Soul has also brought about other changes. They’re now seeing informal groups and committees forming to tackle community challenges and seek out missing voices in conversations. People are more optimistic about community events. Herzing has also noticed a change in the way young people view their hometowns.

Young Cameron County residents enjoy the fun times at Super Saturday.

“I had the pleasure of sitting down with a group of our high school leaders this fall and talking to them about what they like about the area and their concerns, and it was a night and day change from the high school kids we talked to back in 2018,” Herzing said, “They described our community as ‘low-key festive,’ with many things to do and ways to be involved. They said they see that our community strives to work together to accomplish all our events, and they are generally optimistic about its future.” 

None of this would have been possible, Herzing said, without the hard work of their volunteers and the collaboration of residents, local government, and state and local community organizations who believe in the value of resident voices and the tremendous uniting power of finding shared common values. 

“PA Heart & Soul fanned the flame of the idea that collaboration is vital,” Herzing said. 

PA Heart & Soul drives equitable community development by facilitating resident-led storygathering that finds common ground, builds bridges through conversations, and gets people more involved in planning for their future. As a result, communities become more connected, creative, and strong. 

PA Humanities is continuing to expand PA Heart & Soul with the help of partners including the PA Route 6 Alliance and the Department of Community & Economic Development. For more information, contact Jen Danifo at

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