Yesterday evening was the first concert for this summer's run of LIVE! from Lewisburg, which was an amazingly fun and exciting event. I'll admit it was also a bit exhausting, in a very good way! We got up even before the crack of dawn on Tuesday morning to promote the show live on WNEP's morning news cycle, and of course on the day of there was lots of setup to take care of - and then packing things up after the concert was over.
In any case, the whole thing has music on my mind, so I suppose that's the purpose of this week's update from me. I'm sure I'm not alone in saying that music has always been a big part of my life, and a driving factor for my involvement in the communities where I live. Growing up, I was introduced to a wide range of music by my parents: classic rock, country, jazz, folk songs, Broadway soundtracks, blues... About the only thing I don't remember hearing regularly throughout my youth is hip-hop or rap, and I've added even those to the mix of music I listen to now. Reader beware if you ever ask me what's on my playlists: it's an eclectic mix at best!
So music has always been part of my life, and the only thing that's changed about that over the years and the places I've lived is which radio stations I listen to. (One of the few things I really miss about New England - rock is my favorite, and in my opinion we have too few good rock stations in the Valley. Oh well.)
But music isn't something that happens in a vacuum on your own, not when you get really involved with it. Music means performance, and that means events happening around you! Concerts, shows, even just listening to music with other people: it's something that brings us together. I made a lot of friends through my school years by being part of the concert bands, and I've bonded with people throughout my life over the artists and songs that we like. And here's something fun to think about: every time you're singing along to the radio in your car, you're probably performing in unison with hundreds or thousands of other people tuned into that same station.
That's the sort of connection that music can bring to any community. And we're very hopeful and excited for all the connecting that the LIVE! from Lewisburg concerts will bring all summer long! I know I had a blast last night - I hope everyone who made it did, too, and I'm sure everyone will when they attend the next one.
Hello, one and all! This is Brian LeBlanc, the new Social Media and Technology Assistant with the CommUnity Zone, writing to you. I'm excited to be here, and excited to be part of things, and excited to be returning our blog to you folks! We're hoping that this will be a great space to let you all know what's new in the Susquehanna Valley, and for all of us to get to know each other a little better through what might be the best medium for it: storytelling.
I may be new to the CommUnity Zone and my direct involvement with Lewisburg, but I'm certainly no stranger to the area. I was born in Rhode Island, and spent my first 10 years in New England, mostly in western Massachusetts. But in 2006, my father was looking for a new job, and ended up finding a position in Pennsylvania, working for a college. He moved down to begin working while the rest of our family started packing and preparing to sell our house; I was the last to move because of commitments and opportunities with my schooling. By the end of the year, though, we were more or less set to move, and in January of 2007 we moved to a temporary home with my grandparents while we looked for a house to buy in proximity to Bucknell University.
Things ended up shaking out so I didn't move directly to Lewisburg - an older relative with property across the way from my grandparents' house ended up selling their house not long after we moved, and by the summer we were moving to that house up near Williamsport. That's where I lived all through the rest of middle and high school, but much of the entire Susquehanna Valley became familiar to me with time. My father worked in Lewisburg for Bucknell; I attended a summer camp in Mifflinburg; our church's synod assemblies, of which I was frequently a youth member, took place at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove. When I was looking for a college to attend myself, I visited schools up and down the East Coast, but ultimately the place that felt most at home was Susquehanna University, and so I spent four more of my most formative years in this wonderful area. And after a brief stint in Virginia, working at a few teaching jobs, I've found my way back to Williamsport and Lewisburg once more.
And what is it that's so drawing, so compelling, so simply beautiful about the Susquehanna Valley? I've explored it in the Creative Writing program at college, where a number of other students - locals and those from far away - felt the need to do the same. It may be one of those intangible feelings that eludes words. But there is something about this place that captivates and delights the people who spend any length of time here.
In part it must be the environment. The hills and forests and mountains that surround and occasionally punch through our valley lend a sense of hominess, a closeness and an enfolding security, as though the land itself wraps around us like loving arms. The fields and gulleys stretch for miles, green pastures that seem comforting under rain and sun alike. And, of course, the rivers: winding, burbling, constant things, the very heart and soul of the region, with the valley's namesake earning that distinction years after year. Water and rivers have always been the wellsprings of life, and all it takes is one morning or afternoon at the riverbank to realize how little that's changed in all our human years.
But more so than just a beautiful landscape, I think we boast, in our little Valley, a beautiful people. We have our struggles, to be sure, but it seems to me - having grown up in New England, and spent two years in Virginia - that the community of this region fits that word the best of any place I've lived. This is a place where people greet one another, where people know one another, where connections flourish. In the few weeks I've spent at the CommUnity Zone, it seems that every other day I meet someone new who's stopping by, often just to say hello.
This is a community: a place of neighbors and friends and families, a place of potluck dinners and local live music, a place of mornings and afternoons and evenings spent in backyards and at locally owned restaurants and down by the riverbanks.
This is home.
Being unemployed or underemployed isn’t necessarily a bad thing for us and more importantly it may be good for our community. If you think this is a wild assertion, read on.
As late as the mid-19th century, the modern concept of “unemployment” didn’t exist in the United States. Most people lived on farms, and while paid work came and went, home industry—canning, sewing, and carpentry—was a constant. Even in the worst economic panics, people typically found productive things to do in their communities. The despondency and helplessness of unemployment were discovered, to the bafflement and dismay of cultural critics, only after factory work became dominant and cities swelled. It was also true that the family unit was secure and was more closely reliant on each other.
Today, that close family unit has been in many cases, dismantled. And, one theory of work holds that people tend to see and describe themselves in terms of their jobs, careers, or callings. Individuals who say their work is “just a job” emphasize that they are working for money rather than aligning themselves with any higher purpose. Those with pure careerist ambitions are focused not only on income but also on the status that comes with promotions and the growing renown of their peers. In the latter, one pursues a calling not only for pay or status, but also for the intrinsic fulfillment of the work itself.
Perhaps we should look at our capacity for compassion, deep understanding and our creative minds for the answers to our current woes and to our future. Even if you are financially stable, simple leisure is certainly one outcome of the increasing loss of job opportunities, but I would argue that many of us can and should look passionately to find ways to find fulfillment and build productive communities outside the workforce. The very things that help many of us are a routine, an absorbing distraction, a daily purpose, an identity, and a creative activity that leads to a sense of our autonomy. What if we could find ways to find meaningful work without formal wages and a steady job, but instead through a number of other avenues of payment including a bartering system or one of money paid at the completion of a task that would not only satisfy ourselves but be good for our community?
Do you believe, as have many proposed, that we are heading for an dystopian future sitting on a couch wasting time or worse, entering into a life of crime, as witness to our growing and burgeoning prison system will attest, or do you ascribe to the notion of living a life full of purpose and fulfillment that can be achieved with community support and guidance?
Do you have an opinion whether we should be looking to our universities to embrace the notion that they should once again be cultural centers of inquiry instead of what they seem to be today, another job preparation center?
We need your voice and expertise to get some very exciting initiatives going. We believe the answers to the questions and concerns of our time rest with us the individual and not with government. History is clear on this issue; true and lasting change always begins and eventually happens from the bottom up and never from the top down. Civil Rights, Women’s Suffrage, Marriage Equality, Affordable Care Act, and the list go on. All of these advances happened on the backs of our sisters and brothers who came before us.
If these questions and assertions interest you, please join us. We are in need of partners and patrons to keep our important work going. You can be a part of bringing us together to work toward positive change anytime, and for as little as $10 per month! Visit, call, or email to discover other levels of support and find out what your support can do!
Not ready to commit? Check out our wish list on our website www.community-zone.org for quick and easy ways to support our mission.
Keri L. Albright, President & CEO of Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way and Juli Corrigan, former Director of Outreach and Community Education at the CSIU, delivered a dynamic, sobering lecture on poverty both nationally and locally, to a large number of residents and league followers on Tuesday, November 18th.
Ms. Albright began by sharing with us the genesis of how the United Way began its intentional focus on poverty in 2005 by convincing the past board that the United Way was not affecting social change like they had hoped. After a two-year process of conducting community wide research on the root causes of many social problems in our society, it was agreed at the time that nobody else was working on these social problems on a large scale, and that the United Way could with all its resources tackle these social problems. United Way then changed their approach and instituted what is now referred to as the Priorities for Impact.
As many of you may know, the United Way is now set up with six councils of volunteers from a variety of social agencies to tackle the root causes of social problems in Northumberland, Snyder and Union Counties. The six councils are: Drug & Alcohol Abuse and Addiction, Poverty, Transportation, At-risk Teens, Quality Early Childhood Education and Acceptance and Understanding Diversity. Ms. Albright went on to share several wrenching and heartwarming stories of people she has met that deal with poverty on a daily basis. She also shared some striking numbers with the audience, including over 60,000 men, woman and children in Northumberland, Snyder and Union counties struggle at the extremes to afford the very basics and that the fastest and most likely way to be thrust into poverty is to be born there. Almost 8% of children in Pennsylvania are born into extreme poverty.
While there are a multitude of reasons for poverty in addition to being born into it, some of the other causes are a lack of education, divorce, a lack of job opportunity and the high cost of healthcare. Ms. Corrigan followed with some glaring and disturbing history and statistics on Poverty in America. She rightly pointed us to some good news about why we have made some progress since we declared the War on Poverty. The enactment of Social Security, Medicare and the importance of voting have helped many. She also shared with us how the government measures poverty. Clearly, the official poverty measure is way below what people actually need to survive. The second, and not so well known measure is the supplemental poverty measure which includes the basics of keeping families fed and warm, and finally the Living Wage, which is what individuals need to not only survive but thrive in our society.
Ms. Corrigan shared with the audience many slides of what counts as poverty. According to 2014 guidelines:
And for those who are not aware, the difference between minimum wage, poverty wage and living wage is as follows:
And finally, Ms. Corrigan focused on the dangerous path our elderly are facing. Nine out of ten 65 and older receive Social Security and 38% of that income is what they use to live on. The out of pocket expenses of the elderly that Medicare does not cover is herculean. According to a 2007 study:
We can only imagine the magnitude of increase that is present today.While what we learned in the presentation was disturbing and appalling, we were also left with some possible solutions.
In closing, I share some words of wisdom from Martin Luther King:
“I ask of you, and of myself, is that we constantly interrogate our own complicity with excess, that we always remain vigilant to notions of community that might, perhaps against our best intentions, sometimes, embrace a system of domination at the expense of others. Can we radically submit ourselves to the pursuit of equality and justice for all? If we choose to call ourselves Asian American, can we not also choose to be that kind of American that refuses to accept what America has been, and instead help build a better America even for others, who might not immediately seem to “belong” to us?In the end, whom do we mean by “us”? For me, if I choose to belong to a coalition, a community, an “us,” it must mean, we who remember the past; we who care about the future; we who are compassionate, generous, patient, and committed deeply to the welfare of others; we who agree that naming ourselves as an “us” is not an end, but a beginning.”
Elder Economic Security Standard (“Elder Index”)
http://www.basiceconomicsecurity.org/gateway.aspx (need to create a username and password to access local data)
Social Security Basic Facts
Poverty Rates in PA
Wage Comparison for Union County
Poverty Rates for Children and the Elderly
State-by-State Snapshot of Poverty Among Seniors: Findings from Analysis of the Supplemental Poverty Measure
How is Poverty Measured in the United States?
2014 Poverty Guidelines
How Does Bankruptcy Law Impact the Elderly’s Business and Housing Decisions?
How Much Is Enough? Out-of-Pocket Spending Among Medicare Beneficiaries: A Chartbook
Seniors Intervention Group Slide 16
Beyond Poverty: Preliminary Findings from the 2013-2014 Empowering Opportunities: Gateways Out of Poverty Initiative