Background Check Clarifications Now Law

From PA Representative David Millard

Clarifications to the state’s new law regarding background clearances for employees and volunteers who have direct and routine contact with children are now law. House Bill 1276 was recently signed into law, bringing more clarity to Act 153 of 2014, which requires additional and periodic background checks for both employees and volunteers who are directly involved with children. The changes take effect immediately.

Under the new law, volunteers must obtain the clearances if they have direct volunteer contact, meaning that they have care, supervision, guidance or control and routine interaction with children. Also, all employees and adult volunteers subject to the background check clearances will be required to recertify all of those clearances every five years, instead of every three years. The measure also makes a number of clarifications with respect to the cost, portability and recertification of the two main clearances – the Department of Human Services child abuse clearance and the state police criminal background check. The two $10 fees are waived for volunteers and are reduced to $8 each for employees.

More information about Act 153 and the other new laws resulting from the child protection package are available at http://KeepKidsSafe.pa.gov

Revitalization Campaign Underway for Downtown Bloomsburg

Downtown Bloomsburg, Inc. (DBI), is a non-profit subsidiary of the Chamber dedicated to making Bloomsburg a regional hotspot to shop, dine, live, and visit. Bloomsburg was recently ranked 4th among the best communities to live in Pennsylvania by the website Niche.com.  To be successful, the organization needs the help of local businesses and residents. The three phase Revitalization Project is already underway, working with a highly experienced architecture design and developer firm to map out all the buildings in Downtown Bloomsburg and compile area demographics.  The next step is raising funds for a full development plan.  The plan will give the community actionable goals and ideas to ensure that Bloomsburg’s Downtown is bustling and vibrant well into the future.

One way that DBI is hoping to raise both funds and awareness is through a new GoFundMe campaign. The Campaign has had a great first week, raising nearly $3,000 dollars. To join the movement to revitalize Bloomsburg, visit www.VisitBloomsburg.com or donate via GoFundMe at www.gofundme.com/bloomsburg.

Member Spotlight

BTEBloomsburg Theatre Ensemble (BTE) was founded in 1978 by recent graduates of Northwestern University, who relocated to Bloomsburg during the previous two years for master classes with legendary acting teacher Alvina Krause. Under Krause’s inspiration, they established a resident ensemble of actors, directors, writers, and teachers. Their goal was to create a theatre that would, in Krause’s words, be “as important to its community as schools and churches”. Over the years there have been 37 members; of the current seven, three of them are from the founding years.

BTE provides a season of five or six plays each year on the stage at the Alvina Krause Theatre, a women’s solo performance arts festival, and year round theatre in education programs in schools and also in their facilities in Bloomsburg. They’ve also produced shows in other venues around town (The Exchange and Capitol Bar and Grill) and in other towns (Community Arts Center in Williamsport). BTE produces well-loved community events such as Treefest and The Taming of the Brew. BTE is unique in the region. They are the only professional theatre within fifty miles of Bloomsburg that regularly produces contemporary American plays, along with the classics. From time to time they also present shows from outside producers.

During the past 37 seasons, hallmarks of their Main Stage have been original, company created works on local and regional history: Hard Coal, Life in the Region, Flood Stories, Too; Letters to the Editor, and Susquehanna.

Nationally, BTE is recognized as a leader in the ensemble theatre movement as a co-founder of the Network of Ensemble Theaters. Since 1995, NET has grown into an over 160-member organization to promote ensemble theatre practice and generate interest in ensemble as a sustainable model for community-based work. BTE member Laurie McCants is currently the Chair of NET’s Board of Trustees.

Each year BTE supports hundreds of local and regional charities and fundraisers by donating tickets to their performances. Each year they provide one performance of their holiday show to the Food Bank to collect food. Through Treefest they work with the Columbia County Child Development Center to provide over 100 trees and gifts to needy families. In addition, they have partnered with Big Brothers Big Sisters and Volunteer Partners in Medicine.

As funding for arts programs diminishes BTE supports local and regional schools by providing funds to the schools so that they can book shows. BTE continues to look for ways to make theatre going affordable for everyone in the community through Pay What you Want performances and through their new Group Sales program. For more information, contact Jon White-Spunner at jwhitespunner@bte.org or visit www.bte.org

The subject of each month’s Member Spotlight is selected from attendees of Chamber events.

House Makes Revisions to Background Check Law

To further clarify the types of volunteers and employees who are required to obtain background checks to work with children, the House passed House Bill 1276 last week. The legislation is designed to more clearly define who is and who is not subject to the background check requirements and, where possible, make the requirements less onerous for volunteers, nonprofit organizations, employees and employers.

Under the bill, only those volunteers and employees with direct and routine interaction with a child as part of a child care service, a school, or a program, activity or service would need to obtain the clearances. For example, a Sunday school teacher and Scout leader would need the clearances, while a cook at a youth camp, a parent dropping off baked goods at a school or a guest reader/performer would not. The legislation would also permit employers or organizations to accept non-original copies of the required documents on file, rather than the original copies to be maintained by the employer or organization.

The House had previously amended the bill to waive the two $10 fees that volunteers must pay for background checks associated with the child protection laws. The legislation now heads to the state Senate for consideration. More information is available at www.KeepKidsSafe.pa.gov.

Member Spotlight

Freas Farm-TransparentFreas Farm Winery began producing wine in the fall of 2013 and bottling in spring 2014. Owners Patricia Leighow and Stephanie Rothery learned under their mentor John Crane, of Birdsong Winery. They first opened their doors at 130 Twin Church Road in Berwick in June 2014. The winery is located at a farm owned by Rothery’s great grandparents and her family’s story is still entwined in the house as well as several of the wines they produce. They recently opened their second location at Rohrbach’s Farm Market in Catawissa.

Freas Farm offers PA preferred farm to table wines and Port. They use Minnesota hybrid grapes grown in Sullivan County, which do well since they’re accustomed to being grown in a colder climate.

Their wines have won awards at the 2014 Silver Finger Lakes International Wine Competition in the Sweet Rose category, 2014 Bronze Finger Lakes International Wine Competition in the Frontenac Gris Category, 2015 Silver Finger Lakes International Wine Competition in the Port Category, and 2015 Bronze Finger Lakes International Wine Competition in the Red Blend Non-Vinifera Category.

Their tag line is “Community and Culture in Every Bottle” and they try to operate their business by those words. They work with many non-profits in the area. The Alzheimer’s Foundation is significant to them and they donate a portion of every bottle of Forget Me Not to the Foundation for research. Freas Farm partners with Berwick Theater and Center for the Community Arts as well as the Geisinger-Bloomsburg March of Dimes.  Both of these organizations are having fundraisers at the winery on May 29th and 30th. They also support Beyond Violence, PAWS Crossroads and Stuart Tank Marine Corps League Detachment 1400.  Civic and community organizations are encouraged to hold their meetings at the winery at no cost to them.

Freas Farm Winery can be reached at 570-759-WINE or visit freasfarmwinery.com

The subject of each month’s Member Spotlight is selected from attendees of Chamber events.