Member Spotlight: AGAPE – Love From Above To Our Community

“Being a member of the Chamber has enhanced our relationships with businesses and corporations, extended our outreach for making the business community and others aware of what we do and increased our ability to get the word out about our events. It has also enhanced our community donations beyond churches and individuals.” – Kelly Dent, Extended Services Manager, AGAPE

AGAPE Love From Above to Our Community is a faith-based, non-denominational Christian ministry founded in November 2008 by a group of about 60 people from the local community who met at Wesley United Methodist Church wanting to hear about the three-year-old dream of Billy and Eileen Chapman. Liking the opportunity to implement the words of Matthew 25 and serve their Lord and community, a committee was formed to make it happen. They identified the principle mission: “help fill in the gaps so no one falls through the cracks.” They developed a vision, established values and guidelines and wrote the by-laws for the ministry. The committee reported to the group and the group appointed a 13-member Board of Directors. AGAPE was registered as a charitable organization and approved as a 501(c)(3) in 2009.

As a non-profit charitable ministry, AGAPE accepts financial and in-kind donations, the latter being its largest program. It receives food (perishable and non-perishable), furniture (not badly stained, torn or broken), adult clothes, large and small appliances that work (refrigerators, stoves, washers and dryers, coffee makers, toasters, microwaves, etc.), bedding, mattresses, box springs, bed frames, dishes, utensils and cookware — basically, any items needed to reasonably furnish an apartment or small house.

AGAPE’s “business” is one of only a few in the community that wants to go out of business — meaning those who were once its clients are self-sufficient and can provide for themselves. AGAPE distributes all donated items, if available, free of change, and requires responsibility and accountability from its clients. Sometimes assistance is denied because extremely bad choices have been made, advice is not followed to help themselves, lying, or abuse of the system or conduct is such that assistance it demanded as an entitlement.  AGAPE tries very hard not to be an enabler.

AGAPE received the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank Partner of the Year Award in 2016 for its “fighting hunger” program, and also received accolades for its service to Columbia County during Tropical Storm Lee and the flood of 2011, when it served as a flood recovery center. AGAPE is extremely grateful to the Chamber and the entire community for their continuing support, and could always use volunteers to help it fulfill its mission. For more information on volunteer opportunities, visit AGAPE’s website or call 570-317-2210. 

Member spotlights are chosen via a random drawing from members that submit their business cards at a Business After Hours event. The next Business After Hours is scheduled for Jan. 17 at the Bloomsburg Area YMCA, 30 East 7th St., Bloomsburg. There is also a second Business After Hours scheduled in January at the Danville Child Development Center, 986 Wall St., Danville, on Jan. 31. 

Leadership Central Penn Learns About the Cost of Justice and Being Unprepared

January took Leadership Central Penn participants to court for some education on our proactive judicial system in Columbia and Montour Counties. The morning kicked off with some morning motivation provided by Tina Welch with Welch Performance Consulting. The highlight was a class participant sharing her story of adoption of her children presided over by the day’s first presenter, the Honorable Thomas James, President Judge of the Columbia County Court of Common Pleas. 

Judge James gave a presentation titled “The Cost of Justice” and walked the group through not only the financial costs, but the societal and cultural costs many of us don’t think about related to our judicial system. He spoke about some of the many innovative judicial programs like drug and DUI treatment court, veterans court, electronic monitoring home detention program and juvenile court wood-cutting program for restitution. Programs like the electronic monitoring program have saved the county $1.68 million in six years as opposed to incarceration. Courts are constantly being tasked with controlling costs, while legislatures continues to pass more laws to be enforced, with no additional funding to do so.

Once the class learned of all the costs of simple infractions like speeding tickets and the like, it realized the courts bills look a lot like those cell phone bills that everyone knows. A quote summed up how the group felt. “If you love the law and if you love scrapple, you shouldn’t watch either being made.”

The rest of the morning and early afternoon was spent with the Honorable Gary Norton, Judge of the Columbia County Court of Common Pleas, and Columbia County Assistant District Attorney Dan Lynn. They walked through a recent murder case from Columbia County that has been completely closed with all appeals exhausted, sparing the group some of the more gruesome details. The class learned about crime scenes, evidence processing, motions, discovery, the various pretrial hearings, and got to see into the minds of a jury. This was not 12 angry men and women, although there may have been a few in the class after what was learned about the case. One thing that was most surprising was a motion by the defense that was denied, but which eventually led to the basis of the motion being used for a full defense. Had the motion been upheld, everyone wondered what sort of defense would have been offered. 

It was realized that cases don’t wrap up in a nice bow and are not as straight forward as television programs would have us believe. In some courts, you cannot even refer to the person who was murdered as the “victim.” The court’s job is to provide a fair and impartial hearing and that all are innocent until proven guilty. Some felt this marginalized the victim, but it was to ensure an impartial trial for the person. No one wants to put an innocent person in prison, and our system does its best to preserve the freedoms we all love in the U.S.

After the case discussion, the class was introduced to Fred Hunsinger, Columbia County public safety director, and he spoke about all the work being done to be prepared for a worst-case scenario in our area.  Whether it is a flood, ice dam on the river, a runaway government blimp with a razor sharp steel wire dragging behind, or a nuclear accident, there are people at the ready to leap into action at the Columbia County Emergency Management Service (EMS) center. These are normal everyday people, that when called upon, will coordinate military, private and civilian resources to tackle any disaster. It is up to us to be prepared. The Ready PA app, and website are two resources that families may find helpful to be prepared for emergencies.

The day was finished with a tour of the Columbia County EMS and newly-consolidated Columbia/Montour 911 center. Here the group saw that when 911 is called from a cell phone, technology helps pinpoint the call’s location. While it won’t get first responders to you directly, it helps narrow the field. The 911 operators really are superheroes in headsets. This was one where television just might have it right. They deliver babies in cars along I-80, help people keep loved ones alive with basic life support and CPR, and help police track and catch reckless drivers – all over the phone. They even get calls about people’s microwaves not working or with questions about parades and toy donations.  They do it all with professionalism, recognition attributed to first responders and grace.

Leadership Central Penn is sponsored by Bloomsburg UniversityKawneerSEKISUI SPI and USG.

PPL’s Operation HELP Program Assists Families in Need

From Tracie Witter, PPL Electric Utilities Regional Affairs Director

Well here we are in January and February – the coldest time of the year! They’re months of short days, long nights, snow, wind and ice. While these months do have their charm, we all know they can be tough to get through sometimes.

For people who are struggling with personal challenges, like illness or the loss of a job, life can seem even bleaker at this time of year. Bills loom larger, and things we once took for granted suddenly become constant sources of concern.

Fortunately, help is at hand, even in the darkest hours.

Since starting at PPL this fall, I have learned about a program called Operation HELP. It’s an energy assistance fund founded by PPL Electric Utilities in 1983. Since then, it has helped 94,000 families – including some in our area – by making their financial challenges a little lighter.

It works like this: Income-eligible customers can apply for grants that help pay any type of energy bill. The grants go directly to the customer’s utility. Community agencies across PPL Electric Utilities’ 29-county service area administer the program.

Help is available year-round as funding permits – though, since winter is a peak time of year for energy use, demand is likely to be especially high around this time.

Operation HELP is funded by the company, our employees, retirees, and generous customers. We’ve done everything from holding golf tournaments to selling cookbooks to build support for the program over the years, and we thank those who have donated in the past.

In February, PPL Electric Utilities will hold its annual Operation HELP fundraising drive. You’ll receive information with your monthly statement. I hope you’ll consider giving, if you’re able to. You can also donate online

If you believe Operation HELP can help you with your energy bills, you have a few choices. You can visit online to learn more about the program and find the name of an agency that administers the program in your area (The agency may be able to refer you to other programs that can help, as well).

Or, you can call PPL at 1-800-DIAL-PPL (342-5775), and we’ll help guide you. If other PPL customer assistance programs can help, we’ll tell you about those as well.

We appreciate any support you can give. It will make a difference in helping someone else get through these long, cold months, or another period of personal need.

Just how much difference can it make? Here are some comments from customers in our area who have benefited from the program.

“I wanted to thank you for helping me to get my power restored in my home.  Because of your act of kindness, I am able to celebrate my daughter’s birthday tomorrow and my son’s birthday.  I am also now able to provide my children with Christmas this year. ‘Thank you’ isn’t enough to say but I’m very appreciative of the help you provided for my children and myself.”

“I know we will get out of this situation we are in now with my losing my job.  However, your help has been such a positive boost for our family in this difficult time we are having.  Thank you so very much.”

Geisinger Community Health Needs Assessment Community Partner Forums to be Held in January

In conjunction with the 2019 fiscal year Community Health Needs Assessment, Geisinger and its partners, Allied Services and Evangelical Community Hospital, invite you to join with other regional community partners for conversation about our research findings from the CHNA, the impact and challenges of health needs in our community and how we can increase collaboration to address community health needs.

Partner Forums will be held on six dates across the region. Please register for the session nearest to your community using the links below.

  • Register: Tues., Jan. 9, 8:30-11am in Camp Hill (Cumberland County)
  • Register: Wed., Jan. 10, 8:30-11am in Kulpmont (Northumberland County)
  • Register: Fri., Jan. 12, 8:30-11am in Lewistown (Mifflin County)
  • Register: Tues., Jan. 16, 8:30-11am in Lewisburg (Union County)
  • Register: Thurs., Jan. 25, 2-4:30pm in Dickson City (Lackawanna County)
  • Register: Wed., Jan. 31, 2-4:30pm in Wilkes-Barre (Luzerne County)

Agenda:

  • Welcome and refreshments
  • Presentation of research findings from the FY2019 CHNA, in progress
  • Large and small group facilitated dialogue to discuss asset mapping, high need populations, community health priorities and collaboration
  • Closing discussion: Making collective impact

Your participation and input will help guide regional community health improvement planning and identify opportunities for local collaboration.

We encourage you to share this invitation with your colleagues and others who may be interested in attending. There is no fee to attend, but registration is required.

We look forward to continued collaboration with our community partners in this essential work! For more information about the CHNA, please visit https://www.geisinger.org/about-geisinger/in-our-community/chna or contact Allison Clark, Geisinger Community Benefit Coordinator, at [email protected].

Columbia Montour Chamber Year in Review: Top 25 Stories of 2017

What do block party in Bloomsburg, the Montour County readdressing, essential oils and 2017 new member Just a Drop, the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline, Leadership Central Penn, and Geisinger’s fresh food pharmacy all have in common? 

Stories about these subjects were among some of the top 25 most read stories on the Chamber website during 2017. 

Listed below are the 25 stories on the Chamber website that received the most web traffic during 2017 (through Dec. 27). Overall, web traffic to the Chamber’s website increased by more than 25% in 2017 from 2016. We hope you, our members and other readers of our website, enjoy the broad and diverse content we have brought you this year. We are looking forward to 2018 and another year of bringing our members and the public, information of relevance to their businesses, organizations and our community. 

1. Annual Block Party This Weekend in Bloomsburg (From April 21 and featuring Bloomsburg University and the Town of Bloomsburg)

2. Montour County Readdressing to Begin in June (From May 16 and featuring Montour County)

3. Essential Oils 101 (From Aug. 27 and featuring Just a Drop)

4. Construction of Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline Gets Underway (From Oct. 13 and featuring Williams)

5. Renaissance Parking Regulations (From April 28 and featuring Town of Bloomsburg)

6. Welcome Just a Drop Essential Oil (From June 19 and featuring Just a Drop)

7. Leadership Central Penn Class Celebrates Graduation (From May 25 and featuring Frosty Valley Country Club, Central Susquehanna Community Foundation, PPL Electric Utilities, The Women’s Center, Camp Victory, Northern Columbia Community & Cultural Center, Welch Performance Consulting, Autoneum, Geisinger Bloomsburg Hospital, Geisinger, First Keystone Community Bank, Bloomsburg University, Girton Manufacturing, Kawneer, First Columbia Bank and Columbia Child Development Program)

8. Geisinger Fresh Food Pharmacy Making a Difference for Diabetes Patients (From Sept. 7 and featuring Geisinger)

9. Bloomsburg University Students Move Into Soltz Hall (From Aug. 24 and featuring Bloomsburg University)

10. Pipeline Project Expected to Boost Local Economy (From May 23 and featuring Williams)

11. Expanded Maternity Center Opens at Geisinger Bloomsburg Hospital (From June 23 and featuring Geisinger Bloomsburg Hospital)

12. Summer Town Gown Report Contains Assessment of 2017 Block Party (From Aug. 14 and featuring Bloomsburg University and Town of Bloomsburg, and the 2017 summer report from the Bloomsburg Town/Gown Relations Committee)

13. Chamber Renews Call to Bloomsburg Council for More Information (From Oct. 15 and featuring Town of Bloomsburg)

14. Bloomsburg Nationals Will Result in Main Street Closure Aug. 10 (From Aug. 1 and featuring Bloomsburg Nationals and Quaker Steak & Lube)

15. Member News – April 26, 2017 (From April 26 and featuring Wesley United Methodist Church, Planet Fitness, Columbia Mall, Central Susquehanna Community Foundation, Pine Barn Inn, Geisinger, First Columbia Bank and Bloomsburg University)

16. Bashar Hanna Named Bloomsburg University’s 19th President (From May 22 and featuring Bloomsburg University)

17. PA Senate Passes $600 Million Tax Increase Package (From Aug. 1 and the PA Chamber of Business & Industry)

18. EITC & OSTC Approval Letters Being Released by PA Department of Community and Economic Development (From Oct. 16)

19. Welcome LCBC Church (From Nov. 16 and featuring LCBC Church)

20. Downtown Incubator Seeking Office Equipment (From May 30 and featuring Downtown Bloomsburg Inc.)

21. Renaissance Jamboree This Saturday (From April 25 and featuring Bloomsburg University, Downtown Bloomsburg Inc. and Town of Bloomsburg)

22. Do Not Reboot Your Computer – Broken Windows Update (From Oct. 16 and featuring MePush)

23. New Addresses in Montour County Expected to Roll Out in Early July (From July 1 and featuring Montour County, Danville Borough and Riverside Borough)

24. ChamberChoice Offers Free Three-Part Webinar on Health Insurance Cost Reduction Strategies (From June 10 and featuring ChamberChoice)

25. Central Columbia School District to Host Open House For Career Pathway Program (From Aug. 6 and featuring Central Columbia School District)