Education took center stage at the 2nd Annual Spirit of the Endless Mountains ceremony hosted by the Community Foundation in Montrose on Thursday, Oct. 13.
Peter Quigg, President of the Community Foundation of the Endless Mountains, said the main roles of the organization is managing the endowments and administering the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program (EITC).
With the EITC program, corporations received credits on their Pennsylvania taxes, while those funds are used to help deserving students in preschool, Kindergarten – 12th grade, and for special school projects.
Quigg said Peoples Security Bank & Trust has been involved with the Foundation since its beginning. Then known as People’s National Bank, bank president Jack Ord was a member of the founding board.
Over the years, Peoples has given $2 million to the EITC program, those funds going to help a far reach of students, from Susquehanna County to the Lehigh Valley.
“It’s not organizations that do work,” Quigg said of PSBT, “It’s the people of those organizations. “The people we have worked with over the years truly care about the communities where they are located, where their employees live and where their customers live.”
Quigg said that the bank established a charitable fund in the late 1990s; and now as the bank expands its footprint, the endowment is having a broad impact. “People do appreciate it,” he said.
PSBT representatives were able to hear first-hand how their EITC contributions had impacted students from pre-school though high school.
Joanne Sivers, of Angel Beginnings Preschool in Montrose, spoke about the benefits of early childhood education. In the preschool setting, the children gain social and emotional development, gain confidence, and the skills required to move on to kindergarten.
“The scholarships do make a difference,” she said. “We create an environment where children come to realize learning is fun.”
Sivers said a positive attitude toward school and education is fostered in the program.
“Early childhood education holds the keys to success. Thank you for giving this gift to so many children in the community,” Sivers said.
The EITC program also helps fund dual enrollment courses for students in area high schools, enabling them to earn college credits.
The impact of those classes at Blue Ridge has been substantial, said high school guidance counselor, Paula Finn.
Finn said that in the 2014-15 school year, Blue Ridge received $7,300 from the EITC program to help offset dual enrollment costs. Those funds made it possible for 19 students to obtain 243 college credits. Last year, 24 Blue Ridge students achieved 466 credits with $14,000 in EITC funds.
“I can’t overstate how much this has done for our kids,” Finn said.
The ability to achieve those credits in high school was likely the turning point for one child. “She came to me combative,” Finn said, “a bright girl with no path to the future.”
The student was able to earn 15 credits during her last two years of high school, and went on to college. “She never would have gone to college had she not had those credits,” she said.
Christian Davis, who works in Scranton Prep’s admissions and financial aid office, said students at the private school had also benefited from the bank’s generosity.
He spoke of students who began their educations at Scranton Prep, but then their families fell on hard times.
“Peoples offered them stability,” he said. “My only regret is you don’t get to see the reaction when families realize they’re going to be able to do this,” he directed to the PSBT officials.
Craig Best, PSBT President, was presented with one of the Spirit of the Endless Mountains awards. “The Foundation does so much more for us than I feel we do for them,” he said.
Best said the Foundation staff identifies areas of critical need in the community, and helps get charitable contributions to the appropriate place.
Just about everyone in Wyoming County knows Dick Daniels, Quigg said, introducing the individual Spirit of the Endless Mountains award recipient.
Quigg said Daniels exemplifies community spirit, with his involvement with the Triton Hose Company, Wyoming County Historical Society, United Methodist Church, Kiwanis Wrestling Tournament, as well as events that hit closer to home: the Jack Daniels race, Admiral Stark race, and Frank Valvano race.
Daniels established the Jack Daniels Memorial Scholarship years ago, and it was transferred to the Community Foundation in 2006.
In 2015, Daniels also helped established the Tunkhannock Class of ’66 Scholarship.
Daniels said he was both “embarrassed” and “humbled” to receive the award, adding that he felt it was undeserved.
And after contemplating not attending, he decided it offered him an “oppurchancity” to speak on behalf of his wife and family.
“We belong to an exclusive club you don’t want ot be a part of,” he said, telling those in the audience about the death of his son, Jack, at age 15.
Following his son’s death, he established a memorial scholarship but over the years became worried about the monetary future of the scholarship until he heard a presentation from the Community Foundation, thinking at first it was “snake oil from Susquehanna County.”
But, he said, he was convinced. This year, the Jack Daniels Scholarship will award $2,500 to a graduating senior.
“It will go on forever,” Daniels said. “That’s great for a family looking for perpetuity and a legacy for what he had done.”
Daniels presented Community Foundation board and staff members with a pin.