Learn more about the $292,000 awarded to local projects by the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau Community Impact Grant Program.
The Women Veterans Museum in Mount Pocono houses military artifacts dating back to 1934. Every uniform, backpack, book and picture tell the story of local women who served. “When passion takes over, it takes a very short amount of time. It took five months to create the museum, put the display together, and say no longer will women be invisible,” said Claudette Williams.
Museum CEO Claudette Williams, also known as retired Sgt. Major Claudette Williams, served tours overseas in places such as Kuwait and Afghanistan. Her reason for founding the museum is personal. She explained, “serving 30 years in the United States Army, going places and showing your ID, and you get the question, where did your husband serve?”
The PMVB Community Impact Grant provided $10,000 to fund new flag poles and lighting, display cases, and a statue honoring fallen soldiers. “We were screaming when we got the letter saying we received the grant,” Williams smiled.
In another part of Monroe County, the Middle Smithfield Township Community and Cultural Center received $20,000 for two electronic signs plus an interactive kiosk.
“Middle Smithfield tends to be the gateway to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, so we can help visitors find their way to our local stores and restaurants,” explained Annette Atkinson, Middle Smithfield Township supervisor.
Opened in 2021, the Community and Cultural Center is home to a library, exhibit space, and a community room which hosts programs for all ages. The building also serves as a Red Cross certified emergency shelter.
“Middle Smithfield Township is set up a bit differently from other boroughs and townships. It’s not walkable. So, we really needed something to center the whole community around,” Atkinson said.
Over in Waymart, a new platform was purchased through grant funding, making a restored Open Air Gravity Railcar accessible to visitors. In the 1800s, tourists would ride a similar passenger car to the nearby Farview Observatory, which boasted picnic areas and scenic views. “People came from all over to ride on this passenger car because it was the new technology of those days,” said Jane Varcoe, president of the Waymart Area Historical Society.
Before becoming an amusement, the Delaware and Hudson Gravity Railroad was built to transport anthracite coal between Carbondale and Honesdale. Coal was then transferred to the New York market by canal boat, fueling the Industrial Revolution.
The last surviving D&H Gravity Railroad Depot is now home to the Waymart Area Historical Society and Museum. The artifacts on display, plus the restored passenger car outside, help preserve history for generations to come. “I drive by probably five times a day and there is always people climbing up here, getting on the car, and just seeing how neat it is,” Varcoe said.
In another part of Wayne County, a mural project is set to liven up the skatepark at Bingham Park in Hawley. Silhouettes of skateboarders photographed in the park will wrap around each ramp, becoming blank canvases for student artists.
“When kids have a little skin in the game, they tend to be more respectful and will actually utilize the space because they'll feel invested in something within their community,” said Lori Ryan, project coordinator of Hawley Skates.
In Carbon County, the Jim Thorpe Memorial received parking upgrades so visitors can easily pay their respects to the borough's Olympic namesake.
“I think it's well overdue. When I visit grandpa, I have to park in the dirt. It’s a necessary thing, I believe, to give people access to the mausoleum. There’s so much information there about grandpa and so much that people want to learn about him. With that parking, I think it's going to make it a little easier and more accessible,” said John Thorpe, grandson of Jim Thorpe.
In Pike County, twelve new trash cans line Milford’s business district. A local architect created the custom cans with a tree design since Milford is known as the Birthplace of America’s Conservation Movement. Its' famous Grey Towers was home to the U.S. Forest Service's founder and first chief.
“We are a community that relies on tourism and if there's trash on the sidewalks, it's not an inviting place to stop,” said Eileen Smith, president of Milford Enhancement Committee.
The cans are durable, easy for crews to empty, and prevent people from dumping bags of household trash. They were made possible through a $14,000 grant, plus the generosity of local businesses, including the Dimmick Inn and Milford Hospitality Group.
“We wanted something that could be aesthetically appealing, as much as a garbage can could be, and I think we accomplished that. It's a beautiful design and we're very happy with it,” added Maria Farrell, vice president of Milford Borough Council.