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South Williamsport, PA
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County Hall Corner: Planting a Tree

Arbor Day, April 27th, came and went, and probably only one out of a hundred people knew of it, and probably only one out of that number celebrated the event. The idea of planting trees might not seem glamorous, but Williamsport built its reputation as the “Lumber Capital of the World,” and had not those

Arbor Day, April 27th, came and went, and probably only one out of a hundred people knew of it, and probably only one out of that number celebrated the event. The idea of planting trees might not seem glamorous, but Williamsport built its reputation as the “Lumber Capital of the World,” and had not those millions of trees that gave their lives for that reputation been replaced, the ecology of this area would probably be close to unbearable.

This illustrates a valuable principle — we inherit the blessings and curses of the past. That is especially true with county government. The present administration inherited a budget and burdens that came from previous administrations. Not only that, but they also must deal with social problems that date back decades. One example is in the area of crime. Looking over the county budget, it is obvious that the prison and parole systems cost the taxpayers millions and millions of dollars per year.

The reason for crime has been examined since Adam and Eve’s son Cain killed his brother Abel. There will always be those who choose to usurp the law, but there are also ways that have been shown to be a healthy deterrent. One of the best is to provide a good home environment. If there is one common denominator that shows up more often than not with those who are behind bars, it is a broken or fractured home.

So what can be done when mothers and fathers fail to do their jobs? Certainly extended families do their best to provide support to children whose parents do not give them the attention they so desperately need. Also, as the feature column in this paper, “Leaders in Our Neighborhood” has highlighted on many occasions, there are those individuals who positively impact children through their work with organizations such Big Brothers/Big Sisters, sports organizations, church organizations, youth camps, and such. It is scary to think where our community would be without such institutions.

It was for this reason that at the County Commissioner’s Meeting on April 26th, the room was packed with visitors as an award of $30,000 was made to Firetree Place, 600 Campbell Street in Williamsport. These funds were specifically designed for transporting children to the facility. While it might seem like a lot of money to be busing kids around, from the commissioners’ perspective it was exactly the opposite. They viewed it as a bargain for the future.

Firetree offers both before and after-school programs, as well as a host of education, recreation, art, and social programs. Their 21,000 square foot facility, situated on eight acres in the heart of the city of Williamsport, includes a little league baseball field with concession, outdoor basketball courts, tennis courts, and is home to two playgrounds. The inside of the Firetree Place facility houses a full gymnasium with a regular size basketball court and bleachers, performance stage, two locker rooms, a welcome center, learning center, art room, music room, Head Start classroom, commercial kitchen, large common area for dining and special events, and administrative offices.

It is rare to see the county commissioners as enthusiastic as they were on this day. They were especially impressed that the entire board of Firetree Place was present at the meeting to express their thanks, which included Williamsport Mayor Gabriel Campana.

The reason for the joy was probably best expressed by Commissioner Tony Mussare who noted that these funds provide daily transportation for children who need the services of Firetree the most. The success this institution has shown in offering a “second home” to many children has tremendous value in the long run. And every dollar is accounted for! Every board member is e-mailed daily the number of children that were transported and a complete monthly financial report is delivered as well.

It is this same preventative mentality that Commissioner Rick Mirabito often comments about when highlighting the activities of the Lycoming County Library System, which he sits on as a board member. It is easy for someone on the sidelines to judge supporting organizations that are geared toward providing a good foundation for children as excessive government spending, but it is rather like planting a tree. In coming decades, the social problems that the county commissioners will face will possibly be minimized by a great degree as a result of the small investments that are being made by the board of commissioners today. Ironically, the grant to Firetree Place was made the day before Arbor Day. A true leader is one who is willing to plant trees, under whose shade he or she does not expect to sit.

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