Mountaintop Residents, Organizations Contribute To Community In 2015
By ANDREA O’NEILL
Correspondent

There are many clichés about the speed at which a year can “fly” by, but in the case of this author, 2015 definitely seemed to pass in the blink of an eye. Children grew taller and took on new challenges, life situations changed; sometimes for the better, sometimes not, and the birthdate on the driver’s license is now further away than it was a year ago. Reminiscing is a natural response when one comes to the end of anything –a baseball season, a school year or a calendar year –so we take a look at what 2015 was like on the mountain.

Giving Back

Overlooking what many have coined “the valley with a heart”, Mountaintop residents have always added their contributions to the community in which we reside. Renee Aquilina is one such person, having created and worked to support a charitable endeavor called the Repeat Boutique, located on the South Wilkes-Barre campus of Geisinger Health System. The Repeat Boutique opened in April of 2010 and is a product of Aquilina’s work with the Geisinger Auxiliary to convert an old MRI unit into the boutique, which accepts donations of new or gently used items for resale or for those in need. It is run completely by volunteers such as Aquilina, and has been recently expanded to accommodate an increase in need and donations.

One thing that crosses the path of people like Aquilina nearly every day, as well as many others, is cancer. Fortunately, there are those on the mountain who have worked to make this disease manageable for those who have been stricken with it.

The Lady Comets Basketball team held a “Pink Out” in January; a special event to honor cancer survivors, caregivers and the memory of those who have since lost their battle. All proceeds from the event were donated to the Mountaintop Relay for Life, which was held in May. Event Lead, Regina Kloeker and many others worked hard to organize games, food and entertainment for the annual event, which included a “Broadway” theme.

Hundreds of people from the mountain and the Crestwood School District community came together to support the recovery of Fairview Elementary teacher, Megan Mitchell, from a stroke she suffered last May. Friends and family have helped Mitchell by preparing meals, hosting fundraisers and sending words of encouragement while she has endured the past year of physical therapy and rehabilitation. Megan is hoping to return to her teaching position soon.

Mountaintop residents used their talents to improve the quality of life in our community in many other ways as well.

The Kiwanis Club spearheaded a joint effort to purchase new Christmas decorations for the central location of the Mountaintop community, and Crestwood High School Sophomore, Robert Bueg achieved the rank of Eagle Scout with a project to build and provide team benches for the MYSA soccer complex.

Barbara Nullet-Yackel has opened her home to nearly 100 senior dogs since 2006 with “Murielles Place” senior dog rescue in Dorrance, and Jack Marchese, who played intramural tennis at UNLV, brought his love of tennis to Fairview Elementary with a seven week afterschool program that focused on balance, agility and coordination as well as volley techniques and round robin match play.

Local Accomplishments

Many a Mountaintop resident marked accomplishments in 2015.

Crestwood graduate Robert Moulton achieved record setting finishes in several October races, such as the Back Mountain Catholic Youth 5k, the King’s College Palermo 5k Memorial and the Kelci Gibbons Memorial Trail 6k Run in Francis Slocum while passing along his expertise and wisdom to a new generation of athletes as head Cross Country and Track and Field coach at Crestwood.

2010 Crestwood baseball standout, Matt Wotherspoon, began his professional career with the New York Yankees after graduating from the University of Pittsburgh.

From athletics to the arts, several other Crestwood graduates have also managed to find success where few have been able. Karla Kovatch became the new Executive Director of Ballet Northeast, a local youth ballet company based out of Wilkes University, and Kristen Doran recently enjoyed the premier of her fourth film, Reinventing American Healthcare, a one hour WVIA original film that explores the Geisinger Health System and it’s “approach to transforming how Americans receive and pay for health care.”.

There were also several authors on the mountain who were published in 2015. Jo Piazza O’Mara has recently released her first novel, Garden of Hope; the story of the Agosti family’s journey through estrangement and reunification. O’Mara has already started a sequel to the novel, while Nuangola resident Janet Van Gorden has published th third book in her Paramour Romance Series, entitled The Sky is the Limit; a story about a series of events and reactions between two former lovers after years apart.

The musically talented students at Crestwood presented the musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and the middle and high school concert band and chorus performed in their annual Spring and Holiday concerts, most recently under new Director of Bands, Janelle Decker.

This reporter spent a week last summer in the altitude of South Park, Colorado, volunteering with Historicorps, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving historic structures across the United States. O’Neill was interviewed by NBC reporter, Harry Smith, while on the job at the Buffalo Peaks Ranch and was part of a segment on NBC Nightly News and the Today Show which featured the preservation work of Historicorps.

Changes

As happens with every calendar year, a myriad of changes took place on the mountain this year. The Crestwood Pharmacy was taken over by two former employees, Sonya Mylet and Jessica Orloski, upon the retirement of sibling proprietors, Jim and Mark Hanlon.

Perhaps the most noteworthy changes in our community took place at St. Jude Parish.

The start of this school year saw a new principal for Saint Jude School after principal Jean Rossi retired. A graduate of Saint Jude and Bishop Hoban, new principal, Sister Ellen has taught at all grade levels and spent the last seventeen years as an administrator. She moved back to the mountain last year and found herself back where it all began when she began work at the St. Jude Parish Center.

Father Jerry Shantillo was reassigned to pastoral duties in East Stroudsburg and was replaced by Father Jeffrey Tudgay, now serving as new Assistant Pastor of Saint Jude Church after served as Deacon there several years ago.

Perhaps the biggest change for the St. Jude parishoners, however, is the planning of a new church. Father Joe Evanko, pastor of St. Jude, says the congregation is very close to their capital campaign goal of four million dollars, the amount of money the Diocese of Scranton requires they have on hand before moving forward with construction permits and final building specifications. Father Joe believes that, after six years, St. Jude will meet its financial goals and begin work on construction within the year.

Events

If gardening or hiking wasn’t your thing, there were plenty of events on the mountain to attend, usually for a good cause. The Taste of the Mountain event was in its 6th year for the Mountaintop Rotary Club, and guests were able to sample food from over 20 local restaurants and relax indoors or outdoors to some live, light jazz music by Carl Krupa.

The Kirby Library’s 11th Annual Fall Frolic & Silent Auction was also held, featuring a buffet, silent auction, music, dancing and great fun for all who attend. The 11th annual Fall Frolic is the most important fundraiser of the year for the library, which noted its 30th year in operation in 2015.

The St. Peter’s -St. John’s Apple Festival was held at Heller’s Orchard in Wapwallopen for it’s 27th year. The old tyme festival celebrates the frontier style of olden days, while offering visitors delicious home made food and craft items, activities and live music.

The World Around Us

One aspect of 2015 that many of us would rather forget was the second of two back-to-back frigid winters. While a joy to cross country and downhill skiers, snowmobilers and other winter enthusiasts, the winter of 2014-15 was a nightmare for school administrators, drivers and road maintenance workers.

With its eight nights below zero, February, 2015 was the third coldest on record. However, there is a saying that it is more about wanting what you have rather than getting what you want, so this reporter made a resolution during those cold winter months to start enjoying what is at our disposal right here on and around the mountain.

The first stop in that journey was

Nescopeck State Park, which offers a multitude of programs by DCNR staff, such as bird watching, wildflower walks, kayaking paddles and a fishing tackle and cross country ski loaner program.

Closer still, is the Black Diamond section of the Delaware and Lehigh Trail between Glen Summit and Jim Thorpe -taking up about 8 of the roughly 30 miles on the old Delaware and Lehigh Railroad bed from Glen Summit to White Haven. All you really need to enjoy the trail are your feet, but if you have a bicycle you can dig out of the garage, the trail turns from a destination to a means of transportation.

Ricketts Glenn State Park is a beautiful place to visit any time of year, especially for the waterfalls –twenty one of them ranging in height from eleven to ninety four feet that were carved approximately 340 million years ago.

No matter how much you love winter, there is always the joy of the warmth and sunshine of spring time.

Easter is usually the centerpiece of that time, and the tradition of Pysanky is one of the more intricate ways to forget the winter blues and and foster your creative side.

If coloring eggs with dye and wax markings doesn’t strike your fancy, you can always join the Mountaintop Garden Club, whose mission is to“encourage and share the enjoyment and benefits of gardening in Northeast Pennsylvania.” Members are treated to educational programs in horticulture, conservation, floral design and landscape design” and “promote positive community involvement.” The club meets monthly and is for both avid and novice gardeners, as well as those who are interested in landscaping.

After spending a day in the garden, don’t forget about the many games going on daily at the Mountaintop Area Little League Baseball/Softball complex at Alberdeen, home to Mountaintop Area Little League, where players ages 6-12 years old participate in “America’s favorite pastime”.

As the events and accomplishments of 2015 draw to a close, 2016 likewise promises to be a new year filled friends, family and fun on this mountain we call home. Happy New Year!