WOODCOCK TOWNSHIP — Community collaboration was the theme of the evening as Crawford Heritage Foundation celebrated its 10th anniversary Wednesday night.

“Financial investment in the community, the vision of the Crawford Heritage Foundation, has a long history in our community,” David Roncolato told the crowd of more than 100 gathered at The Country Club to celebrate both the foundation’s past and its future.

In fact, Allegheny College’s director of community service and service learning continued, a 1938 history of the region included the observation that when Timothy Alden, who would become Allegheny College’s first president, arrived in April 1815, the frontier town “was swelling with pride at having the only banking institution in the northwestern part of the state.” There was good reason for all the excitement; the Northwestern Bank of Pennsylvania was less than four months old at the time. Over the years, both Alden and the college he led supported their local bank’s efforts by purchasing its stock.

Fast forward almost 200 years.

While Allegheny’s mission is to prepare “young adults for successful, meaningful lives by promoting students’ intellectual, moral and social development and encouraging personal and civic responsibility,” Roncolato explained, the college “cannot accomplish this, the civic dimension of our education, without engagement in the wider community.” Sometimes, he added, that means the global community. Sometimes it’s the national community. “And for many of our students it is the local community,” he said.

In other words, community as classroom.

During the past spring, a number of examples of the community serving as a classroom came across his desk, Roncolato continued.

Sarah Goetz, for example, a values, ethics and social action major and volunteer service leader at CHAPS, used her senior comprehensive project to investigate the barriers local, low-income individuals and families face in purchasing food at Meadville Market House.

Meghan Perry, an environmental studies major and Davies Community Service Leader who worked with Meadville Redevelopment Authority, focused her comp on recommendations for a college-city partnership for community revitalization and was asked to present her paper to the college board of trustees at their recent spring gathering. “The college was listening to her,” Roncolato said.

“And so we are building together,” he said. “We are involved in the shared endeavors of improving our community and educating our students.”

Indeed, he continued, “we have a great foundation — yet the building is not complete. There is much work that still needs to be done.” Figuring out what to do with the garbage at the end of the academic year, for example, is a shared problem connecting Allegheny, landlords and the city, he said with a gentle shake of his head.

Unfortunately, he continued, resolving the annual accumulation of off-campus trash isn’t the only work that needs to be done.

“Allegheny College’s own community does not yet completely embrace the significance of student engagement and learning in the community,” he said. “Sometimes the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing, and this is frustrating to our partners in the community. Not every academic department equally supports community-based scholarship.

Molly McGravey, an English major, for example, “published a powerful collection of autobiographical stories of guests of the Meadville soup kitchen and clients of CHAPS titled “Silenced Voices: A Collection of Memories and Thoughts,” Roncolato said. The project, however, was rejected as a comp proposal.

“She wrote another comp and completed this project without receiving any academic credit for it because she had made a commitment to those who had volunteered to participate,” he continued. “Molly got the ethical lesson we hope all our students get,” he added. “You do it because it’s the right thing to do.”

With a strong foundation in place, Roncolato stressed, it’s even more important that the strengthening of the campus-community continue.

Smith honored at ceremony

During Wednesday’s celebration of the 10th anniversary of Crawford Heritage Foundation, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to connect generous people in the community with worthwhile charitable causes, the philanthropic efforts of the Rev. Dr. William A. Smith, a founding director and first president of the foundation, who made significant gifts to help establish the foundation’s unrestricted fund; Richard Cook, president of Allegheny College, and his wife, Terry Lahti, who have been ardent supporters of Women’s Services and established the Richard J. Cook and Teresa M. Lahti Fund to help support the program; and Dad’s Pet Care and the Lang family, frequent sponsor of community events and programs whose employees volunteer throughout the area, were saluted.

“We have loved this place and always have given it the best we could,” Cook said.

Earlier in the evening, Cook, who is retiring later this summer, was presented with a proclamation saluting his commitment to the community by Meadville City Council during their monthly meeting. “I’ve been connected as a student, alum, faculty spouse and resident of Meadville for 42 years,” Mayor Richard Friedberg said Wednesday night. “In that time, Richard Cook was the most connected in a positive way of anyone who held that position.”

Lisa Graff of Big Brothers and Sisters of Crawford county saluted the involvement that has forged a lasting tie between the family of Kit and Dick Lang and their community. “You cannot see a fundraising T-shirt without Dad’s being (listed as a sponsor) on it,” she said. “Thank you for believing that everyone deserves an opportunity to become the person they were intended to be.”

Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at mspicer@meadvilletribune.com.

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