Area nonprofit organizations awarded over $5 million for revitalization projects

·3 min read

Nov. 4—About two dozen Northeast Pennsylvania nonprofit groups and other organizations that help low-income residents will share more than $5 million in state grants for community improvement projects, Gov. Tom Wolf announced Thursday.

Recipients include five nonprofit organizations and a college in Lackawanna County, which were awarded $2.1 million for nine projects that will expand health care and educational opportunities and bolster neighborhood beautification programs.

Luzerne County will receive $2.2 million for eight projects; Wyoming County, $101,250 for three projects; Wayne and Susquehanna counties, $279,563 and $367,875, respectively, for one project each.

The funding comes from the state's Neighborhood Assistance Program, which supports revitalization projects in economically distressed areas. Statewide, 213 community projects will share nearly $36 million.

In Lackawanna County, the largest share of the funds, $1 million, is earmarked for Camp Freedom, a recreational area partly located in Fell Twp. dedicated to helping veterans and first responders through nature-based programs. The money will be used for construction of a new building that will double as an event center and classroom space for adults to take college-level courses through Keystone College.

Matt Guedes, executive director of Camp Freedom, said the funding is crucial to help the organization obtain needed classroom space to offer college courses focused on helping veterans find employment. He's hopeful the camp's atmosphere will encourage more veterans to use education benefits, noting as many as 85% of eligible vets don't take advantage of the funding.

"Often, they don't want to go back into a traditional education scenario," Guedes said. "We're going to be able to offer them certificate programs that are job-oriented" in an outdoor setting.

Lackawanna College in Scranton is the second-largest recipient. It was awarded $750,000 to renovate a building at 401 Adams Ave. into a technology-based educational facility that will offer degree and certificate programs.

Other recipients are Friendship House in Scranton, awarded $63,750 to renovate two city buildings into a center that will provide physical and mental health care and substance abuse treatment, and the Scranton-Lackawanna Human Development Agency in Scranton, which will receive $67,500 to renovate a building on William Street into a pre-K educational center that will serve about 100 children.

Alex Hazzouri, president and CEO of Friendship House, said grants will help the organization with its plan to work with Scranton Primary Health Care Center to open a "whole person" center in the 400 block of Biden Street. The location will provide easy access to area residents, many of whom often face transportation issues in accessing care at other facilities, he said.

"That's the important thing that it's accessible to everyone," he said. "We're going to fill to fill a great need."

Two other community groups, NeighborWorks Northeastern Pennsylvania and United Neighborhood Centers of Northeastern Pennsylvania, both in Scranton, received grants to fund community beautification projects. NeighborWorks was awarded three grants totaling $135,000, while UNC was awarded one $75,000 grant. NeighborWorks also will receive a $26,250 grant to fund a foreclosure prevention education program.

The NeighborWorks projects include plans to demolish blighted properties and clean up vacant lots and programs that provide matching grants for homeowners in Scranton and Carbondale to make exterior improvements. Plans for UNC's grant include developing the closed pool on Capouse Avenue into a park.

Jesse Ergott, president and CEO of NeighborWorks, said the beautification projects encourage homeowners to work together, which helps foster a sense of community.

"This is a way for us to partner with the people who live in these neighborhoods to make their own investments," he said.

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