Celebrating the Susquehanna River Valley

Let's face it - we are all too often known as a country marked by division. But, we are also a country and a community that comes together in times of crisis! Through much of the gloom-and-doom messaging popular with today's media, stories of love, sacrifice and ingenuity shine. This page celebrates those stories. We congratulate the helpers, the healers and the out-of-box thinkers - you are the heart of this great community that we call the Susquehanna River Valley. If you know of a business making a difference during these difficult times, please email their stories to [email protected] 

Thank you to everyone who makes this region a great place to live, work and play!

Country Vale Alpacas - Welcoming New Animal Friends

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Pam Rosado, owner of Country Vale Alpacas in New Columbia, recently became a foster mom to a pregnant Chesapeake Bay Retriever Mix, Haley. Haley was dropped off at a high-kill shelter in Tennessee because she was pregnant. Pam Rosado saw Haley’s photo on Facebook and felt an immediate connection to her. She filled out the paperwork and was granted fostering privileges to Haley and her offspring. Haley gave birth to a litter of 8 puppies a week and a half after she reached the New Columbia farm. Pam feels it is important to work for good during the current crisis. “Maybe it is a wake-up call for all of us to get our act together and be nicer and be better to the world and humanity,” Rosado said. “Make the best of it. Do what you can. Adopt an animal. Be kind to each other and help each other out. When we come out of this, keep it up.”

Kelly RV, Inc. - Supporting Local Businesses

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Benjamin Ranck, owner of Kelly RV in West Milton, recently reached out to the Susquehanna River Valley Visitors Bureau to inquire about the best way to identify other bureau members. Benjamin and his wife wanted to take advantage of the state shutdown and spend their resulting free time visiting other member Facebook sites and leaving positive reviews. Benjamin explained that he had recently received a positive review from fellow SRVVB Member Desiree Schulz of Yogi at Shangri-La campground. When he thanked her she told him it was important for small businesses to help other small businesses. In turn, Ranck shared, “We want to be aggressive in doing our very small part to help others during these very challenging times.”

Greater Susquehanna Valley YMCA - Feeding Our Communities

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The Greater Susquehanna Valley YMCA, in partnership with Weis Markets, Bimbo Bakeries and community supporters, is providing meals to area children in need. Through their ongoing food program, each child can receive a bag with dinners and snacks. Distribution days, times and locations are posted at www.gsvymca.org. In addition to the food program, the YMCA is providing free virtual exercise classes on their website.

“Our communities are going through unprecedented challenges, “ read a post on the YMCA web site. “Though the Y’s doors may be closed, we are still working to meet the needs of our community during this unprecedented time."

Jackass Brewing Company - "Beer it Forward"

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Jackass Brewing Company introduced their Beer it Forward board on Facebook. This promotion allows individuals to buy a beer for their friends when they can’t be together. When the recipients pick up their growler of beer, they can “beer it forward” and buy a beer for someone else.

“Right now we’re all craving friendship and community,” according to one of the brewery's recent Facebook posts. “The best way to lift someone’s spirits is to ‘Beer it Forward’.”

The newly opened brewery is also staying connected to their community through regular virtual brewery tours.

Massers Restaurant & Catering and Wayside Inn - Serving the Servers

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Recently Masser’s and Wayside hosted takeout Pig Roast and Chicken BBQ events. Proceeds from both events were given to their employees to help them through this difficult time. According to Brian Masser both events were wonderful – they ran out of food both days. “We were impressed by the number of people who came out to support our employees during these events,” he said. “Our employees were thrilled that customers were thinking of them and wanted to help them during this uncertain time.”

Mountain Top Distillery - Spread Love, Not Germs

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Mountain Top Distillery located just outside of Williamsport recently switched over the production of their popular lines of whiskey, bourbon and moonshine to make room for a new product…hand sanitizer. Under the name Nomad Distilling Co., they are working to rollout bottles to agencies in need…first responders, health care, assisted living facilities, etc. Mountain Top coordinated $3,000 in donations from the community for this effort. “We’re a small business without a ton of additional funds,” they explained, “so we are always looking for ways where we can give back through hard work.”

Ponduce Farms - Spreading Holiday Cheer

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Ponduce Farms in Elysburg delivered free Easter dinners to  Roaring Creek Valley residents who were alone this year due to the COVID-19 outbreak. "When my sister Chrissi and I knew we would not be celebrating Easter by going to church and having dinner with our parents we decided to offer hot Easter dinners for pick up from 11 to 12," according to Donna Schu of Ponduce. "Two farms next to ours are owned by older people living alone and we knew we would be taking to them so why not fill the car up and deliver more. " Ponduce offered the meals to paying customers and asked people to let them know about individuals in need of the free meal. In turn, some of their regular patrons offered to pay it forward and help out some of their most vulnerable neighbors by donating money to the cause. According to Schu, Ponduce made over 90 Easter dinners; over half of these were donated (30 were delivered). Ponduce thanked the patrons on social media saying “we couldn't have done it without your support. Thank you! We are in this together.”

Bucknell University - Lessons For Life

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A team of around 25 Bucknell biomedical engineering students, faculty and staff are working to create innovative equipment for healthcare professionals working with COVID-19 patients. The team has designed a face shield and a tentlike structure for performing intubations and is also working on a new design for an N95 face mask which may be easier to produce and use less material than traditional masks. They are working in conjunction with area businesses and financial supporters to produce and provide this much needed equipment to Geisinger and Evangelical Community Hospital in Lewisburg. Bucknell’s efforts could be especially important for smaller local and regional health systems that don’t have the supply chains or purchasing power of larger systems, says Professor Nate Siegel, mechanical engineering, one of the faculty members leading the face shield project. “They need designs that people can make locally,” Siegel says.

Pictured N95 Filter (photo credit Nate Siegel / Bucknell)

T & D's Cats of the World Wild Animal Rescue

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T & D’s Cats of the World Wild Animal Refuge recently rescued 5 more tigers. Although fundraising activities and school field trips have had to be cancelled leading to a significant loss in funding, generous donations of materials and funds have helped T & D’s to reconfigure their tiger area, add new fencing and create new dens. Two of four new dens are complete and the other two will be complete in the next few weeks. 

For more information about the rescue efforts and updates at T & D's as well as how you can help out read the latest edition of Cat Chat, T & D's newsletter.


The Forest House Hotel - Warming Hearts and Stomachs

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On Sunday, April 26 The Forest House Hotel in Mifflinburg handed out free quarts of homemade chili in a tremendously successful community event. Husband and wife team, Matthew Mackley and Melanie Page, have owned Forest House for close to four years. While their dedicated staff sees to the daily business of running the restaurant, Melanie's family plays a huge role. Her uncle, Bob Page, originally posed the question of what they could do for their community during this time of need. The family decided to cook chili in kettles and hand it out in a drive-thru event. For the next two and a half weeks, the family worked to plan and prep for the big day.

Grocery shopping proved to be a bit of a challenge as some of the ingredients were difficult to find in quantity during this difficult time. But the family came together to obtain the ingredients, cook the chili and setup a tent in the parking lot. In addition to Matthew and Bob, Melanie credits Butch Page, Butch Page Jr., Faith Erdley, Scott Page, Betty Page, Ryan & Mindy Hackenburg, Tabb Murray and Savannah Boop for making the event possible. "It was a BIG success," according to Melanie, "and it makes your heart feel so good that people appreciate it!"

T.I.M.E. and Chef's Place - Victory Over COVID-19

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T.I.M.E. - The Improved Milton Experience and Chef’s Place / Boiardi Museum and Eatery will hold a Tomato Plant giveaway to encourage the public to create Victory Gardens on Friday, May 8. There will be non-contact curbside pick-up at the Veterans Memorial on South Front St., Milton from 10am to 4pm with a limit of six free plants per household. T.I.M.E. plans to provide 1,200 FREE tomato plants during the event. Donations will be accepted to support the Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way. This project is supported through the generosity of the Conagra Brands Foundation.

The event is in recognition of the 75th Anniversary of V-E Day which marks the end of World War II in Europe. Many homes in the United States had Victory Gardens during the war. In addition to recognizing veterans, it is also a “Salute” to the many hardworking essential workers during the Covid pandemic with a special recognition of the employees of the Milton Conagra / Chef Boyardee Plant who have been working 24/7 to keep up with market demand during the pandemic.

TIME Board President Amanda Craig stated, “These plants are a small gesture of thanks to all of our hometown heroes: the essential workers, ConAgra employees and veterans. Right now, small things will make a big difference long term, and we are so excited to share part of Milton's tomato history with community members.” 

For more information about this great event, click here: /events/miscellaneous/t-i-m-e-victory-gardens-tomato-plant-giveaway

Graci's Flowers & Gifts - Sustaining the Spirit

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 Aside from one week when they were compelled to close the store, Graci's Flowers and Gifts in Selinsgrove was able to remain open for curbside pickup and no contact delivery. Many of their customers expressed their gratitude to them. Unable to connect with their friends and family, Graci's customers were thankful to be able to send flowers to let their loved ones know they were missed. "Flowers have a way of cheering people up," according to owner Cathy Herrold. "They may not be exactly 'life sustaining' but they are 'spirit sustaining'."

The Herrolds knew that Mother's Day would be a particularly busy holiday this year. They wanted to spread the deliveries out over the whole week instead of just on Friday and Saturday. In this way, they could help more customers make their mothers feel special. In order to encourage early deliveries, they promised to donate a portion of their profits to an area food bank and to Meals on Wheels for orders being delivered May 4th through 7th .

They raised approximately $550 to split between the two groups. "We decided to use 'food for the soul' to support 'food for the body'," according to Cathy. "I am happy that we were able to have that much to give."

Cherokee Tap Room and Profile Coffee - Feeding the Front Line

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The Cherokee Tap Room in Riverside and Profile Coffee in Elysburg, both owned by Andy Bower, have struggled over the past two months. Yet, Bower made a point to show appreciation for those who are working hard to get businesses like his back open. Bower and three employees from the two businesses prepared lunches for 125 employees within Geisinger Medical Center's radiology department and delivered them to the Hospital for Advanced Medicine.

"We wanted to make sure we could do something to show our appreciation," Bower said. "We all know someone who works at Geisinger. There was this drive to show we care."

Bower said executive chef Bill Shaffer, manager Jen Brouse and assistant cook Katie Knause came in on off-hours to make the food. Together they made dozens of lunches complete with chicken salad sandwiches, cookies and pasta salad.