Major Support Heading to Communities Along Route 6 Corridor and Western PA

PA Humanities has partnered with the Route 6 Alliance and Community Heart & Soul to select and support Etna, Venango Area (Cranberry, Oil City and Franklin), Mansfield and Port Allegany along their paths to becoming stronger, more vibrant communities through PA Heart & Soul, a humanities-based approach to community and economic development centered on the Community Heart & Soul® model. Additional support is provided by the Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) and Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).

“PA Humanities is one of our most valued partners”, said Mark Sherman, President of the Community Heart & Soul foundation. “We are thrilled to see the expansion of the Heart & Soul network in Pennsylvania and look forward to supporting the new communities as they embark on their Heart & Soul journeys”.

The annual homecoming parade in Mansfield, home of the Mansfield Commonwealth University Mounties. Photo by Peter Kutbay.

Through this unique collaboration among government agencies and national, state and regional nonprofits, PA Humanities and its partners will provide a total of $200,000 in outright funding to support each community’s implementation of the Community Heart & Soul® process. In addition, each community receives training and technical support valued at an estimated $100,000 in partnership with the Community Heart & Soul national staff. 

PA Humanities will also provide overall training to the newest cohort on using the humanities as a tool for community planning. Communities will learn how to gather residents’ stories, develop unique town values, and create an action plan for the future. In addition, each town is matched with an official Community Heart & Soul® coach, a trained professional tasked with mentoring the community through the planning process. As a result, communities work together to become more connected, resourceful, and resilient. 

All four communities will begin the first phase of the process by the end of 2023. 

“The humanities have proven a powerful tool for community and economic development in Pennsylvania,” PA Humanities executive director Laurie Zierer said. “Our PA Heart & Soul towns are finding creative and innovative ways to engage residents, build relationships, honor homegrown talents and assets, and reclaim and reshape their communities.”

Since 2015, PA Humanities has worked to bring Community Heart & Soul®, originally pioneered by Orton Family Foundation (now renamed Community Heart & Soul), to communities across Pennsylvania. Etna, Venango Area, Mansfield and Port Allegany join Carbondale, Youngsville, Wyoming County, Tidioute, Ambridge, Dillsburg, Upper Chichester, Cameron County, Greater Carlisle, Mount Holly Springs, Meadville, and Williamsport, who are all in different phases of completion of the multi-year process.

Serenity Glass Park in Port Allegany showcases the community’s rich history of glass block manufacturing in public art located at the intersection of Pennsylvania Route 6 and Mill Street. Photo by Pam Fischer.

“We strive to give Pennsylvania’s residents and visitors great experiences when they travel,” said Rick Vilello, DCED’s Deputy Secretary of Community Affairs and Development. “Part of DCED’s mission is to help our communities flourish through the resources throughout the commonwealth. Together with PA Humanities and the PA Heart & Soul project, we can protect and invest in local riches that strengthen and promote local economies. PA Heart & Soul is a great example of encouraging and supporting place-based community and economic development.”

Etna is located in Allegheny County, just across the Allegheny River from Pittsburgh. The Venango region is located roughly 90 miles north of Pittsburgh. Port Allegany and Mansfield are separated by about 70 miles along the Route 6 Heritage Corridor that traverses the northern tier of Pennsylvania and was called “one of America’s most scenic drives” by National Geographic.

“I love the energy and momentum and I am thrilled to see the Community Heart & Soul® program, which puts residents first in planning for their future that is brighter and more inclusive for all, expanding to new communities in our region,” said Candace Hillyard, executive director of the PA Route 6 Alliance.