Arts council earned its 'Christmas miracle'
Executive director Jeanne Shaffer describes the donation of a house in Shamokin to the Northumberland County Council for the Arts and Humanities as a "Christmas miracle."
For the small, nonprofit organization, that's certainly an accurate description. But miracles are sometimes earned.
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Acquisition of the Kallaway home at 144 E. Lincoln St., next to the "99 steps," will be finalized by the end of the year. The former home of Dr. John and JoAnn Kallaway includes Dr. Kallaway's former dentist office and a two-car garage to the rear.
Dr. Kallaway now resides in a nursing home in Akron, Ohio. His wife, the former JoAnn McCloskey, was a registered nurse who passed away March 28, 2011. Mrs. Kallaway volunteered for many years with the Meals on Wheels program coordinated locally by Shaffer.
In its new life, the building will be known as the Kallaway Center for the Arts.
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Cindy Hetrick, of Akron, Ohio, a Danville native and first cousin to Mrs. Kallaway, said the family decided to donate the house to the council after getting no offers on a purchase.
That may seem a random act of kindness, but it wouldn't have occurred had the arts council not been so active in the community.
The Kallaway family recognized the council's commitment to a better community, which has been demonstrated in so many ways in the past decade. The arts council is responsible for the popular Anthracite Heritage Festival of the Arts, the Fall Fun Fest, Downtown Christmas and other events. The council is also responsible for the Anne Miles Children's Theater, which puts on several shows each year that involve hundreds of local children. It operates the Fine Art Gallery at the career and arts center in Shamokin, which hosts regular exhibits year-round. And the council led the effort this year to have a mural painted on a downtown building and benches along Lincoln Street painted by local artists, smaller projects but ones that added a touch of color to the community.
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More than the events themselves, the tourism they create and how they touch all age groups, it is the council's attitude that draws the eye of people such as the Kallaway family. Shaffer and her small band of volunteers are always active, always optimistic. They believe in the community and are bold enough to try new events, even amid skepticism. They have proven time and again that it's not the size of the community that matters, it's a belief in the positive.
Without such a well-earned reputation, chances are the "Christmas miracle" of the house donation would not have happened.
Semantics aside, it is a wonderful gift, and the arts council can now further build on its mission from a place it can call its own.