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Mountain Home Magazine

A Just Cause

by Linda Roller

When starting on a new venture, many people play it safe. They start small, build slowly, and don’t take any risks. To raise money for a not-for-profit, you plan a car wash, a bake sale, a spaghetti dinner. After all, that’s the “smart” thing to do. By those standards, Barb Sargent, along with Connie Shaw and Lorraine Pollock, and the event they’re planning—A Just Cause—is anything but smart. But it just might be brilliant.

A Just Cause is raising funds for Partners In Progress of Tioga County, and they invite everyone to the Tioga County Fairgrounds, on Charleston Road, Whitneyville, September 7 and 8 for the inaugural event. For over a decade, Barb says, there was no increase in federal and state funding. Costs have continued to rise and have not kept up with the expanding range of services PIP provides. A Just Cause looks to help fund these programs and to provide a working environment and an income to people who would not otherwise be able to have real, steady work.

The main attraction at A Just Cause is the juried artisan show featuring artists from New York and Pennsylvania. This is a chance to see and purchase some of the best artwork and craftwork the area has to offer—jewelry, sign painting, baskets, needlework and textile art, ceramics, glass work, even sleigh bells are just some of what will be available. Add to that wineries and a cider press showcasing the fruits of the region, and local food vendors and food trucks with delicious things to eat. There will also be room for some junior artisans—up-and-coming high schoolers who are perfecting their craft and just beginning to show the world what they can do.

It’s the type of event that Barb knows well. She has been making handcrafted jewelry for over twenty years; her work received Best in Show at Glassfest 2015. With that kind of experience, she knows first hand what makes a great artisan show, for both the artists exhibiting and the people who come to see fine work.

“Someday I hope to have one of the biggest artisan shows in Pennsylvania,” she says, and expects this show to be the first of many.

But that’s just the beginning of what the weekend offers. Barb and A Just Cause have teamed up with Bigfoot Radio (104.5 FM in Wellsboro and Mansfield) and its sing-off contest, the Voice of Bigfoot Country. The sing-off’s grand finale show, and awarding of the $500 prize, will be during A Just Cause. Bigfoot Country DJ Eric Bailey will provide entertainment all day Sunday. Barb is looking for attendees to photograph the weekend’s events, with amateur shutterbugs invited to then enter a snapshot contest. The best photo, judged by Bruce Dart from Photos by Dart, will win a one-hundred-dollar prize. There will be a baby photo contest, a silent auction, and a fifty-fifty drawing both days.

This is a big event, says Barb, raising money for an even bigger cause—one close to her heart. All the money raised during the event will go to Partners In Progress, an organization co-founded by Barb’s father, Cliff Slater, and Harry Scouten. PIP was organized in 1997 to help people who, because of a disability, were unable to find and keep a job. Other organizations, like Hope Enterprises in Lycoming County, and Capabilities in Chemung County, provided some jobs, but they were not local enough to see to the needs of people in Tioga County, nor flexible enough to create employment opportunities for them.

Irene Morgan, executive director of PIP, recalls that the first few jobs were at an underwear factory in Liberty. Within five years PIP had expanded from a staff of two serving ten people in workshops, to seven staff serving thirty-five, and then bought property in Mansfield.

Today, PIP serves a workforce of 175 to 200 people. The staff of nearly one hundred provides a vocational training facility, and facilitates the work for three main companies: Wardflex of Lawrenceville, Tyoga Container of Tioga, and Metalkraft Industries of Wellsboro. PIP acquired Highland Chocolates in 2012. They also organize the janitorial crews for thirty-five businesses in the area, and run a thrift store, My Neighbor’s Closet, next door to the South Main Street headquarters.

Many of the people who work for PIP need help living on their own. So there are residential programs—an adult training facility, and the Transition House, providing a real house in a real setting with a program to learn how to live independently. There are student programs designed to help with the affairs of just plain living, and to also help explore jobs and find the right job for the right young person.

PIP also hosts two summer camps. Camp Partners is a place where young people, both with and without disabilities, enjoy camp activities together. Students teach each other, and integrate brain builders and life skills into summer fun. Partners Summer Adventure Program has fewer students and is geared toward those who are more comfortable in a slower-paced setting.

It’s a cause worth celebrating, and holding an event that shows off the products, the artistry, and the people of the region is the perfect way to do it. Admission and parking are free, and you are invited! Gates open at 10 a.m. both days. The show is open until 5 p.m. on Saturday and until 4 p.m. on Sunday. Call PIP at (570) 662-7026 for more information.

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