A Mount Union resident proposed a new use for the former Red Cross building owned by the borough.
Toni Welsh said her plans for the “Some Place Safe” youth shelter have been in development for some time and she’s now seeking out a viable location and exploring funding options. During council’s August meeting, Welsh expressed interest in the building located at the corner of Greene and Market streets which houses the Red Cross for decades before serving as a museum for the Mount Union Area Historical Society.
The borough has been looking for a new tenant since the start of this year and collected input from the public on potential used during a brainstorming session at the site in January.
Welsh said she envisions Some Place Safe as a center where teens can find mentors, learn about various resources available to them and take part in opportunities to give back to the community. Welsh said she’s also like the center to provide assistant to students who are homeless or experiencing dire poverty, by providing them with personal hygiene products and other essentials.
“I struggled myself as a teenager,” Welsh said, adding adolescence is a time of change and pressure, when children start to cross the bridge toward adulthood. She wants Some Place Safe to be a go-to place for teens when they feel they’ve no where else to turn — and prevent them from taking to the streets.
“Two or three years ago, I was out in the middle of the night helping friends whose children had just run away from home,” she said.
Welsh said she also wants the center to serve as a model for other communities, noting the struggles teen face are universal, not unique to Mount Union.
Although still known for its past tenant, the building’s history goes back decades before the Red Cross. It first served as the main office for General Refractories. Mount Union Area Historical Society operated an industrial museum on the site and has since turned the collection over to the Bricktown Museum on Small Street.
Council member Gary Kuklo encouraged Welsh take a tour of the building. He said he main concern is space, and whether the small building will accommodate all Welsh hopes to accomplish with Some Place Safe.
“Make sure it meets your needs,” he said.
The building has a basement and a small attic. It’s main floor contains an open area, plus walk-in value, office and restroom. The property includes a yard.
Borough manager Sue Zinoble reported she and council member Joan Rogers met recently with Dr. Marita Gilbert and Dr. Cynthia Merriwether deVries from Juniata College to talk about diversity and inclusion training for borough officials and employees.
Gilbert, who is director of the college’s office of equity, diversity and inclusion, and deVries, assistant director, were scheduled to attend last week’s meeting and share information about what the training will entail but rescheduled their presentation for another time.
“It looks like its going to come together. Everybody working for the borough will be required to attend,” she said.
Zinobile said the meeting was productive and she enjoyed teaming up with Rogers to show their guests around Mount Union.
“They really enjoyed being in Mount Union,” she said.
Pam and Don Fortney approached council for assistant with a noise-related issue in their immediate neighborhood. Pam Fortney placed an audio recording taken from her background; the music captured on the recording came from a home across the street, she said.
“We have to listen to this constantly,” she said, adding the music come on and the volume goes up from 11 am. to midnight daily.
“It’s played to loud and too often,” Fortney continued, adding a nearby resident was recently “on her death bed” a few doors down.
“That’s what she had to listen to,” she said.
Solicitor Larry Lashinsky said he will take a look at the borough’s noise ordinance to see if it points to some relief for the Fortneys and neighbors but he cautioned it’s an inherently challenging situation.
“There are completing interests,” he said, adding the music-loving neighbors have a right to enjoy their property and the Fortneys, too, have a right to enjoy some peace and quiet on their side of the street.
Several resident attended council’s August meeting believing there would be discussion on censoring political and controversial items from Mount Union’s weekly community mark.
Disagreement over such materials arose at market, held Fridays at Riverside Park, several weeks prior.
Zinobile said she was aware of the incident and said it involved objections to Confederate flags and Trump-related materials put out for sale by an out of town vendor.
She said she was also aware of the discourse on Facebook which followed, including a post urging residents to attend Wednesday’s meeting to prevent the borough from banning those materials.
A small group of residents, some donning Trump-related hats and clothing, showed up only to find no such discussions, presentations or motions on the table.
The market, operated by Open Heart of Mount Union, is in its first year and focuses primarily on hand-made and home-grown items but also includes a flea market where vendors can bring a range of items to sell.