WILKES-BARRE — The Pennsylvania Commission for the United States Semiquincentennial — America250PA — last week announced that former Exeter Borough Mayor Cassandra Coleman has been appointed executive director for the America250PA initiative.
Coleman most recently served as Special Advisor to the Office of Gov. Tom Wolf, and previously served as Director of Wolf’s Northeast and Central offices.
At the age of 20, Coleman was appointed mayor of her hometown of Exeter to fill her late grandfather, Mayor Joseph Coyne’s unexpired term. Following her appointment, she was re-elected mayor twice and left office to join the Wolf administration.
Coleman is a 2010 graduate of King’s College in Wilkes-Barre where she earned a degree in Political Science. She and her son, Jimmy IV, reside in Exeter.
Pennsylvania officially recognized the members of the America250PA commission at a swearing-in ceremony held this week at the Governor’s Residence. Pennsylvania will play a pivotal role in this 250th, or semiquincentennial, celebration in 2026.
Gov. Tom Wolf, first lady Frances Wolf, former governors Tom Corbett and Mark Schweiker, members of the commission and other invited guests joined in the swearing-in ceremony. Coleman was announced the executive director.
“With the efforts of this project, we want to touch every Pennsylvanian in some way across all 67 counties,” Coleman said. “Every county in this Commonwealth is unique and has something to celebrate and we want to help each county do so. We want the nation, and world to see why we all chose to call Pennsylvania home and why we are Pennsylvania Proud.”
Focusing on the next generation, Coleman said the state launched the America250PA Direct Effect Innovation Challenge last month.
“This was made possible through a partnership with Wilkes Barre Connect, the U.S. Postal Service and Maga Design. I am proud to report that we have over 30 colleges and universities from across this Commonwealth signed up and partnered with us — more importantly, their students, already signed up. It is imperative that our young people are proud of and inspired by our Commonwealth too, so they choose to stay here, invest here, and raise families here.”
Wolf signed legislation to create the commission in November 2018. The new commission includes 20 private citizens, four legislators in a voting capacity, and 11 state officials in non-voting ex-officio roles.
“Thank you all for your commitment to helping ensure Pennsylvania is recognized for its role in founding the United States of America,” Wolf said. “Our nation will be celebrating a milestone birthday in 2026: 250 years, and it was right here in Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall where our founders gathered on July 4, 1776 and voted to adopt the Declaration of Independence.”
Sen. Casey looks to eliminate
wait for SS disability benefits
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, Ranking Member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, along with other members of Congress this week introduced the Stop the Wait Act.
After waiting months to qualify for coverage through Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), individuals with disabilities are forced to wait another five months to get a disability check and another two years to obtain health coverage through Medicare. The Stop the Wait Act would eliminate these dangerous, mandated waiting periods imposed on individuals with disabilities that harm their health by delaying critical health care.
“Workers who have paid into the Social Security Disability Insurance fund should not be denied their benefits at the time they need them most,” Casey said. “For many individuals living with disabilities, these waiting periods can be deadly. We must eliminate this barrier to accessing necessary and often life-saving supports and ensure timely, equitable access to health care.”
In 2017, more than 10,000 American died while waiting for SSDI benefits to begin. The wait times greatly affect adults with rapidly progressing diseases such as Huntingdon’s Disease, cancer, cystic fibrosis and other conditions.
American workers who have developed a disability may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), a benefit financed by employee/employer payroll taxes. SSDI requires an application and determination period that can last more than 18 months, as well as mandated five months to obtain a disability payment, and then an additionally mandated 24 months to receive Medicare benefits.
Sen. Toomey joins effort to
expand Alzheimer’s care
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, is continuing his longstanding effort to support Alzheimer’s patients and those that care for them by cosponsoring the Younger Onset Alzheimer’s Disease Act.
The bipartisan legislation would qualify individuals with early-onset Alzheimer’s for two existing federal programs, the National Family Caregiver Support Program and the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program.
“More than 16 million Americans provide unpaid care to loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia,” Toomey said. “This year alone, caregivers will devote 18.5 billion hours and $234 billion providing care. These staggering figures are a testament to the compassion and determination of those caring for patients of Alzheimer’s. Expanding the eligibility of these two federal programs will provide more support for caregivers and patients, and will help ensure they know they are not alone.”
Under the program, the Administration for Community Living provides grants to states and territories to:
• Provide information to caregivers about available services.
• Assist caregivers in accessing available services.
• Provide individual counseling, organizing of support groups, and caregiver training.
• Provide respite care.
Kingston to receive $250,000
to renovate Church Street Park
Rep. Aaron Kaufer, R-Kingston, announced last week that Kingston was awarded $250,000 to repair and improve Church Street Park through the Greenways, Trails and Recreation Program offered by the Commonwealth Financing Authority.
“It’s been a pleasure to partner with Mayor Paul Roberts and the Kingston Council to bring these many recreation initiatives through to fruition,” said Kaufer. “This project is part of a larger overall initiative focusing on our community parks and outdoor recreational opportunities. It is crucial that these municipal facilities used by families are well-maintained and safe for children in order to continue to make our community a great place to live and raise a family.”
The renovation project includes purchasing and installing new playground equipment, reconditioning the football field and installing 10 new decorative lighting poles. The total cost of the project is $322,131.
“This grant will allow us to put in new playground equipment and renovate the football field,” said Mayor Roberts. “It will look fantastic and be a great thing for our community.”
Funds coming from the Greenways, Trails and Recreation Program are used for planning, acquisition, development, rehabilitation and repair of greenways, recreational trails, open space, parks and beautification projects.
For more information about this outreach, or any other state-related issue, contact Kaufer’s district office in Luzerne, 161 Main St., by calling 570-283-1001. Information can also be found online at RepKaufer.com or Facebook.com/RepKaufer.
PA experts offer foliage tips
for residents and travelers
To celebrate the fall season in Pennsylvania, DCNR experts will be available to serve as regional advisers on fall foliage, offering tips and resources to help residents and visitors experience a colorful autumn in a variety of ways across the commonwealth.
Fall foliage typically peaks for several weeks near the beginning of October across Pennsylvania. Starting September 26, weekly fall foliage reports can be found online on the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation of Natural Resources website and will be updated every Thursday. Visitors can get suggestions about the best spots to view fall foliage on the Penn’s Woods Fall Foliage story map and on the Pennsylvania Tourism Office website.
DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said, “With 121 state parks and more than 2.2 million acres of state forestland, Pennsylvanians truly are blessed with an abundance of prime fall-foliage viewing areas.”
Each year, Pennsylvania’s nearly 204 million travelers inject more than $43 billion into Pennsylvania’s economy, generate more than $4 billion in tax revenues, and are responsible for more than 500,000 jobs related to or benefiting from tourism.