The CEBA Story...
Downtown Shenandoah: A Look Back In Time
Downtown Shenandoah Inc. (DSI) began in 2003 as a dream and a vision of Valerie MacDonald and Attorney Eric Mika to bring this community back to life - Shenandoah had been a community with 30,516 residents and a downtown that was described as a mini New York City with all of the shops and activity. With the decline of the coal industry and the garment industry, the population declined, leaving a population of approximately 5,000 people and infrastructure built for 30,516. This leads to empty buildings and blight. So Valerie and Eric brought together a group of individuals with nothing but that shared dream and vision and over the years, we have become a self-sustaining asset to the borough and its revitalization.
We first started by raising a $90,000 match to become a Main Street Program through DCED. This program ended after 5 years and the program changed to the New Communities program, whereby you had to raise $250,000 to prove you were self-sustaining. We exceeded this goal and became the only accredited program in Schuylkill County. There are no match funds from the state for this program – just the designation. We are very proud to say we are a self-sustaining designated program for over 10 years. We are not a part of the borough of Shenandoah – we are a stand-alone organization and we do not receive funding from the borough.
Through the efforts of DSI, we run the annual Kielbasa Festival, the Kielbasa/Pierogi Golf Tournament, and Heritage Day to assist us with the funding for the organization. We also hold the Coal Cracker Christmas each black Friday, providing a tree lighting, horse-drawn carriage rides, a Christmas play put together and performed by our high school students (this event is a free event to thank the community for all of their help throughout the year).
We have also built a Gazebo for the community, provided a park for the community to enjoy, took on the repairs and maintenance of the Miners Memorial, applied for façade grants to match private investment to enable the renovation of 42 facades in our main business district, and so much more.
All of this has led us to where we are – our biggest and most exciting project – The Center for Education, Business & Arts (CEBA.) We were able to purchase land on Main Street and after much research the decision was made to build a center to provide our communities with the tools to be the creator of jobs, not to just look for jobs. A project that would help to transform the region. We raised the funds to have conceptional designs prepared to build a center that will be a hub for new and existing businesses, entrepreneurs, and artists to network, gain access to mentors and classes to start and/or enhance their business.
CEBA was created through multiple focus groups and personal interviews with the community to ensure the center will meet everyone’s needs. CEBA will include a culinary kitchen, conference/event center with a catering kitchen, and a classroom for higher education.
Providing this collaborative environment will enable individuals to grow their businesses to a point where they can open their own storefronts, thereby helping to revitalize the communities and create jobs.
We are partnering with Penn State Schuylkill who will have a classroom in the Center to provide a variety of programs focusing on business and to be a division of the Lion Launch program to assist current businesses to grow and startup businesses to succeed.
There will also be partnerships through Northeast PA Manufacturers and Employers Association and the Schuylkill Technology Center to provide mentoring and access to programs to also assist all tenants in the building. The Walk in Art Center is partnering with us to enhance their Folk Art Alliance that strives to document, demonstrate, educate, and celebrate the fine ethnic/folk art traditions of the region.
We are not naïve, we know we cannot recreate the past, that is not what we are trying to do. We’re trying to be a part of creating a bright new future for our communities.
All that we have accomplished and all we will accomplish is a result of being a part of a team, the DSI board of directors and employees, the government officials, businesses that have been there for us, and most of all the citizens of our communities that have supported us through donations, volunteer hours, and attending our events. Together we will succeed!
The mission of the organization is to provide educational, artistic, recreational, and economic opportunities that create jobs, increase household income, build community, and enhance the quality of life in the Schuylkill County Region.
The purpose of the organization is to inspire and support entrepreneurial endeavors in the greater Shenandoah area through providing below market rate workspaces for entrepreneurs; facilitating the provision of free and discounted training, mentoring and other support services to new business owners; enrich the community and create a supportive synergy between entrepreneurs and the community through shared arts and event experiences.
The vision for the organization is to: