Photos and Story by Rick Hiduk
The Wyoming County Commissioners chambers at the courthouse in Tunkhannock were filled on March 11, as representatives from Luzerne-Wyoming Counties Mental Health and Developmental Services (MH/DS), several elected officials, and clients served by the agency joined the regular meeting of the commissioners for a reading of several proclamations marking March as Intellectual Disabilities Awareness Month.
Highlights of a lengthy meeting of the Wyoming County Commissioners on March 11 included proclaiming March 27 as CASUAL Day at the courthouse to build awareness for the prevention of colon cancer and the entire month of March as Intellectual Disabilities Awareness Month.
The acronym CASUAL means “colon cancer awareness saves unlimited adult lives.” Factoryville resident and Northeast Regional Cancer Institute (NRCI) spokesperson Derry Bird was on hand for the reading of the proclamation and noted that incidents of colon cancer run about 18 percent higher in Northeast Pennsylvania than the rest of the country.
This marks the eleventh year that NRCI has sponsored the event, which encourages workers to dress casually on Thursday, March 17, to bring awareness to the campaign. Participants can also purchase T-shirts or pins in advance to be worn that day.
“It’s become a tradition for us,” said Commissioner Tom Henry, who credited administrative secretary Linda Stacknick for spearheading T-shirt sales at the courthouse. “We’ve exceeded last year’s total already.”
The initiative was started by the children of Helen Phillips, who lost her battle with colon cancer in 2002. “She would be here today if she had been checked,” said Henry, adding that colon cancer is one of the most preventable forms of the disease with early detection. NRCI estimates that 350 Northeast PA residents die from colon cancer each year.
Later in the meeting it was noted by Tom Yoniski (above, left) in a resolution from Sen. Lisa Baker’s office that there is no cure for intellectual disabilities, “but each service can and does improve skills and adaptability.”
Yoniski was one of several to speak to the commissioners and many others in attendance on the topic of intellectual disability awareness. Carol Sweeney (above, right), appearing before the commissioners on behalf of state representatives Sandra Major, Karen Boback, and Tarah Tohill also read a proclamation.
A proclamation issued by the commissioners read in part, “People who have an intellectual disability can be active members of the community. With the help of their families, friends and support staff, they are able to participate in everyday activities.”
The commissioners also acknowledged the dedication of MH/DS staff members and others in the field who provide services for such individuals. In conclusion, the proclamation read, “The Wyoming County Commissioners…ask all citizens to increase awareness, respect and understanding of intellectual disabilities and encourage everyone to accept these special individuals and give them the respect and support that they deserve.”
In other news, the commissioners announced that they will be applying for a $12,500 grant through PCorp Loss Prevention Program to renovate the primary entrance to the courthouse on the Putnam Street side of the building. If successful, the grant would match $12,500 from the county to make the entrance way more weather-proof and more handicap-accessible with doors that open automatically.
“We have a plan drawn up on what we would like it to be,” said Henry, noting that the design, which will be put out to bid when the application is approved, will not detract from the historical integrity of the courthouse.
A second renovation effort was also discussed by the commissioners, this in support of the renovation of the old Lackawanna Railroad train station in Nicholson. The commissioners unanimously lent support for a feasibility study and agreed to serve as a “pass through” for funds and donations associated with the project, which organizers in Nicholson hope to have completed by September 2015, just in time for the 100th anniversary of the Tunkhannock Viaduct, the massive concrete bridge that carries the railroad over Nicholson.
“It’s a historic site that should be preserved,” said Commissioner Ron Williams, who related that he had worked in the building for the railroad company in the 1960s.
“It’s a really good project that we hope will bring Nicholson more tourism,” Henry agreed.
In citizens comments, Deborah Courville from Bainbridge Township provided information to the commissioners about pet oxygen masks that could be used by first responders to resuscitate dogs cats and other animals overcome by smoke or other elements of a disaster or accident. Williams related that he had once tried unsuccessfully to fit a human-sized oxygen mask to the snout of an ailing pet, and that the specially designed apparatus was a welcome idea.
When purchased at least three at a time, the kits are priced as low as $95 each. Courville expressed an interest in donating three kits to the fire departments closest to her – Laceyville, Meshoppen, and Mehoopany. Williams and Henry were quick to throw their support behind the gesture, but Henry said that he would first like to speak with the individual fire companies to make sure that they don’t already have the kits.
Wyoming County Commissioners Ron Williams (left), Tom Henry (right) and Judy Mead (second from right) welcomed Northeast Regional Cancer Institute (NRCI) spokesperson Derry Bird (center) and administrative secretary Linda Stacnick to their March 11 meeting to announce CASUAL Day, which will be observed on March 27. Stacknick was applauded for her efforts to sell T-shirts and pins in advance of the event which promotes awareness of colon cancer.