SWB RailRiders’ Pinstripe Pals Program

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, in partnership with US Foods, are pleased to announce that the Pinstripe Pals program has returned in support of area youth softball and baseball leagues. Applications are being accepted now and 10 youth leagues will be selected for the program this year.

League representatives are encouraged to fill out the Pinstripe Pals application form and submit a 500-word (or less) essay describing why their league should be chosen. Each of the ten leagues selected will receive a $500 sponsorship from the RailRiders to assist in league expenses, as well as a $500 gift card courtesy of US Foods, which can be used to help teams pay for concession stand products and supplies. Applications are due by March 3.

Each league selected will have the opportunity to participate in a pre-game parade at PNC Field before a RailRiders home game and the opportunity for RailRiders assistance with league fundraising. Selected leagues will have a photo of their choice placed in the GuideRail game day program on their league’s designated night. One of the teams in each league will serve as the “Field of Dreams” club on that night and take the field with the RailRiders players.

Applications can be found on our website under the Community tab or upon request. Completed applications can be emailed to Robby Judge at rjudge@swbrailriders.com, faxed to (570) 963-6564 or mailed to:

SWB RailRiders

Attn: Pinstripe Pals

235 Montage Mountain Rd.

Moosic, PA 18507

Winning leagues will be announced on March 10. For more information on the Pinstripe Pals program, presented by US Foods, please contact Krista Lutzick or Robby Judge at (570) 969-2255. 

The 2023 season begins on March 31 at PNC Field with a three-game weekend set against the Buffalo Bisons.  Season ticket memberships and mini-plans are available now on www.swbrailriders.com.

Wolf Administration Outlines Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking,Offers Survivor Resources, Encourages Public to Learn and Act

Executives from the Pennsylvania departments of Transportation (PennDOT) Health (DOH), Labor and Industry (L&I), and Pennsylvania State Police (PSP), and the Office of Victim Advocate were joined by other advocates today to discuss human trafficking, outline efforts to combat it, explain how to report potential cases, and offer resources for survivors.

Human trafficking is the exploitation of people using force, fraud, or coercion for the purposes of commercial sex, forced labor, or domestic servitude. According to the International Labor Organization, there are approximately 28 million victims of human trafficking globally with 17.3 million people experiencing forced labor in private sector industries and 6.3 million experiencing forced commercial sexual exploitation. January is recognized as Human Trafficking Awareness Month, with January 11 marking #WearBlueDayPA to raise awareness of trafficking.

“Human trafficking is happening across the world, and unfortunately, right here in Pennsylvania,” PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian said. “We’re collaborating at state, national, and local levels to combat this problem and we urge the public to join us in the fight.”

PennDOT is one of the first state government agencies nationwide to educate its employees on human trafficking awareness, with all staff at driver’s license centers and Welcome Centers receiving training. The training was also made available to other department employees, transit agency employees, and is available online under the “Human Trafficking” Media Center at www.penndot.pa.gov.

The National Human Trafficking hotline (1-888-373-7888) is a 24/7 resource for victims and service providers that also collects data about human trafficking for every state and the District of Columbia. Since 2007, the hotline has over 7,760 calls and online, text, and email reports in Pennsylvania. In that same time, nearly 1,900 cases of human trafficking involving more than 4,000 victims were identified. The hotline website provides additional Pennsylvania data such as a yearly breakdown of contacts, case types, and case demographics.

Members of the PSP Organized Crime Task Force participate in human trafficking investigations that lead to arrests and prosecutions with multiple federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the PA Office of Attorney General.

“The Pennsylvania State Police conducts numerous law enforcement training in identifying trafficking cases across the state each year. We also provide civilian training at schools, hospitals and hotels because we cannot do this alone,” said Lieutenant Adam Reed, Director of the PSP Communications Office. “The public can help police in our mission to fight human trafficking in Pennsylvania by educating themselves on the warning signs and by calling authorities when things don’t seem right.”

The public is urged to report potential human trafficking situations to the national hotline, which coordinates with law enforcement and other professionals, at 1-888-373-7888, or the state tip line, 1-888-292-1919. Tips can also be sent via the See Something, Send Something phone application or by email to tips@pa.gov.

While it is challenging to identify a trafficking situation, potential warning signs could include:

  • lack of knowledge of a person’s community or whereabouts;
  • restricted or controlled communication where people cannot speak for themselves;
  • people not in control of their own identification documents; or
  • signs of branding or tattooing of a trafficker’s name (often on the neck).

The United States Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) defines labor trafficking as the “recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.” The U.S. Department of State and the nonprofit National Human Trafficking Hotline summarize this definition of labor trafficking as a “form of modern-day slavery,” often involving debt bondage, forced labor, and involuntary child labor.

In Pennsylvania, L&I enforces laws and regulations that protect workers, including children, seasonal and farm workers, immigrant workers and factory workers. Its work ensures that workers do not fall prey to organized systems of forced, unpaid, underpaid or hazardous labor that are common in labor trafficking. L&I collaborates with law enforcement agencies when labor law violations overlap with labor-trafficking crimes.

“L&I is committed to working with our partner agencies and law-enforcement professionals to ensure that no child is forced to work or put in a hazardous working condition; that no worker is deprived of their protections under Pennsylvania and federal laws; and that no business is engaged in unlawful labor activities that could negatively affect Pennsylvania workers and other businesses,” L&I Secretary Jennifer Berrier said.

Concerned Pennsylvanians are urged to say something if they see something. If you suspect a trafficking situation, it is better to call the hotline and be wrong than to not call at all.

“Women make up a majority of reported survivors, but human trafficking isn’t just a women’s issue. Survivors of human trafficking come from all backgrounds, genders and identities,” said Executive Director of the PA Commission for Women Moriah Hathaway. “Human traffickers target underserved and marginalized communities, especially people who identify within the LGBTQ+ community, children and houseless individuals. Any person who is perceived as vulnerable is at great risk for exploitation, which is why this partnership is so important.”

“The buying and selling of people is just as wrong today as it was hundreds of years ago. Pennsylvania state agencies are grateful for the community partners doing work to combat and prevent human trafficking in our communities across the state. Together, we can stop trafficking in Pennsylvania,” said Commonwealth Victim Advocate Suzanne Estrella.

Resources for victims and survivors are available in Pennsylvania:

“The consequences of sex trafficking are similar to the consequences of other sexual violence,” said Acting Secretary of Health and Pennsylvania Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson. “Consequences can be immediate and long-term, including physical and relationship problems, psychological concerns, and negative chronic health outcomes. But sex trafficking is preventable, and we are fighting back in a variety of ways.”

PennDOT has compiled resources from the U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign to end human trafficking, Pennsylvania-based resources as well as related videos and graphics in its “Human Trafficking” Media Center at www.penndot.pa.gov.

The PA Office of Victim Advocate – with partners Mission Kids Children’s Advocacy Center and Villanova Law Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation – has launched a campaign to combat child sex trafficking. Learn more and access free resources at https://pcv.pccd.pa.gov/HT/Pages/Sexual-Exploitation-of-Children.aspx.

MEDIA CONTACTS: Erin Waters-Trasatt or Alexis Campbell, PennDOT, 717-783-8800

                                    Myles Snyder, PSP, 717-783-5556 or ra-pspcomm@pa.gov

                                    Mark O’Neill, DOH, ra-dhpressoffice@pa.gov

Alex Peterson, L&I, dlipress@pa.gov

                                    Ashley Walkowiak, OVA, anwalkowiak@pa.gov

Keystone College Receives Pennsylvania National Guard Award

For the second consecutive year, Keystone College has been honored by the Pennsylvania National Guard Associations (PNGAS) for its service to members of the Pennsylvania National Guard and our nation’s veterans. Keystone is the only college or university in Lackawanna or Luzerne counties to receive this prestigious award.

  “Every day, we honor our veterans and thank our troops serving our nation both overseas and domestically,” said PNGAS Executive Director Chad Rettew. “Here in Pennsylvania, on behalf of PNGAS, we are honored to recognize such a strong collection of dedicated people and organizations helping veterans and working for the success of the Pennsylvania National Guard.”

“Keystone College is once again grateful to receive this prestigious award from the Pennsylvania National Guard Associations,” said Keystone College Human Resources Director and Veterans Outreach Coordinator Daron J. Hogan. “We strive every single day to serve our students and military veterans who dedicate themselves to serving our nation. We thank the Pennsylvania National Guard Associations for this tremendous honor.”

The Pennsylvania National Guard Associations is a non-profit organization whose sole mission is supporting the men, women and veterans of the Pennsylvania National Guard, their spouses, and families. PNGAS celebrated its 2022 Guard Awards at its celebration in Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa. Mission-driven, PNGAS is the only organization exclusively promoting the highest levels of readiness, modernization, and quality of life for its 18,000 members and 70,000

veterans of the Pennsylvania National Guard, their spouses, and families, while making sure those dedicated men and women have the very-best equipment and resources, and the benefits they earned. 

Keystone has been listed as a top school for veterans by several national military and veterans publications, most recently by Military Times Magazine.

Founded in 1868, with a commitment to providing an education to Civil War veterans and their families, Keystone is home to the Elmer Hawk ’48 Veterans Center. The Center is now the East Coast home for Veterans Stand Together, a national non-profit organization dedicated to veterans’ advocacy and support and is also the home of the Keystone Armed Services Club.

The Veterans Center offers a comfortable and convenient meeting place for this special group of Keystone students who have given so much to their country. Students can meet with each other, complete their school assignments, or simply relax, read, visit with friends and family members, or watch television while waiting for their next class.

Recognized as one of the best educational values in Northeastern Pennsylvania, Keystone offers more than 50 undergraduate and graduate degree options in liberal arts and science-based programs in business, communications, education, natural science, environmental science, and social sciences. Located 15 minutes from Scranton, Pa. and two hours from New York City and Philadelphia, Keystone is known for small class sizes and individual attention focused on student success through internships, research, and community involvement.

SACF Promotes Maggie Martinelli

The Scranton Area Community Foundation announces a staffing update in relation to its continued growth in the region. Maggie Martinelli was recently promoted to Chief Operating Officer at the Scranton Area Community Foundation. In her new role, Martinelli will assume a higher level of responsibility for aspects of internal operations, internal dynamics, and processes.

“This role is important for a growing, expanding organization,” stated Laura Ducceschi, President and CEO at the Scranton Area Community Foundation. “Maggie will be focused on supporting the Foundation’s operations to ensure continued growth for the Foundation and the high quality expected of the Foundation’s work, and deepening the impact of our expanding community initiatives.”

Since joining the Foundation in 2016, Martinelli has helped to establish nearly 100 charitable funds and has helped to process over $14 million in grants and scholarships for projects and programs in the community. Highlights of Martinelli’s work include the integration of a new grants and fund management system, providing real-time access for 300+ charitable fund holders, and immediate, convenient access to online scholarship and grant applications. She has managed programming through the Foundation’s Center for Community Leadership & Nonprofit Excellence, providing access to dozens of cutting-edge training and technical assistance programs for nonprofit organizations annually, and the NEPA Learning Conference, which serves over 200 local nonprofit professionals on a biennial basis.

“Aligned with the Foundation’s goal to respond to the needs of the communities the Foundation serves, Maggie was instrumental in helping to create and deliver a streamlined application process which enabled nonprofit organizations to access grant funding quickly through the Foundation’s $1.2 million NEPA COVID-19 Response Fund,” stated Ducceschi. “We are proud to have her on our team as we continue to grow and serve,” she added.

In her volunteer work, Martinelli has served on the boards for six organizations, including serving as the President of the Junior League of Scranton and Cinderella’s Closet of NEPA. She has been recognized on the Northeast Pennsylvania Business Journal‘s Top 20 Under 40 and has received a number of Junior League awards including the Mary Harriman Award, the Margaret L. Richards Award, and the Association of Junior League International’s Rising Star Award.

Photo: Maggie Martinelli, Scranton Area Community Foundation’s Chief Operating Officer

NET Credit Union Accepting Scholarship Applications

NET Credit Union is now accepting 2023 Annual Scholarship Applications. NET will award $10,000 in scholarships at our Annual Meeting this spring to two deserving members.

NET Credit Union will award one high school senior and one current college/trade school student a $5,000 scholarship each. Please see requirements below:

  • Applicants must be NET Credit Union members.
  • Must have proof of a B average or better and proof of attendance.
  • Must submit a 1,000 word essay with a cover page answering the question below:

Banking shouldn’t be difficult at any age. What do you think banking is? How do you manage your money? Is there a different account or benefit you’d wish NET offered that could help improve your banking?

Please see full details here: https://www.netcreditunion.com/scholarship/. Please send any questions with subject line “Scholarship Question” to marketing@netcreditunion.com. Deadline to enter is Friday, March 31st, 2023.

Treasurer Stacy Garrity Announces Benefits for PA 529 & PA ABLE Savings Programs

The tax benefits for contributing to PA 529 and PA ABLE accounts are getting better in 2023, Treasurer Stacy Garrity announced today. Higher Pennsylvania state personal income tax deductions are now in place for both programs.

PA 529 account owners may deduct up to $17,000 (previously $16,000) of contributions to their accounts, or $34,000 (previously $32,000) for couples filing jointly, provided both spouses have at least $17,000 of income. The PA state income tax deduction for 529 contributions is available to any PA taxpayer, making gift contributions an attractive benefit for family members or friends.

PA ABLE account owners will also be able to deduct up to $17,000 (previously $16,000) for contributions to their accounts.

“Both PA 529 and PA ABLE accounts have excellent tax advantages, and the higher deduction limits will help bolster savings for account owners,” Garrity said. “Treasury’s savings programs are valuable tools that help Pennsylvania families meet their financial goals. If anyone is thinking about starting to save with PA 529 or PA ABLE accounts, I encourage them to visit Treasury’s website to learn how these accounts can have a big impact on improving financial security and wellness.”

The PA 529 College and Career Savings Program is designed to help PA families steadily and strategically save for future educational expenses. Treasury offers two plans; the PA 529 Guaranteed Savings Plan (GSP), which allows you to save at today’s tuition rates to meet tomorrow’s tuition costs, and the PA 529 Investment Plan (IP), that offers a number of investment options. PA 529 plans have significant state and federal tax advantages and can be used for a wide variety of qualifying technical, collegiate, apprenticeship and K-12 educational expenses.

The PA ABLE Savings Program is a tax-free way for Pennsylvanians to save for a wide range of disability-related expenses while maintaining government disability benefits. PA ABLE provides various savings options including an interest-bearing checking account and investment portfolios. The contribution limit for PA ABLE accounts in 2023 is $17,000.

PA ABLE is the largest program in the 18-member National ABLE Alliance, accounting for nearly 25% of total assets, and one of the largest ABLE programs in the country. Treasurer Garrity was elected the inaugural chair of the new ABLE Savings Plan Network in November 2022.

To learn more about PA 529, visit pa529.com or call 800-440-4000. To learn more about PA ABLE, visit paable.gov or call 855-529-2253.

Media Contact:
Samantha Heckel, Press Secretary, 717-418-0206 or sheckel@patreasury.gov

Settlers Hospitality to Host Annual Chili & Wing Cookoff

After a two-year hiatus, the hotly-anticipated Chili and Wing Cookoff returns to Silver Birches in Hawley on Sunday March 5, 2023. The event, hosted by Settlers Hospitality, brings together over 20 of the best chefs from local restaurants, schools, and organizations as well as talented home cooks. Contestants vie for the title of Best Chili and Best Wings during a flavorful showdown that plays out at the Waterfront at Silver Birches.

The competition begins at noon with the awards presentation slated for between 3:30 and 4 p.m. A panel of guest judges will select the winners. In addition to bragging rights, first place winners receive a $100 cash prize and a trophy. Second and third place winners also take home a trophy. Everyone who attends gets a ballot for the People’s Choice Award and a chance to vote for their favorite dishes. The coveted title also brings a $100 cash prize for the winners plus trophies for first, second and third place.

A ticket entitles guests to sample each of the wing and chili offerings. Tickets are $30 per person and $15 for children ages 5-10. Silver Birches not only hosts the tasty competition, but also supplies each participant with 80 pounds of wings and all the cups, plates, spoons, napkins, and wet naps necessary for service, at no charge. All proceeds from the Cookoff benefit local hospitality employees experiencing a crisis. “People were really craving the return of this event, and we’re delighted to bring it back, especially to support a cause that’s so personal,” states Settlers Hospitality Owner/CEO Justin Genzlinger. Attendees may buy a chance for a 50/50 raffle, which will also aid the hospitality employee crisis fund.

The Cookoff is open to local businesses and individuals. Participants interested in competing in the cookoff may call 570-226-4388 or email TJSlain@Settlershospitality.com before February 11. Sponsorship opportunities are also available. Contact TJ Slain, director of food and beverage, at 570-226-2124 for more information.

Outreach – Center for Community Resources Receives Grant from the Scranton Area Community Foundation

Outreach – Center for Community Resources received an $18,500 grant from the Scranton Area Community Foundation in June of this year for Outreach Early Childhood and Parenting Programs for Moms and their Children.

The grant will provide necessary funding for programs administered by Outreach, a state-designated Family Center, during the fiscal year of July 2022 to June 2023, which support family needs in early childhood education, parenting, workforce development, financial literacy, and others. Additionally, Outreach case managers connect families to supplemental services that are available from the numerous nonprofit partners in the Scranton region, providing a safety net of unique services. Outreach connects families with services and programs they need to gain family stability and economic self-sufficiency throughout Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties.

Outreach child-serving programs aim to improve school readiness through high-quality activities that enhance cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development. Outreach parenting programs allow parents to gain the skills to implement positive parenting techniques that result in improved behavioral outcomes for their children and connect them to a social network of other parents.

The Scranton Area Community Foundation has been serving the Northeastern Pennsylvania region for over 65 years as a steward, a grantmaker, a charitable resource, and a catalyst for change and growth. The Scranton Area Community Foundation was established as a community trust in 1954 by the Scranton Family, whose initial gift was the seed that has grown into a permanent vehicle for donors to accomplish their philanthropic goals while helping to support positive change within our community. Today the Scranton Area Community Foundation holds and manages a variety of funds from individuals, organizations, and corporations. Through these gifts, the Foundation responds to community needs and has provided grants to support regional nonprofits.

Outreach Center for Community Resources delivers parent/child and workforce development services and programs to the regional community to promote family stability and economic self-sufficiency. Outreach provides evidence-based early childhood programs that help families and children gain the skills needed to be healthy and productive members of the community. Outreach improves the lives of over 4,500 individuals each year with award-winning workforce and family development programs that support people as they navigate life’s challenges.

Pictured (left to right) Outreach Family Development Specialists Alyssa Savitski and Kathy Kutsop with Scranton Area Community Foundation Board of Governors Chair Barbara O’Hara, Esq. and David Price, Foundation Board Treasurer.

PennDOT Driver License, Photo Centers Closed for Holiday

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) today announced that all driver license and photo centers, including its full-service center in Harrisburg, will be closed Saturday, January 14, 2023, through Monday, January 16, 2023, in observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. 

Customers may still obtain a variety of driver and vehicle products and services, including all forms, publications and driver training manuals, online through PennDOT’s Driver and Vehicle Services website, www.dmv.pa.gov.   

Driver and vehicle online services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and include driver’s license, photo ID and vehicle registration renewals; driver-history services; changes of address; driver license and vehicle registration restoration letters; ability to pay driver license or vehicle insurance restoration fee; driver license and photo ID duplicates; and driver exam scheduling. There are no additional fees for using online services.

A complete listing of PennDOT driver and photo license center closings in 2023 is available online. If you are planning to visit one of PennDOT’s On-Line Messenger Service Centers, please call ahead for hours of operation during holidays.

Motorists can check conditions on major roadway miles by visiting www.511PA.com. 511PA, which is free and available 24 hours a day, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information, and access to more than 1,000 traffic cameras.

511PA is also available through a smartphone application for iPhone and Android devices, by calling 5-1-1, or by following twitter regional alerts.

Follow PennDOT on Twitter and like the department on Facebook and Instagram

MEDIA CONTACT: Diego Sandino, dsandino@pa.gov