2023 ATHENA Leadership Award Recipient Announced

The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce Laura Ducceschi, MBA, MA, CAP, CFRE, president & CEO of The Scranton Area Community Foundation, as the 2023 ATHENA Leadership Award recipient.

The ATHENA Award, sponsored locally by Michael A. Barbetti LLC Certified Public Accountants, honors an exceptional individual who has achieved excellence in their business or profession, has served the community in a meaningful way, and has assisted women in their attainment of professional goals, and leadership skills. Laura Ducceschi embodies these characteristics wholeheartedly.

For over 10 years, Ms. Ducceschi has made significant strides as a nonprofit leader to make lasting and meaningful changes in the region. Since being named president and CEO of the Scranton Area Community Foundation, the organization has witnessed exponential growth. Under her leadership, the Foundation has established programs like NEPA Gives, The Center for Community Leadership, NEPA Moves, Women in Philanthropy, and the NEPA Animal Welfare Collaborative.

Ms. Ducceschi is actively involved with numerous communities. Currently, she serves on the Geisinger Advisory Board, the University of Scranton Advisory Board, NEPA Grant Makers Steering Committee, the Lackawanna County Women’s Commission, The Chamber’s Lackawanna Industrial Fund Enterprises (LIFE) Board of Trustees, and is a Board Governor for the Indraloka Animal Sanctuary. In addition, she serves as a mentor for the Kirby Center for Entrepreneurship, is a Schwartz Mack Foundation trustee, and participates with the Funder’s Network racial equity group.

Ms. Ducceschi is no doubt making positive and inspiring advances in the local nonprofit sector by implementing projects and programs that support our community,” says Bob Durkin, president of The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce. “We commend her for the work she has done so far and congratulate her as the 2023 recipient of this prestigious award.”

The ATHENA Award will be presented to Ms.Ducceschi at The Chamber’s International Women’s Day Luncheon on March 8, held at Marywood University, and is sponsored by The Honesdale National Bank. Tickets can be purchased online at www.ScrantonChamber.com.

The ATHENA Award was first presented in 1982 in Lansing, Michigan, and has grown to include presentations to more than 5,000 individuals in hundreds of cities in the United States as well as in Canada, China, Russia, and the United Kingdom. The award takes the form of a hand-cast bronze sculpture symbolizing the strength, courage, and wisdom of the recipient.

The ATHENA Award® Program is nationally underwritten by General Motors and National City Bank.

ATTACHED PHOTO (in order of appearance starting on the left): Kristine Augustine, vice president, The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce; Bob Durkin, president, The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce; Laura Ducceschi, president & CEO, The Scranton Area Foundation and 2023 ATHENA Award recipient; Donna Barbetti; Mari Potis, director of membership and events, The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce.

About The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce
The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce is a not-for-profit organization that works to improve the area’s economic environment and quality of life by providing programs and services which stimulate economic growth, promote business prosperity and nurture educational opportunities. For more information about the Chamber, visit www.scrantonchamber.com.

Johnson College Now Offering Evening Medical Assistant Program

Johnson College’s Continuing Education Program is currently enrolling students in its evening Medical Assistant program. The class will be held in the Lemon Street Lab on the Johnson College campus on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 to 9 p.m. beginning on March 21, 2023, and ending on October 4, 2023.

This program prepares students to assist physicians by performing functions related to the clinical aspects of a medical office. Functions include preparing patients for examination, treatment, routine laboratory procedures, pharmacology, and taking and documenting vital signs. Plus, students will learn the fundamentals of phlebotomy and venipunctures, anatomy & physiology, and medical terminology encountered in the field. Students will gain the knowledge and skills needed to perform the duties required of a medical assistant.

The class fee is $5,000 and is approved by PA CareerLink for those eligible for funding through their local CareerLink.

To learn more or enroll call 570-702-8979 or email continuinged@johnson.edu. To register for the course, visit johnson.edu/continuingeducation.

About Johnson College

Johnson College provides real-world, hands-on learning in a supportive environment and prepares graduates to enter into or advance in their in-demand careers. Johnson College was founded in 1912 and is the region’s only technical college, offering 17 associate degrees, four academic certificates, and over 30 continuing education programs. A low student-to-instructor ratio supports an emphasis on hands-on learning. Located in Scranton on a 44-acre campus, the College is an accredited, private, non-profit, co-educational institution with a strong tradition of working with regional businesses and industries to ensure a skilled and qualified workforce. For additional information on Johnson College, please call 1-800-2-WE-WORK, email enroll@johnson.edu, or visit Johnson.edu.

Marywood University Receives Grant

The Donald B. and Dorothy L. Stabler Foundation recently awarded Marywood University a grant in the amount of $134,000. This gift will support The Donald B. and Dorothy L. Stabler Scholarship Fund established in 2019 with a $385,000 gift from the Stabler Foundation. This Fund benefiting students from central and eastern Pennsylvania has been supported by subsequent foundation gifts in recent years, bringing the total giving to $1.1 million.

The Donald B. and Dorothy L. Stabler Foundation was established by Mr. and Mrs. Stabler in 1966 exclusively for charitable, religious, scientific, literary, or educational purposes. Marywood’s Stabler Scholars commit to making contributions to the endowment scholarship fund after their graduation in an amount at least equal to what they received. This is a “debt of conscience” rather than a legal obligation, and it helps to create a culture of philanthropy in students who have received funding and support.

Sister Mary Persico, IHM, Ed.D., president of Marywood University said, “This generous gift will create resources that best serve our students during these times that require flexibility and ingenuity—two bedrocks of a Marywood education founded in the liberal arts tradition. Because of The Donald B. and Dorothy L. Stabler Foundation, our resilient and innovative students will have the resources to emerge stronger and better. Their support indeed inspires the next generation of Marywood students to dedicate their lives to serve the common good.”

For additional information about Marywood University, please visit marywood.edu, or call the Office of Admissions, at (570) 348-6234.

Kalahari to Host Sweetheart Dance

The whole family is invited for a night of making memories at Kalahari’s Sweetheart Dance. Come dressed to impress for a night of dinner, games, photo ops, and more!

Price: $42 Adults (Age 13 and older) $20 Children (Ages 4-12)

Date: Saturday, February 18, 2023 Time: 7:00PM – 11:00PM Location: Kalahari Resorts & Conventions

Featuring: Dinner Buffet, DJ, Dancing, Games, & Photo Booth


  • Braised Short Ribs with a Red Wine Demi Glaze Sauce
  • Red Snapper Vera Cruz
  • Roasted Garlic Parmesan Baby Red Potatoes
  • Steamed Broccolini
  • Full Salad Bar with Field Greens, Romaine, Grape Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Shredded Carrots, Cheddar Cheese, Croutons, and Assorted Dressings
  • Chef’s Selection of Desserts
  • Children’s Buffet will be available, including kid favorites like chicken tenders, mac & cheese, pizza, and more
  • Charge bar available

Northeast Regional Cancer Institute Receives Donation

The Spirit of Hope Celebration Board of Ambassadors presented the Cancer Institute with a $54,789 check from their 2022 Spirit of Hope event.  

“On behalf of the Ambassadors who truly exhibit the ‘Spirit of Hope’ we are thrilled to present you with these funds to help individuals receive early detection and free screenings,” said Leo Vergnetti, Chairman of the Board of Ambassadors. 

The Board of Ambassadors, a group of community volunteers, hosted the tenth annual Spirit of Hope Celebration in November 2022 at Mohegan Pennsylvania. More than 300 people were in attendance. The event featured cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, music and a silent auction. Bob Durkin was the Tribute to Courage Honoree.  

Proceeds from the event benefited the Cancer Institute’s Community-Based Cancer Screening Navigation Program. This program helps individuals in northeast Pennsylvania get their recommended colorectal, breast, cervical, and lung cancer screenings. 

The Honesdale National Bank Foundation Makes Donation

The Honesdale National Bank Foundation has recently made a $12,500 contribution to NeighborWorks of Northeastern Pennsylvania. The funds will go specifically to the organization’s Aging in Place program.

HNB President & CEO, Thomas E. Sheridan Jr., stated, “We are happy to support NeighborWorks and their continuous efforts with their Aging in Place program.” He continued, “Maintaining the safety and livelihood of our senior community members is something we cherish here at HNB, and we hope these programs are available for generations to come.”

The Aging in Place program provides homeowners age 60 and above with services that focus on assisting them to continue living safely and with dignity in their home and community. Through this program, NeighborWorks collaborates with human services organizations to evaluate individual needs and provide small home repairs, critical safety modifications and community services specific to each homeowner’s lifestyle to preserve their home and their independence. Surveys with their clients show they’re mentally and physically healthier, feel safer at home, and engage with their family and friends more.

NeighborWorks Northeastern Pennsylvania is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit community development organization that has, for more than 40 years, helped to revitalize neighborhoods and improve lives throughout the region by addressing the housing needs in our community. Our vision for strong, healthy neighborhoods is built on resident empowerment, neighborhood revitalization, sustainable homeownership, and public-private partnerships.

The Honesdale National Bank Foundation was established to further support the Bank’s commitment to contributing to the growth and development of the communities we serve. The Foundation’s mission is to support the sustainability and strengthening of resources and programming that make our communities thrive and remain desirable places to live, work and play. The mission will be upheld through the provision of funding for public charities, institutions, schools, and other not-for-profit organizations throughout our area. Through a focus on health and human services, education, culture and community enhancements, the Foundation intends to exemplify corporate citizenship and continue to create opportunities for all that benefit from our region’s offerings.The Honesdale National Bank Foundation is a registered 501(c)3.

The Honesdale National Bank, established in 1836, holds the distinction of being the area’s oldest independent community bank headquartered in Northeastern PA, with offices in Wayne, Pike, Susquehanna, Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties.  The Honesdale National Bank offers personal banking, business banking and wealth solutions. HNB is a Member FDIC and Equal Housing Lender with NMLS ID # 446237. Pictured L to R: Melodie Robinson, Mary Edrusick, Jesse Ergott, President & CEO of NeighborWorks, and Ray Ceccotti, SVP, Business and Relationship Development Manager at HNB.

Penn State Scranton Accounting Students Provide Services Through IRS VITA Program

With tax season now underway, a handful of Penn State Scranton accounting students from Angela Bassani’s accounting courses are applying the skills they learned in the classroom by getting involved in this year’s IRS VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) Program to help the local community by doing individuals’ taxes for free.

Bassani, assistant teaching professor of accounting, became a full-time faculty member at Penn State Scranton in January 2019 and has had her accounting students involved with the VITA Program since her first month on campus. Now, each spring semester, her accounting students join Bassani in running the VITA Program.

Bassani explained that some students who get involved in the program complete their internship credits this way, as all business majors must complete a minimum of three-credits of an internship as part of the curriculum, while others come solely to gain experience and volunteer.

This is the case for two of her students, Jordan Coles and Charles McAvoy, who are current interns with VITA.

Coles, a fourth-year business administration major, wanted to get involved in the VITA Program to understand more about doing taxes in a different environment and learning a new system to expand her knowledge from what she learned in her previous internship of working at a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) office. 

McAvoy, a fourth-year student majoring in accounting and double minoring in IT and finance, also wanted to get involved with VITA because he believes it is a great public resource. “Taxes can be tough for people and the fact there is an organization that helps people through it a turbulent and tough to grasp concept,” he said.

Applying classroom concepts to a real-world environment

Students learn the federal tax regulations, along with how to prepare a federal tax return in the fall semester, when they take Bassani’s ACCTG 405 – Principles of Taxation course. 

“In tax class, I have students prepare tax returns for fictitious families as we learn the tax laws,” Bassani said. “This helps them to understand how the financial information gets reported and calculated throughout the tax forms in a controlled environment. However, it’s a whole other ball game when students are sitting in front of taxpayers with all of the documents they brought with them.”

Bassani also stressed the importance of communication.

“Students need to be able to have a conversation with each taxpayer and identify the relevant pieces of information presented to them. That is one way that participation in VITA really helps to hone their communication skills,” she said.

Students’ communication skills are also enhanced when they need to explain concepts to the taxpayers. 

“For example, a taxpayer may be confused as to why their refund is quite different than it was last year,” Bassani explained. “Students need to draw on their knowledge and understanding of tax law, which is complex, and then verbally explain it in a way that makes sense to a taxpayer that likely has little background or formal understanding of tax.”

In addition to what’s taught in the classroom, students who choose to participate in the VITA Program must learn additional concepts to fully serve taxpayers, including how to utilize our tax preparation software (TaxWise), how to prepare state and local taxes in addition to federal, and how to prepare Pennsylvania property tax and rent rebates for those who qualify. 

Coles is excited to put the knowledge she learned in the classroom and apply it to the VITA Program, “especially to help people in our nearby communities file their taxes for free,” she said.

“I think this is a great program to offer because everyone needs to file their taxes, but not everyone can afford to pay a CPA or other enrolled agent to do so for them. Being able to help out those who may not be able to afford this service while also putting my tax knowledge to use is a great feeling,” Coles said.

McAvoy agrees with Coles about how rewarding it is to apply his knowledge in the real-world. “It will let me get a better grasp on concept realization in the workplace,” he said.

“I believe that what my classes really helped me prepare for is that simple errors can do so much damage to a tax return,” McAvoy said. “I learned various common issues that can and will occur out there, which will help me prepare myself for VITA. VITA also showed me some new things so far in actual tax preparation via how software works to error recognition.”

Our students are certified

All student volunteers and intern tax preparers are certified by the IRS. In addition, every single return that is prepared is also checked over by either a CPA, such as Bassani and/or Richard Kokas, adjunct professor of business, as well as an Enrolled Agent (EA), Dillon Lukus, who has her own tax firm in Clarks Summit. 

Appointments are still available within Lackawanna and Wayne Counties. The first day on this current tax schedule will be Friday, February 3, so booking appointments in advance is encouraged. You can learn more about the complete checklist of what you’ll need for your tax drop-off and a schedule of this year’s appointments.

“We are available at each location to answer questions and review tax returns prior to finalizing them,” Bassani said. “Based on what we’ve been told, tax return preparation fees for individual and family returns will range from $200-$600 in our area this year.  We’d much rather that money stay with taxpayers and their families, especially during these times!” she exclaimed. 

The VITA Program is special because it offers students the opportunity to apply what they have learned in the classroom in the real world, while helping those in their local communities. – Angela Bassani, assistant professor of accounting

One of Bassani’s favorite things about running the VITA Program is getting to watch her students come full circle.

Professors often work hard to prepare students for the real world, but they do not always get to actually witness them in action outside of the classroom. 

“For many of the students, it’s their first real foray into the accounting field. They often start the tax season quite nervous and unsure of themselves,” Bassani said. “It’s a wonderful experience to watch them witness how capable they truly are and to become confident in their abilities.”

Coles and McAvoy credit Bassani’s strong impact on them both in and outside of the classroom.

“Dr. Bassani has had a huge impact on my college career as an accounting concentration student because she has taught me so much relating to the accounting profession, but also simply life in general,” Coles said.

“It is so important to help the local population with their taxes,” McAvoy said. “Tax law, itself, is a convoluted jumble to most people with constant shifts and changes that people cannot be able to know at all times and be aware of how tax legislation can affect them in real time.”

Involvement in VITA is a great resume booster

VITA is a national program that has operated for over 50 years and is recognized by accounting and finance professionals in all parts of the country.

“Some of the past VITA interns have gone on to work for the “Big Four” accounting firms – Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Ernst & Young and KPMG — in Philadelphia and New York and have shared that VITA helped provide them with so many experiences to reflect back on during their recruitment interviews,” Bassani said. “They really felt that VITA helped to set them apart from intense competition as they sought employment after graduation.”  

The IRS VITA program has existed since the 1970’s. About 16 years ago, the United Way of Lackawanna and Wayne Counties noticed an article explaining that many residents in Northeastern Pennsylvania were missing out on earned income credits that they were eligible for, so they decided to get involved with a VITA Program to help area residents get the tax refunds they qualify for. All VITA volunteers and interns must take exams administered by the IRS to become certified to prepare taxes with the program.   

You don’t need an accounting background to get involved with VITA

Tanner Begin, a fourth-year student majoring in corporate communication and minoring in business administration, is also involved in the VITA Program.

“I heard from my friend Jordan Coles, one of the tax interns for this year, about VITA, and she mentioned that Dr. Bassani was interested in expanding the social media presence of the program,” Begin said. “After talking with Dr. Bassani, I decided that it would be an amazing opportunity to get involved and to help out in any way that I could.”

In his role, Begin has been in charge of building VITA’s social media presence from the ground up.

“The organization that operates the program, the United Way of Lackawanna, Wayne, and Pike Counties, has their own social media following, but I’m essentially starting separate Facebook and Instagram pages that are their own entities under the umbrella of the whole operation,” Begin said. “Mainly, I design graphics and/or promotional material to be posted online or printed for VITA, or I go on-sight to take pictures and to conduct content interviews.” Begin also creates consecutive social media posts ranging in topic from educational and promotional material, volunteer spotlights, and more.

Begin feels that being a corporate communication major has prepared him significantly for this role. “I feel like corporate communication covers so many topics such as techniques of internal/external communication, aspects of public relations, media ethics, and more,” he said. “I feel that my education has prepared me to be ready for anything in this social media role, and I feel that I am knowledgeable in so many areas that can lead me to be successful in understanding and growing the VITA Programs social media presence.”

Begin appreciates the skills he has learned in the classroom and his ability to apply them within the VITA Program.

“Learning about things like external communication or graphic design is one thing, but it’s a whole other thing to recognize and see the effects in person,” Begin said. “Seeing the graphics that I design end up in posts or in promotional flyers makes it all so much more real, and I feel like being able to apply what I’ve learned in aspects of my internship is allowing me to improve my skills further and is preparing me for success in a post-grad profession.”

Begin expressed his excitement for having the opportunity to give back to the local community and being able to raise awareness about the VITA Program.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many may think that the program or its resources may not be there anymore, but my goal is to challenge this and to say, ‘Hey! We’re here and we want to help you!’” Begin explained. “The VITA Program does so many good things and saves people so much money and aggravation when doing their taxes, and I’ll do anything that I can to spread the word.”

Scranton Area Community Foundation Announces Charitable Fund

The Scranton Area Community Foundation announces a new charitable fund established to support others diagnosed with colon cancer.

Melissa Chermak Liput, remembered for her kindness and devotion to her family, passed away after a courageous battle with cancer on February 7, 2020. Today, Melissa’s family wants to raise awareness and provide support for individuals with a colon cancer diagnosis who are experiencing financial hardship through a new charitable fund at the Scranton Area Community Foundation.

The Melissa Chermak Liput Memorial Fund was created by Melissa’s family in November 2022. The fund aims to help others cope with the financial stresses of a colon cancer diagnosis. It was established by Melissa’s parents Beverly and Danny Chermak, her son Tyler Liput, her husband Ron Liput, and her sister and brother-in-law Lauren and Nick Olivetti.

“In partnership with the Scranton Area Community Foundation, we are driven to help those who have been diagnosed with colon cancer,” stated the Chermak-Liput Family. “It is our wish to honor Melissa’s legacy in a way that exemplifies her greatest qualities: kindness and compassion.”

 “The Foundation is grateful to the family of the Melissa Chermak Liput Memorial Fund for entrusting the Scranton Area Community Foundation to administer the Fund,” stated Laura Ducceschi, Scranton Area Community Foundation’s President and CEO. “Through the charitable fund, Melissa’s family will be able to respond to the needs of others who may be facing the stresses of a colon cancer diagnosis and provide support, honoring Melissa’s legacy,” Ducceschi added.

To be considered for a grant from the Melissa Chermak Liput Memorial Fund, one must have received a colon cancer diagnosis and be able to demonstrate need due to economic issues related to the diagnosis. Awardees are selected on an objective and nondiscriminatory basis that includes a determination of need and the program must serve a charitable purpose. Preference is given for individuals who are residents of Northeastern Pennsylvania. To apply for support, visit safdn.org and access the Scranton Area Community Foundation’s online grant management portal. On the online grant management portal, please refer to the “Colon Cancer Patient Support Application” when applying.

The Scranton Area Community Foundation is grateful to the family of the Melissa Chermak Liput Memorial Fund for entrusting the Scranton Area Community Foundation to administer the Fund.

To donate to the Melissa Chermak Liput Memorial Fund, please visit safdn.org or mail a check to the Scranton Area Community Foundation, 615 Jefferson Avenue, Suite 102, Scranton, PA 18510. Please be sure to write “Melissa Chermak Liput Memorial Fund” in the check memo.

For more information about the Scranton Area Community Foundation’s 300+ charitable funds or to learn how you can establish a charitable fund or make an impact through a planned gift, please visit safdn.org.

The Scranton Area Community Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, tax-exempt organization confirmed in compliance with National Standards of U.S. Community Foundations.

Photo: Melissa Chermak Liput

Photo caption: Melissa Chermak Liput, remembered for her kindness and devotion to her family, passed away after a courageous battle with cancer on February 7, 2020. Today, Melissa’s family wants to raise awareness and provide support for individuals with a colon cancer diagnosis who are experiencing financial hardship through the Melissa Chermak Liput Memorial Fund at the Scranton Area Community Foundation.