Four months after a fire destroyed PennWest Clarion’s Community Learning Workshop, co-founders and PennWest faculty members Dr. Leah Chambers and Dr. Rich Lane have located a new home at 622 Main Street – next to Dan Smith’s Candies – and are preparing to reopen in late September.

CLW is celebrating 10 years of providing services, including tutoring and homework help, to local schoolchildren. The facility partners with Riverview Intermediate Unit 6 to support adult learners who are preparing to take the GED exam. The workshop has hosted special events such as a Women’s History Month celebration last March and a “May the 4th Be with You” family fun night in PennWest Clarion’s Grunenwald Center for Science and Technology.

“We looked around town for a couple of months after the fire, and we could not find a suitable space,” Chambers said.

Several criteria were required. The space needed to be at least the same size as the previous location. It had to have an open area that could accommodate 25 to 30 people during evening events. It needed to be centrally located in town, within walking distance of Immaculate Conception, Clarion Area Junior/Senior High School and the campus of PennWest Clarion.

“It just so happened that I was in Dan Smith’s Candies one afternoon, and one of the owners, Lisa Heller, told me that the other half of their building was available; the current tenant was not renewing her lease,” Chambers said. “The space is in an excellent location, and it is slightly larger with a more open floor plan than what we were previously renting.”

Another perk is that it’s quieter, because it’s not on a busy corner. The space needs to be renovated to add a restroom and an office. Chambers expects that work to be done by the end of August.

In addition to being a valuable community resource, CLW is a place where PennWest Clarion students have acquired hands-on experience. Last spring, 15 students, including secondary education, integrative studies, communications, sociology and speech pathology majors, were employed by the workshop.

This fall, staff member Marleen Meyer, a senior secondary education (mathematics) and mathematics dual major, is developing and facilitating an SAT preparatory course for her senior Honors project.

“Part of our mission is to provide what the community needs,” Chambers said. “If local teachers, parents, etc., have an educational need, we encourage them to reach out to us. We work with learners from pre-K through adult.”

Last spring, the workshop served 10 to 15 students each day – about 30 different children each week – at the Main Street location, and another 12 students at St. Joseph Church in Lucinda, where tutors traveled each Monday.

Following the fire, several local churches offered temporary space to CLW; the workshop accepted space in First Baptist Church on Main Street to finish the semester.

“Although we are excited about our new space and the coming year, starting over has been difficult,” she said.

After the fire, CLW received many generous donations to replenish the books and educational supplies that had been lost. Chambers said monetary donations are still needed. PennWest Clarion has established a crowdfunding platform for CLW. To donate, click here.

“We will use these funds to expand our programming, including the addition of a STEM corner where children can engage in hands-on activities,” she said. “It’s likely that there are items that we’ve forgotten to repurchase and will need to reopen.”