“The Great Allegheny Passage has such a great impact financially on Connellsville, with people coming in. People are supporting our businesses. We’re the largest town on the GAP and the people come through don’t know what to expect. So we want to be the town that they stop in, they stay overnight in, they eat and hang out with us.”
“I was born in Trinidad, the southern-most island of the Caribbean. I migrated to New York as a teenager. I grew up in New York City, graduated from NYU and worked on Wall Street at Standard and Poors, and loved it.
“9/11 was a major reason I moved out of New York. I worked on the 37th floor of a building downtown. And I lived on the 30th floor of a building off Central Park. I was on 14th street when the second tower came down. And as it fell, I was also falling on my knees on the sidewalk. It just did something to me.
“I used to leave my bedroom window open, after all, I lived on the 30th floor. A couple weeks after 9/11, I came home and I found dust that blew up from downtown all over my bedroom furniture and on my bed. And I think that broke me. My brother and his family and my mother were already living in Connellsville at the time. So I thought the best place to be is with family.
“This city girl became a Connellsvillean, basically because of the love I felt from the people who live here. When you’re new to a community, you’re so ignorant of what’s going on. But you see things that you want to get involved in or do something to help, and you go about it.
“I started getting to know Dan Cocks, the Executive Director of the Fayette Cultural Trust and Michael Edwards, who is the President of the Fayette Cultural Trust. And the more I got to know them and the impact they had on the city of Connellsville, the more I wanted to be part of what they were doing because they were impacting the city.
“My objective is to help businesses identify their uniqueness, and then celebrate that uniqueness and do it differently. For instance, having a beautiful, welcoming storefront, it’s simple. It’s almost intuitive. There are some things we do specifically downtown to help businesses with that.
“The Great Allegheny Passage has such a great impact financially on Connellsville, with people coming in. People are supporting our businesses. We’re the largest town on the GAP and the people come through don’t know what to expect. So we want to be the town that they stop in, they stay overnight in, they eat and hang out with us for a moment.
“When I see the riders stopping and having lunch at Kickstand’s or Keedy’s or Ruvo’s or any of our downtown restaurants or visiting Spotto’s Hardware or Bikes Unlimited downtown to fix their bikes, it’s wonderful. We want them to be here. We think it’s a great place to be.
“Having lived in New York, the gifts I think I bring to Connellsville is the appreciation of diversity. That is so important with the diversity of the people coming through, we are looking at ways to be more relevant to the people who are riding through on the Great Allegheny Passage.
“I feel loved. I feel welcomed. I feel like part of the community. The people of Connellsville have embraced me. I’m saying to other people who may look like me, ‘this is a welcoming city. This is a welcoming community. You want to come and impact the city? Bring your gifts. Bring your talents and make a difference.’ There is room here in Connellsville, right on the Great Allegheny Passage for you.”
This content was created by Anita Harnish for the Great Allegheny Passage Conservancy and financed through grants from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Bureau of Recreation and Conservation, through its Community Conservation Partnerships Program and Environmental Stewardship Fund, administered by Rivers of Steel Heritage Area and Pennsylvania Environmental Council’s Laurel Highlands Mini Grant Program; through funding via the Westmoreland, Fayette, and Somerset County Tourism Grant Programs; and with funds made available by the Great Allegheny Passage Conservancy.