This summer, as you gaze out across the Susquehanna River, you might see a familiar sight.
There she is, the iconic, red-and-white Pride of the Susquehanna riverboat, chugging upstream, then circling around and heading back to her home base on City Island.
Harrisburg, give yourself a hand, pour yourself something nice. You made this happen.
Last year, after three decades afloat, the Pride almost had her final sail. As the weather warmed, the teeming rains came, raising the waters, flooding the dock and making operations impossible. The Pride lost one-third of her sailing days, putting the boat in financial straits.
The Harrisburg Area Riverboat Society put out the call for help, and the community responded, in force, donating nearly $90,000 over just a few months.
“People stepped up to the plate and made a difference,” Jason Meckes, executive director of the Harrisburg Area Riverboat Society, told me. “A lot of people love this riverboat and wanted it to return. It means a lot to a lot of people.”
And, today, you can see the evidence with your own eyes—it’s right there on the water.
This kind of public generosity is hardly an exception.
At a recent City Council meeting, Scott Dunwoody, executive director of Bethesda Mission, beamed as he told me how people had donated, to date, $2.3 million so the social service group could build a new community center in North Allison Hill.
At the time, the project’s first phase was wrapping up, and plans were afoot for phase two, which will require another $700,000 to $1 million in fundraising, giving Bethesda Mission 20,000 square feet of new space for children and families to gather, play, learn and just be together.
He didn’t think he’d have any problem meeting that goal.
“We do believe in the next year, we’ll be able to accomplish that,” he said.
Harrisburg, take another bow.
I could go on and on. The Salvation Army of Harrisburg is building an entirely new facility after raising $12 million; Gamut Theatre raised $2.2 million (and counting) to create its permanent home from the vacant, historic First Church of God; Urban Churn crowd-sourced $10,000 to renovate an old, rundown storefront for its new retail location.
Indeed, without the incredible generosity of we, the people, there may be no riverboat, no scoop shop, no Bethesda Mission community center, no amazing new home (and second stage!) for Gamut Theatre.
Likewise, TheBurg would not exist without this community digging deep, since community journalism—always a tough slog—gets harder to pay for all the time.
At the end of this month, Sprocket Mural Works will kick off the second Harrisburg Mural Festival, a 10-day celebration that will raise some 15 new murals throughout the city.
As you watch the amazing artists at work, pause for a moment and think about what it costs to make that happen.
There are the artist fees (yes, they get paid), transportation and lodging (Sprocket brings in world-class artists to Harrisburg), the high cost of the special paint that’s used, the lifts, the various events, etc., etc.
Have you ever wondered how that’s paid for?
Sprocket has been raising money for nearly a year to make it all happen. It has received substantial donations from everyone from a brewer (Tröegs) to a solid waste company (LCSWMA) to an eye care company (Premier Eye Care Group), as well as many other organizations, foundations and individuals.
These folks regard murals as a public good—just like the riverboat, the community center, the theater, TheBurg—and are willing to donate to make Harrisburg a more beautiful, engaging and livable place.
I realize that, to an outsider, this all just seems to magically happen. Suddenly, the city is bedecked with a dozen stunning paintings, the kids of Allison Hill get a new place to study and play, and a wonderful, free magazine falls from the sky.
But, of course, that’s not what happens. Profound community generosity underlies (and underwrites) it all.
So, yes, Harrisburg, pat yourself on the back. You deserve a huge thank -you for making your city a better place.
But while you’re writing that love note to yourself, perhaps you can also write a check? There’s always another worthy local cause to support.
Lawrance Binda is editor-in-chief of TheBurg.