By David Rockower
It’s not uncommon to hear Happy Valley residents talk about what a great place it is to raise a family. They boast about the wonderful opportunities to explore our rivers, fish our streams and hike our trails. They appreciate the events that get us into the community where we can connect with one another. They value the support systems that are in place when we need help.
“The fact that we have beautiful streams and amazing forest close to our front door doesn't happen by accident. I love and value that those who live here recognize what an important ingredient that is to quality of life.”
Happy Valley doesn’t offer all these livability benefits by chance, though. To make all this happen, it requires a massive effort in the form of volunteerism and nonprofit organizations. Here are four such organizations that are ensuring Happy Valley stays a great place to live, work and play.
United Way volunteers come together to give back on the annual Day of Caring. Credit: United Way.
The Centre County United Way works to create a better life for everyone by partnering with a range of organizations throughout the county, to meet a range of needs.
Megan Evans, communications coordinator there, talked about the organization’s goal: “We focus on the basic things we all need for a good life: education, food, shelter, income, good health and a strong support system. We research the needs of our community, bring the right people and ideas together, leverage contributions collected from the community and invest in programs that have proven results.”
“We have a lot of people who really want to help make Centre County a better place to live, work and play."
Evans has witnessed, first-hand, Happy Valley’s service-minded culture.
“We have a lot of people who really want to help make Centre County a better place to live, work and play,” she said. “Our schools encourage [or] mandate students do community service. Penn State has a lot of groups that are service focused. We have local groups like Rotary that focus on service. We have a lot of nonprofit helping organizations, etc. I think there is a ‘service-minded culture’ everywhere — but the level or amount of people with service hearts is what makes the difference.”
Volunteers work together to properly dispose of litter during the 2022 Annual Watershed Cleanup Day. This year’s event will be held on Earth Day, April 22, 2023. Credit: Brandi Wright.
ClearWater Conservancy is a local conservation organization whose primary objective is to connect people to nature while protecting landscapes that are essential to the long-term health of the region.
“We were founded in 1980 through moms and pops sitting around the kitchen table, knowing that this place was unique and important and beautiful, but that there were decisions coming forward that might jeopardize the long-term quality of this region,” said Deb Nardone, executive director.
Local volunteers are crucial to the organization’s operations, leading guided hikes and monitoring conservation areas, but Nardone recognizes that not every community is willing to put in the volunteer work necessary to maintain the natural beauty that surrounds them. Luckily, that’s not a problem in Happy Valley.
Nardone said, “The fact that we have beautiful streams and amazing forest close to our front door doesn't happen by accident. I love and value that those who live here recognize what an important ingredient that is to quality of life.”
The AAUW’s annual books sale boosts literacy and supports the advancement of equity for women and girls. Credit: AAUW State College.
The American Association of University Women (AAUW of State College) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing equity for women and girls, but most Happy Valley residents know the nonprofit for putting on one of the largest used book sales in the country — the proceeds of which go to fund scholarships and local grants for other nonprofits that align with the organization’s mission.
The AAUW State College Book Sale is a year-long effort that exemplifies the kind event that leads to camaraderie and a coming together of community members.
"It is clear that Happy Valley is a community-oriented area that wants the best for all."
“We feel a deep satisfaction putting on the sale. It adds to the literacy levels in this town. For starters there are 25,000 children's book for sale, and we make the prices affordable for families without much disposable income. The dollars we raise for our projects tie directly to our mission and we can see the results first-hand of where the money goes. The sale is also a tremendous green event, saving tons of materials that would otherwise go to a landfill. We take a lot of pride in putting on this sale and it is the financial engine for our branch,” said Connie Schroeder, AAUW State College’s vice president of marketing and communications.
Tides offers grief support for children, teens and adults. Credit: Tides.
Holly Oxendale is the executive director of Tides, an organization dedicated to providing support programming to children, teens and adults who are grieving the death of a loved one. Whether participants are joining at Tides Nights, school-based programming or through crisis care response following a death, all services provided by Tides are offered at no charge.
Oxendale — like Evans, Nardone and Schroeder — believes that Happy Valley maintains a strong culture of giving back.
“We live in an incredibly heartfelt, thoughtful community. In most cases, when a service or product is needed for an individual or family, there is an organization that can provide the support needed. Whether it is housing, food insecurities, medical or mental health needs, there are organizations that act as catalysts to provide support. It is clear that Happy Valley is a community-oriented area that wants the best for all,” she said.
If you’re interested in donating time or financial assistance to any one of these organizations, please consider reaching out via the links below.