Austin Pride Committee

Pictured: Rhoda Hooftallen, Brooke Shupe, Madison Hooftallen, Jeanette Nichols, Joe Pennypacker, Becky Pennypacker, Terry Hooftallen, Blair Shupe, Tony Nichols, Ruth Flory, Jean Harstad, Ruby Stahl, Wendy Hulick, Dave Crumrine, Yvonne Baird, Lexi Nichols, Shaylynn Nichols, Dawson Hooftallen, Carson Cooney, Keaton Shupe. Members not pictured are Bill Swords, Jean Harstad and Al Stahl. Officers are Joe Pennypacker, president, Becky Pennypacker, secretary, Brooke Shupe, vice president, Jeanette Nichols, treasurer.

AUSTIN — The Austin Pride Committee has been making the Austin borough a nice place to live and work in for more than 20 years.

The APC is a small group, with less than 20 members. The main focus of the organization is to aid in community revitalization and to continue to instill and nourish a sense of pride within the residents of the town.

Members meet monthly to suggest projects and events for the borough. Joe Pennypacker, president of the committee, said it was started years ago by a dedicated group of residents to find a way to enjoy the Fourth of July holiday. The founding members have recently passed the torch onto a handful of new members to continue their work and vision.

The Independence Day fireworks display the committee puts on is its biggest event of the year. The day includes raffles, concessions and vendors, with a 40-minute fireworks display at the school and is entirely free to the public to attend. The contract with the committee’s fireworks vendor, Young Explosives, was around $7,000 for the 2019 display. Each year, the committee works to be able to increase its budget to provide an even better show, Pennypacker said.

Pennypacker said although it’s not as long as Galeton’s fireworks display, they’ve been told its comparable.

“Being in a valley, you can really hear the bangs and we do our best to light up the sky. It really is a wonderful show,” Pennypacker said.

The committee is focusing on being more involved in the community and going beyond the fireworks. Over the summer, the committee organized a clean-up day along their section of adopted highway, which runs south on Route 872, from the Austin Dam to the sewer plant. Additional effort was put in to clean the road all the way to Costello.

A couple of months ago, the APC held its annual Fall Festival with vendors, crafts, children’s games, raffles and a hayride for the kids. The committee also hosted a haunted hayride for two nights at the Austin Dam Memorial Park, which involved close to 50 volunteers and entertained more than 400 guests.

This winter, the APC will organize its annual Town Lighting and Cookies with Santa event. With the exception of the haunted hayride, all events the committee puts on are free to the community.

The APC also holds biweekly fish fries at the Austin Volunteer Fire Department. One hundred percent of any profits are reinvested back into the community in one form or another, Pennypacker said.

Along with the community-based events, the committee was able to award scholarships based on community involvement and civic mindedness to two graduating AHS seniors. The committee also recently contributed to repairing and updating the “Welcome to Austin” signs at the three entrances to the borough.

There’s been a tremendous showing of support from the community, Pennypacker said. The citizens of Austin seem to be pleased with the work the members are doing and the events they put on, he said.

Pennypacker joined the committee a year ago and has been working with the members to restructure it and obtain a nonprofit status. Though he isn’t originally from the borough, he said he is definitely a local now. The town is small, with less than 600 people, but “they’re the 600 best people one can meet,” he said.

The committee members work closely with the borough council to organize events and are on the search for more partnerships with like-minded organizations.

Their meetings are open to the public and are posted on the committee’s Facebook page, “Austin PRIDE Committee.” The committee is always looking for new members.

“The more hands, the merrier,” Pennypacker said.