Hamburg's Our Town Foundation was among the 43 community revitalization organizations throughout the state that will receive nearly $2 million under the COVID-19 Relief Supporting Elm and Main program.
“I was very thankful when I received the notice that we were approved for funding,” said Deena Kershner, Executive Director of the Our Town Foundation, Hamburg’s non-profit community revitalization corporation. “Funds we are receiving from the SEAM program will assist with paying our ongoing expenses allowing us to continue serving our community and the local businesses.”
The goal of SEAM, Gov. Tom Wolf said in the April 13 press release, is to provide financial assistance to organizations dedicated to community and economic development in older and historic downtowns, commercial districts and neighborhoods.
“The Governor and the Department of Community and Economic Development realize how important these programs are in regards to revitalizing the historic downtowns throughout the state,” said Kershner. “The funds will assist with sustainability of the organization so we can continue to serve the community.”
Senator David G. Argall and Rep. Jerry Knowles said in a release that this grant is part of the Supporting Elm and Main (SEAM) grant program, which was created to support community revitalization organizations that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the long-term shutdown of our economy.
OTF will receive $50,000 in funding through SEAM.
“The pandemic brought an incredible amount of uncertainty into the Our Town Foundation’s fundraising efforts to revitalize Hamburg,” said Argall. “I’m very pleased they were chosen to receive this grant funding. This organization works very diligently to improve their home, and this extra support will help them continue those efforts despite the odds stacked against them by the pandemic.”
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Our Town Foundation’s fundraising efforts have been curtailed severely,” said Knowles (R-Schuylkill/Berks/Carbon). “This grant helps to revitalize downtown Hamburg. Our goal should be to make our community attractive for business growth and job creation. Thank you to the Department of Community and Economic Development for selecting us to receive this grant.”
“The past year has been really hard financially on our organization as all of our fundraising events were canceled and the Hamburg Strand Theater, which we own, was shuttered so we lost a year's worth of ticket and concession sale income,” said Kershner.
Hamburg Strand still remains closed; however, OTF hopes to have a soft reopening in May by bringing back its Classic and Faith night movies.
“We are keeping our fingers crossed because we tried opening a few times over the past several months, only to be faced with stricter guidelines by the state which forced us to remain closed,” she said.
OTF’s largest fundraising event, the Taste of Hamburg-er Festival, was canceled in 2020 and at this time OTF is not certain about hosting the event in 2021.
“The festival is held on 4th and State Streets which are both state owned roads so we need to apply for a permit from the state to close the streets,” said Kershner. “Currently, the Governor has restrictions in place that limit the number of people allowed at street festivals but the festival committee is hopeful those restrictions will be lifted soon.”
The program, supported by Keystone Communities funding, is intended to assist Elm Street and Main Street organizations that have been economically impacted by COVID.
Wolf said communities across the state have faced devastating impacts from the pandemic but Pennsylvania's network of community development organizations never ceased answering the call for help.
"Our Elm Street and Main Street programs work tirelessly year in and year out — even in the best of times — to improve their communities, and this funding will provide them with the support they need to overcome the challenges they've recently faced," Wolf said.
“The grant was not a specific project oriented grant,” said Kershner. “It was offered to designated Main and Elm Street communities throughout the state to provide funds to the organizations to assist with administrative expenses.”
Since OTF was not able to hold events over the past year, OTF has been working on updating its marketing materials promoting the area, specifically several brochures and the hamburgpa.org website.
“We have also organized downtown promotional events to encourage people to shop and dine locally. We hope to resume our larger events in fall of this year,” said Kershner.