Article By: Ed Courrier Special to the Bethlehem Press
The Mayor’s South Side Task Force focused on how Bethlehem is dealing with the arrival of Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria at their meeting Oct. 31.
“We are definitely seeing an increase in the usage our daily services,” said New Bethany Ministries’ Kate Cohen, who added, “We have seen a lot of families coming up from Puerto Rico using the pantry and the hospitality center.” Cohen announced New Bethany is holding a 20th anniversary Luminaria Night Celebration fundraiser at the Luckenbach Mill Dec. 8.
Director of Student Services and Minority Affairs for BASD Vivian Robledo-Shorey said her office has been helping 30-plus Puerto Rican children transfer to Bethlehem public schools, including a few graduating seniors. Teachers are being trained on how to deal with children who have experienced trauma. Student Services recently partnered with the Lehigh Valley Church of Christ which will be providing 80 turkeys for the displaced families. “I think the biggest influx is coming,” Robledo-Shorey added.
State Rep. Steve Samuelson legislative assistant Glorilex Vasquez said their office is working with the Hispanic Center and Trinity Church to help Puerto Ricans seeking refuge from the devastated U.S. territory find it in the Lehigh Valley. They are still assisting seniors in signing up for Medicare on Fridays through Dec. 1.
Bethlehem Area Public Library Southside Branch’s Janine Santoro said they too had a recent program providing information on Medicare, Medicaid and ACA signup. She said the Webster Street branch is having a fall book sale which started Nov. 7. Holiday in the Park at Tranquility Park is planned for Dec. 1, with craft activities held at the library. A Southside Holiday is scheduled for Dec. 14. Other programming includes homework help for kindergarten through grade 12, STEM workshops, movies for teens, and adults will find classes in modest investments and starting a business.
Chairman Roger Hudak expressed his frustration at the stagnation in development of property owned by the Sands Casino in Bethlehem. According to Hudak, anyone interested in purchasing and developing property owned by the resort would have to go through the casino’s Las Vegas headquarters. He said, “The Sands was not pleased.” with the state recently passing a law legalizing online gambling.
“Great things coming up!” declared Deputy Director Amy Burkhart from the Department of Community & Economic Development as she lauded the recently launched “Southside Proud” initiative started by Paul Pierpont and the Southside Vision committees. She said the city recently hired Sara Bukowiec to fill a business development and retention position.
Northampton Community College is about to kick off construction on the first floor of the East Third Street building according to Associate Dean of Community Education Gail Mrowinski. She announced an open house at the main campus Nov. 11.
The National Museum of Industrial History’s Glenn Koehler spoke about Governor Tom Wolf’s recent visit, during which he announced a new $12 million manufacturing program for the state. The museum is hosting an industrial photography exhibition. Scheduled for Veterans Day Nov. 11 was “Hello Vietnam: A Photographer’s Perspective” with a talk and special exhibit of Air Force photographer Ron Luckock’s work. The Gingerbread Bridges & Skyscrapers Challenge is another event scheduled for November.
The Mayor’s South Side Task Force meets regularly on the last Tuesday of the month at Northampton Community College’s East Third Street campus.