Community Connection
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By Ginny Tonkin staff blogger
Ginny Tonkin loves traveling off the beaten path, learning about new cultures through food, and everything outdoors. She recently spent eight months teaching English in Vietnam, and loves swapping travel stories.   Read more about this blog.
 Phone: 814-464-5589


Posts categorized "Crawford County"
Posted: March 29th, 2012

Photo by Maria Firkaly at Pymatuning State Park.

Drumroll please…introducing’s Facebook Timeline cover photo winner: Maria Firkaly. Check it out on Facebook.

A mom of two boys (and two dogs), Firkaly works at Center for Family Services in Meadville and also runs her own social media marketing business.

We asked: “What does Crawford County mean to you?” Firkaly’s photo of Pymatuning State Park captured what she loves most about Crawford County: its peaceful atmosphere.

“I just had my boys and neighbor with me at the beach that day,” said Firkaly. “It was a really pretty day; I also got some great sunset photos.”

Firkaly loves living in Crawford.

“You don’t have to travel very far to find nature, places to relax, to spend time with your family, to find inexpensive activities.”

Originally a Pittsburgh area native, Firkaly now lives in Epsyville. “It’s peaceful, there’s wildlife, people are friendly.”

GoCrawfordCounty is now excited to launch our Facebook Timeline.  We feel social media can help us better stay connected with you. More importantly, you can stay better connected with us.

A big thanks to all our entries, we loved hearing from you, and receiving your photos.

Now that our Timeline is launched, we’d love to continue hearing from you. Have news? Announcing an event? Submit an article directly online. Submit, even if it’s a ways off.

Have photos to share? Submit to our community photo album. Share your events on our event listings: these become the “Briefs” you see in print.

We love to hear from you: post on our Facebook Timeline, or tweet at us @GoCrawfordCTY. Shoot us an email at Or, you can send us a message directly through Facebook.

Like Firkaly, what do you love about Crawford County?

She says, “I’m very glad I found myself here.”

Posted in: Crawford County
Posted: March 19th, 2012

What does Crawford County mean to you?

Want to be famous? Or at least, Facebook famous? needs your help: We’re launching our Facebook Timeline profile page, and we want your photography featured. Post on the Facebook wall, in our community album, or email ( to submit your photo for our Facebook Timeline cover photo competition.

We want to know: What does Crawford County mean to you?

Show us; submit your photos for our Timeline cover photo.

Deadline? Wednesday March 29; We need you photos on our Facebook wall, in our community album, or in our in box by 11:59 p.m.

Remember, Facebook Timeline cover photos are horizontal; try to find a shot that works well within the space.

Want some wacky inspiration? Click through creative profiles here and here. Browse our galleries, or our community photo album to see what others have posted in the past.

Don’t forget to Like on Facebook; share your work with your friends and community.

So, what does Crawford County mean to you? Show us; a picture is worth 1,000 words.

Posted in: Crawford County
Posted: March 16th, 2012

Unseasonably warm weather gets me thinking about ice cream, and Susie’s Ice Cream Factory is back in the business. The 16-year-old Titusville institution now operates as a “factory,” selling sizes pint and larger from their location and distributing to area vendors for that traditional scoop-on-cone experience.

For vendors and future customers, the creamery has an invitation only Open House this Saturday.

“It’s to thank the people who served Susie’s this past year,” said Kim Dickson, a Susie’s worker, “and to invite other customers to buy our product–to help the grow, too.”

Their regular hours are 12-6 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and Fridays 9 a.m.-12 p.m. and 1-4 p.m. at their Titusville location.

Can’t visit the factory or one of their Titusville-area vendor locations? Order directly online at Their flavor list is drool-worthy with flavors like Mocha Almond Fudge, Chocolate Carmel Truffle, and Black Gold–Susie’s version of Death by Chocolate.

Check out their Facebook page for more information on their hours and operations.

Posted in: Crawford County
Posted: February 21st, 2012

Let the eat cake. And soup. And throw in a scoop of ice cream, too.

The Community Improvement Center, operated through the United Way of Western Crawford County, will throw a Cake Walk, Soup and Ice Cream Social, February 26 from 3-6 p.m. at the ARC of Crawford County. An outgrowth of the successful community improvement day, Make a Difference Day, the CIC is raising funds to propel their project-based service organization forward.

“Every year about 125 projects are completed on Make a Difference Day,” said Amy Woods, Executive Director of the United Way of Western Crawford County. “Throughout the year, we hope to complete another 125 projects through the CIC.”

“Now we have to beg, borrow, and steal (for funding),” said Woods.

“Make a Difference Day” is an event that makes an army of volunteers of the Crawford community for a day participating in projects like building ramp ways for wheelchairs and installing roofs. Unfortunately, 24 hours doesn’t provide enough time or materials to get all projects completed. The Community Improvement Center was started to address those issues, and operates within the United Way of Western Crawford County.

“Ours is unique because it’s project-based,” said Katie Huser, the United Way’s VISTA, who currently heads the Center.

The CIC’s issue—and the aim—is to become sustainable.

“The more funding we get, the more projects we can complete, and the more we can do for the community,” said Woods, who wants to bring awareness and funding to the CIC. “We have a waiting list of people, because we have no funding for materials. We rely 100% on fundraising and volunteers.”

Huser envisions the CIC as a “clearing house,” a place to connect those who have needs to those who can help them.

“People who call in [a project] are generally those physically and financially unable,” said Huser, calling some stories “heart-breaking” to hear.

The CIC’s Calk Walk, Soup and Ice Cream Social aims to bring funds and awareness to the center. Local restaurants and organizations are pitching in to help the event, including donations of cakes and soups. The recently re-opened Susie’s Ice Cream Factory in Titusville will be donating all the ice cream for the Social.

David Funk of Susie’s said the re-imagined ice cream factory loves to keep the community strong. “We really support local; United Way is a great organization,” said Funk. “We donate out in the community when there’s certain events; we try to keep it all local.”

Want to help? Here’s how.

1)   Show up. And have fun.

The three-hour event is packed with activity, as the name suggests, including a calk walk, a soup contest, and an ice cream social. Vote for your favorite soup in the cook-off; the soup with the most money in its jar will be declared a winner. Take stroll on the cakewalk; tickets are $1 per game, $6 for five, or $10 for an unlimited pass.

2)   Bake

Showcase your culinary talents, and donate a cake! The CIC is taking donations of cakes for the cakewalk. Crawford County restaurants will compete for the best soup; throw yours into the running, too.

3)   Donate.

Your time, your money. Contact the CIC and ask for Katie Huser at 814-337-1251 if you or your organization want to volunteer.

4)   Spread the word.

Know someone in need? Tell them to contact the CIC.

Event Details:

What?  Cake Walk, Soup, and Ice Cream Social

Where? The ARC of Crawford County, 22 Chestnut Street, Meadville

When? 3-6 pm February 26

Benefiting who? The Community Improvement Center, operated through the United Way.

More info? Find the United Way of Western Crawford County on Facebook, and visit their event page.

Posted in: Crawford County
Posted: December 21st, 2011
Retired Pittsburgh police officers Regina and David Allman now run the non-profit Hog Heaven Rescue Farm in Cochranton.

Retired Pittsburgh police officers Regina and David Allman now run the non-profit Hog Heaven Rescue Farm in Cochranton.

Regina Allman has recently received a new four-legged friend. He sleeps inside, is housebroken, but there’s a problem. He’s a pig.

“He doesn’t know he’s a pig,” she said, “but he’s pretty impressive for an indoor pig.” Allman founded and runs the non-profit Hog Heaven Rescue Farm in Cochranton with her husband David.

Hog Heaven is not just for pigs; this farm “rescues, rehabilitates, and fosters” seized or surrendered hoofed animals, like pigs, goats, cows, horses—occasionally even alpacas—eventually sending them to permanent homes.

The title “Hog Heaven” actually reflects three various parts of her life.

First, as a police officer in Pittsburgh, she and the rest of the force were referred to as “pigs.”

“We were told to take it as ‘pride, intelligence, guts.’”

The second “hog” refers to Harleys, “I was the first female rider in Pittsburgh.”

Lastly, “I’m actually blessed and living my dream, I’m in ‘Hog Heaven,’” she said of running the non-profit farm.

“Animals are very forgiving. You can take them from the doorstep of death and teach them kindness and trust.”

She emphasizes the difficulties for unwanted animals that are not cats or dogs. “The pot-bellied pig was the throw away pet of 90’s,” said Allman, who has 47 rescued pigs on her 108 acre farm.

“There are so many shelters for dogs and cats,” said Allman, who says hoofed animals and their needs are often ignored when they need to be properly rescued.

Allman tells a story of a pig brought to a shelter getting dropped into a cage with seven other large dogs.

“Pig are prey animals; being around dogs and cats is very stressful.”

Looking for a unique gift? This year, the farm restarted a sponsorship program; people can gift sponsorships of an animal to friends and family a certain dollar amount per month. Hog Heaven will send a certificate, photograph of the animal, and newsletter to the new sponsor.

Allman says she hears from people all over eastern America wanting her to take their pigs, including Vermont, New Jersey, and Kentucky. “We get most of our calls from Pittsburgh,” she said.

Unable to sponsor or adopt? Hog Heaven is always looking for volunteers.

“We assign chores to people’s ability,” she said.

Assignments can be as varied as scrapbooking, folding newsletters, cleaning out the barn, and feeding the animals.

Interested? Contact Regina Allman at 814-425-1850, or

Find Hog Heaven online at

Submit your news, photos, and events to, and follow us on Twitter: @GoCrawfordCTY.

Find this article in the December 30 print issue of 

Posted in: Crawford County
Posted: December 20th, 2011
Play Santa for friends, family, and the community by supporting local charity.

Play Santa for friends, family, and the community by supporting local charity.

Need an end-of-the-year gift for that hard-to-shop-for, yet delightful aunt, awkward second cousin, business associate, or friendly church acquaintance? Give a unique gift that they’ll appreciate and that will benefit the community: Donate to a local charity in the giftee’s name.

Amy Woods, Executive Director of the United Way of Western Crawford County said gifting donations to local charities in the name of friends and colleagues is one great way to reach the community.

“I like to say, ‘Give the gift that keeps on giving,’” said Woods. “The United Way touches one out of three in the region through our partnerships agencies.”

“Just send us the name, and we’ll take care of the rest,” said Captain Robin Holmes of the Salvation Army of Meadville. The organization will accept donations made in honor or memory of an individual, and send a card to the recipient to let them know of their new gift.

Local charities acknowledge it’s been a tough year for many, and they appreciate any type of contribution.

“I appreciate all the donation and support from the community. This has been a really hard year, and they (the community) have really stepped up,” said Terry Wig of the Titusville Area United Way. “I really applaud any donation whether it’s to the United Way, other local charities, volunteering, donating hats, gloves, coats, or whatever. It’s appreciated.

Wig warns against donation scams that look like the real thing.

“There are a lot of people who raise money for non-charitable purposes (pretending to be otherwise),” said Wig. She says these scams pop up most frequently around the holidays or times of natural disaster when people are feeling inclined to donate.

She suggests calling a local charity directly, and asking them the best (and most secure) way to donate.

You can also check online: Find them on the commonwealth’s Bureau of Charitable Organizations database. Also check out the national equivalent,

“There’s nothing better than an informed donor.”

Woods said that although the holidays are a great time to give to local charities, it’s not the time of year when local organizations are most in need.

“February and March are when area charities struggle the most,” she said, after the spirit of the holidays fade.

Her suggestion? Start a donation drive in your office off-season to drive engagement.

“It’s great to get your own business to mobilize. It’s an easy way to get a lot of people to mobilize,” said Woods.

Submit your own articles here on

Find this article in the December 23 print issue of 

Posted in: Crawford County
Posted: December 12th, 2011

Photoholics Anonymous. Its members are seriously addicted: they can meet anytime, anywhere there’s an internet connection, and post several times a day. Now they’ve taken it to the next level—meeting face to face.

After “meeting” on Facebook since late spring, the Oil City-based group Photoholics Anonymous is now meeting offline. This photography club has begun hosting a six-week long masters class on lighting for those photoholics interested in learning more about their craft. Interested photographers can join the crew every Tuesday night at the Queen City Café and Gallery in Titusville.

On Facebook, the group posts exquisite, thoughtful, and fun photos, often around a theme, like a letter of the alphabet—often several times a day.

Oil City resident, Timothy Rudisille started the Facebook group in May, looking to talk photography—without bugging everyone else on his friends list. Starting from 10 of his local friends, this Facebook group has blossomed into an international community of 144.

“A good portion of the people are local but it has grown nationally because of everyone adding their friends. We even have a guy from France and two from Australia,” said Rudisille. “We’ve bonded into quite the family, a great group of people, and we’re all photoholics.”

“The group actually is more interesting with the diversity, we see things in pictures we might not ever get to see if not for this group,” said Robert Specht, a Photoholics regular who hails from California. Asked to join the group by Timothy, he’s grateful to have joined a supportive group.

Although not all of their international and domestically far-flung members can meet face-to-face, offline the group has started to utilize their community—and their talents—to learn from each other.

“There used to be an active camera club in Oil City, but there’s been a resurgence since digital photography became popular,” said Mike Henderson, a photography vet, who’s teaching the master class on lighting at the “Q.”

An intimate, yet passionate group of ten was at the first master class.

“I think we all learned a lot and had some great discussions! We definitely now have a regular weekly thing going,” said Henderson.

Want to get involved? Search “Photoholics Anonymous” on Facebook, and ask to join the group.

Interested in learning more about the master’s class? Call the Queen City Café at 814-775-0898. Find the “Q” at 106 North Kerr Street, in Titusville.

Want to share your photos with the community? Post your own photos in our community album on; just click on “Submit photos.”

Posted in: Crawford County
Posted: November 30th, 2011

Creative baking remains a hobby of mine; I love seeing people light up when trying new kinds of dishes. But when looking for a dessert to whip up for the holidays, I wasn’t sure if I was disgusted or delighted with a new discovery: the cherpumple.

What is a cherpumple? Stacked three layers high, a cherpumple is a Frankenstein’s monster of a dessert: three kinds of pie are baked into cake layers, staked, and slathered frosting.

The cherpumple first made waves when author/comedian Charles Phoenix debuted the caloric confection for Thanksgiving in 2009. He wanted to satisfy the desires of his family, who’d been slivering off slices of each pie to get a taste of each for dessert.

His dilemma solved? The cherpumple. He took a cherry, apple, and pumpkin pie, baked them in different flavors of cake mixes, and sealed them together with mounds of cream cheese frosting.

Sound good to you? It’s been met with rapture and revulsion, and I’m not sure where I stand on this delightfully decadent issue.

This seems on par with the Krispy Kreme donut burgers sold at state and county fairs—America’s weakness to terrifyingly caloric food. Just because it’s sold as food, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to eat it.

But…if you’re game, need a signature holiday dish, or can’t decide between cherry or pumpkin pie, your dilemma is solved: make a cherpumple.

The Cherpumple “Monster” Pie Cake

Adapted from:

-1 8″ frozen pumpkin pie
- 1 box spice cake mix
- 1 8″ frozen apple pie
- 1 box yellow cake mix
- 1 8″ frozen cherry pie
- 1 box white cake mix
- eggs and oil according to the cake mix
- 3 tall tubs of cream-cheese frosting
- 3 8.5″ round cake pans

Bake pies according to instructions and cool to room temperature overnight. Mix cake batter according to instructions. For each layer pour about 1 1/3 cup of batter in the cake pan. Carefully de-tin the baked pie and place it face up on top of the batter in the cake pan. Push down lightly to release any trapped air. Pour enough batter on top to cover the pie. Bake according to box instructions. Cool and remove from pans then frost it like you mean it.

Have your own holiday traditions and events? Submit your articles on Follow @GoCrawfordCTY on twitter, and join the conversation.


Read this article in the Friday, December 2 issue of

Posted in: Crawford County
Posted: November 23rd, 2011

Enjoy this vegan stuffing recipe from

Published in the 11/27 print edition of


Vegan Cranberry-Walnut Stuffing

Adapted from

Try this delicious vegan dish. Feel free to substitute ingredients if your company isn’t vegan. For example, if you’re craving a certain kind of bread—which isn’t always vegan—substitute your favorite loaf.

-5 cups stale or toasted vegan bread

-1-2 cups wild rice

-2 cups chopped celery

-1 cup chopped onion

-1 cup vegetable broth

- ¾ cup chopped cranberries

- ¾ cup chopped walnuts

-1 ½ tablespoons thyme

-1 tablespoon sage

-1 tsp rosemary

-salt and pepper to taste


Beforehand, fully cook the wild rice. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.

In a large pan, heat up the margarine and sauté the onions, celery, and cranberries for about 15 minutes, or until soft and tender. Add in the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. In a large bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, rice, walnuts, sage, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper.

Pour the hot mixture over the dry ingredients and mix. Grease a pan with margarine and pour mixture into pan. Dot the top with extra margarine and cover with foil.

Bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 10 minutes or until the top is crispy. Serve and enjoy!


Posted in: Crawford County
Posted: November 23rd, 2011

One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is dining with new friends and beloved family around a table laden with a delicious holiday feast. But what do you do when your daughter brings home her vegetarian boyfriend? What do you serve?

Thankfully, you don’t need to revamp your menu—there are easy ways to keep everyone satisfied at your holiday table.


1) Research your guests’ dietary needs

Your college-age daughter mentions she’s bringing her “ovo-lacto-pescatarian” boyfriend home for the holidays. What does that even mean? What if they’re vegan?

While your daughter and her boyfriend may know that ovo-lacto-pescatarian means a diet abstaining from animal meat products, while still consuming eggs, dairy, and shellfish products, you may not know—or what other dietary concerns they may have.

Solution: Background research is key before the big meal. Just ask. They’ll be happy to let you know about their dietary habits. It’ll also offer a unique way to get to know your guest better.


2) Vegetarian sides

You don’t need to throw out the turkey, but have a few dishes on hand that will allow your vegetarian guests to steer clear of any meat-laden dishes. Vegetarian sides often incorporate ingredients that add a flavorful, nutritional punch.

Solution: A hearty stuffing is invaluable for any diet. Make your stuffing vegetarian-friendly by using a vegetable based broth. Serve a tangy vegetarian stuffing with cranberries and beans that will have your guests asking for the recipe.


3) Offer guests bring a dish

Offering that the guest brings a dish is a great way to ensure they have something to eat, while easing the burden of your cooking schedule.

Solution: Decide what you’re least likely to have on the menu that’s veg-friendly, and have your guest whip up that dish. Vegetarians and vegan are often fabulous cooks, having to create unique, delicious, meatless recipes themselves.


4) Find recipes online.

A good dish starts with a good recipe. These websites offer great, flavorful dishes that will make you forget about the meat. boasts it’s the largest online collection of vegan recipes. This community has great user tips, so you don’t feel left alone in the kitchen. is a fabulous online community, hosting recipes from Bon Appétit and Gourmet magazines. Although not veg-specific, search this site for scrumptious meals. includes a great vegetarian/vegan living section, including tips on egg replacer.

Submit your own recipes on to add to the recipe database. Share your wisdom with the Crawford Community by submitting articles to

Find this article in the 11/25 print edition of 

Posted in: Crawford County

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