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 tagged "crawford"
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: 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: 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
Posted: November 14th, 2011

Florence “Shutsy” Reynolds was seven years old when she announced to her skeptical family in 1928 she was going to be a pilot.

“They said, ‘That’s too bad. Women don’t fly planes,’” said Reynolds.

She proved them and societal convention wrong in 1942, by joining the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) during World War II.

Today, women veterans are honored at Active Aging’s 12th annual “Through a Veteran’s Eye: A Salute” in Meadville for Veterans Day. Each year, the event selects a unique group of veterans to commemorate. This year, Reynolds, now 90, along with Debbie Ford, 91, a nurse who served in hospitals in North Africa during WWII, will address the event.

“It’s a great honor to be asked to speak,” said Reynolds, who as a WASP flew on the home front to free male pilots for combat missions. She wants the WASP legacy and work of women in the armed services to live on.

“When the war broke out, woman were only 10% of the work force. They could only work as nurses, stenographers, or school teachers. If they were married, they didn’t work,” said Reynolds. “The need was desperate. They needed pilots.”

“Women’s roles have changed so much. Previously, they could only play in the band, work in communications, or in administration,” said Director of Veterans Services, Fred Cunningham. “Today, they’re right in the thick of everything.”

Cunningham emphasizes that women are imperative to the work in Iraq and Afghanistan today, because of the sensitive nature of gender roles in those countries. For Veterans Day, both Reynolds and Ford will be able to share their stories, many of which of gone unheard or unappreciated.

“In December 1944, WASP was disbanded, and buried and classified for thirty years,” said Reynolds. “The male officers were afraid that we proved we did the job.”

Reynolds says that women were treated as second-class citizens. A male officer told her, “WASPs are expendable. If you don’t like it, pack your bags and go back home.”

“We have a unique ability to have the opportunity to do something for someone local,” said Cunningham. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to invite the children, to talk with people of the era.”

“It’s amazing the relationships and connections that are formed,” said Pam Roberts. “We saw a real need for veterans to come together and share stories.”

The opening ceremony starts at 8:30 am.


This article appeared in the November 11, 2011 print issue of

Post your news, events, photos, and more on

Posted in: Crawford County
Posted: November 8th, 2011

What’s special about Tuesday, November 8? It’s Election Day—will you be wearing the sticker, “I Voted Today” next week?

Historically, presidential elections turn out more voters than during non-presidential election years. What makes this year’s Crawford County elections important?

“Municipal elections people just don’t take it seriously enough,” said Director of Elections, Melanie Mushrush. “This is where people actually see their tax dollars being spent everyday.

Several contests, including two open seats for County Commissioner, will be held. Treasurer, School board positions, and many others, will also be held. Find full ballots and information about polling locations on the county website,

“This election is way more important than the presidential one. Who my township supervisors are impact me everyday,” said Mushrush. She also mentioned that for people in boroughs and cities, council members are the equivalent official.

“We’ve all pushed a button of a candidate we didn’t know or what they stood for,” said Reese.

The group not only stresses the importance of getting out to the polls to vote, but also individual responsibility to self educate about candidates.

“Don’t vote because the sign in the road is prettier than the other,” said Mitra Amini Reese, Executive Director of the non-partisan group I Matter I Vote.

I Matter I Vote lists all candidates listed on the ballot on their website,, and offers links to candidate websites under the “ballot” tab on the left-hand side of the screen. They also offer candidate biographies, if submitted by the running official.

Reese emphasizes that regardless of the race, it’s important to know the facts.

“All kinds of avenues for open for people to communicate with the candidates,” said Reese. “It’s important to communicate now, rather than complain later.”

I Matter I Vote offers to take questions from voters via Facebook or email, and then relay those questions to specific candidates.

“All races are important. You really need to educate yourself about a person. Don’t just ask your neighbor, their vales are different from yours,” said Reese.

Want to get informed? Visit a local candidate’s website to find out more information about why they’re running, their background, and what their platform and values are.

Also available and dedicated to helping voters is the county’s voter services page, I Matter I Vote encourages participation on their site and on their Facebook page.


This article appeared in the 11/4 print edition of

Check out photos from around Crawford County on Submit your own articles, events, and photos online.

Posted in: Crawford County
Posted: November 1st, 2011
Fake eyelashes add fabulous flare to these Halloween costumes at the Meadville Halloween Parade.

Fake eyelashes add fabulous flare to these Halloween costumes at the Meadville Halloween Parade.

If you haven’t gotten a chance to look through pictures from Saturday night’s 45th Annual Meadville Halloween Parade, they are up! Take a look at them here.


Posted in: Crawford County
Posted: August 25th, 2011

Worried that the weather will ruin tonight’s show at the Crawford County Fair? According to the weather, tonight should stay free from rain, although it will be partly cloudy.

Worried about Hurricane Irene affecting your plans for the CCF or the weekend? Check this update from the Crawford County Office of Emergency Services to see find more about what to do in case of a weather emergency.

Tonight is Dave Martin’s Bullride Mania, which promises a show, no matter what the weather. The show kicks off at 7:30 and includes a Little Buckaroo Rodeo, Bullriding, and Girls’ Barrel Racing.

With an action-packed schedule, tonight’s Bullride Mania won’t disappoint. Are you planning on going? Submit your photos on, click on “Submit photos.”

Have a story of your own to tell? Speak up! Submit your articles by clicking on the “Submit articles” icon.

Posted in: Crawford County
Posted: August 25th, 2011
My Vlahos veggie gyro.

My Vlahos veggie gyro.

State and County fairs are infamous for their eclectic food offerings. A week’s worth of food for a week at the Crawford County Fair.

What: Greek gyros from Vlahos

Description: An original gyro is a combination of beef and lamb served on soft, warm pita bread. This pita is then loaded with onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, and of course tzataziki, cucumber sauce.

Testimonial: “All I came to the fair for,” said the person just behind me in line at the Vlahos Original Greek Concession stand.

The Vlahos stand is family owned and operated by the Vlahos, a Greek family from North East Ohio. ”He has a following,” said daughter Eleana Vlahos, “He’s like a rock band, he’s got groupies.”

The Vlahos Original Greek Concession stand, complete with groupies.

The Vlahos Original Greek Concession stand, complete with groupies.

People from around the region follow where the stand will set up shop next. However, John, the ‘original’ Vlahos himself, schools people on what they’re really ordering. Signs above the counter phonetically sound out the name, “yee-ros.”

“Can I order an original ‘JI-row’?” a customer asked.

“We don’t have any ‘JI-rows.’ You can order an original gyro,” he said with a smile.

“Whatever it is, I just want an original,” they reply.

That’s right, if you’ve been pronouncing this Mediterranean dish “JI-row,” you’ve wrong. But if you visit John Vlahos, he’ll set you straight. “Yee-ros.”

This vegetarian had a My Big Fat Greek Wedding moment after he was done serving the other customers. I had returned to the stand after enjoying my veggie gyro, and he asked if I’d gotten a gyro yet. After I assured him I’d loved my veggie gyro, he repeated himself. Like they said in the movie, “It’s ok, I make lamb.”

Ever wondered? Here's your answer.

Ever wondered? Here's your answer.

Cost: $5, but John Vlahos served me a piece of mouthwatering baklava and a bottle of water for free.

Verdict: A huge fan of any Mediterranean style cooking, I was impressed that the shop had a veggie offering. And what a handful it was: the pita was heaped with all the goodies–minus the meat, just the way I like it. A filling snack that isn’t covered in grease, a rare Crawford County Fair treat.


Check out our Crawford County Fair Food gallery for more photos, and submit your own at

Have a favorite fair food? Let me know, so I can try it, too!

Posted in: Crawford County

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