ayor Philip “Bing” Cimino is the consummate
small-town mayor: filling roles in Mount Carmel
when others won’t, staying on in those roles longer than he
really wants, figuratively cheerleading a town that hasn’t
managed to be “in the game” for years, living life around
emergencies — because he’s also a longtime linchpin of the
volunteer fire company.
And yet he hasn’t had luck turning around his once-booming town, which has carried a whiff of decay since the
coal industry began dying in the 1950s. It isn’t for lack of good
ideas. Even something as universally appealing as a recreation
committee stalled before Cimino could get it going.
“I tried for three years and got nowhere with it,” Cimino
says. “I couldn’t get interest sparked. I get very frustrated.
The majority of people have lost faith in town government.”
So that was the backdrop for May’s borough council
meeting, when, against the odds, the Citizens Recreation
Committee was formed — a seemingly minor event, yet
eagerly anticipated 40 miles away at Bucknell University.
Only weeks earlier, three Bucknell students had presented
their report to council recommending the formation of the
recreation commission. The report was the culminating
project for a Managing for Sustainability class. “That’s
striking,” says Professor Neil Boyd, management, of the
borough’s quick response to the students’ recommendation.
“That’s not just a report — that’s action. They were just in
that class in the spring semester, and council already voted
to put that committee in place. That doesn’t normally
happen in college classes.”
Council’s vote was a resounding show of faith in the
project completed by Jacob Israel Hannah ’ 17, his
brother, Josiah ’ 17, and Ben Schumacher ’ 17, who used
organizational-development concepts to find ways to
improve sustainability and life in a town without hope.
It was familiar territory for the Hannahs, who hail from
Wilsondale, W.Va. — pop. 87 — where life boomed when
coal was king and waned in its wake.
“Coming out of the coal regions of West Virginia, I’ve
lived in the vacuum of hope,” Jacob says. “Hope can create
hope where it hasn’t been before. That surprised some
people in Mount Carmel because they’ve been living in this
place without abundant hope. But everyone was willing to
give us their time to produce this project. That’s where I see
BUILDING BLOCKS OF A PARTNERSHIP
Bucknell’s community partnership with the coal region,
including the towns of Shamokin and Mahanoy City as well
as Mount Carmel, is an unwieldy thing. Enjoying a growth
spurt just two years after it was formally created, the partnership flourishes even in summer. Three first-year projects
multiplied in the second year, with more projects reaching
into schools, libraries, social services and civic organizations. Projects targeted cultural and historic preservation,
potential tourism, blighted properties and curb appeal.
Stakeholders refer to the partnership by a host of names,
each bringing their own inspiration and angle. Its origin
stemmed from different interests with a common goal:
making a difference in coal communities. At Bucknell, Boyd
was among several professors practicing socially engaged
teaching and scholarship. Early efforts became the 40 Mile
Project, a 2014 white paper announcing projects within a
40-mile radius of campus to which other professors and
students could “chain” new phases to advance research
Meanwhile, Bucknell’s former Catholic chaplain, the Rev.
Martin Moran III, had just relocated to Mount Carmel’s
Divine Redeemer Church after seven years directing the
The Rev. Martin Moran and Jake Betz of the
Mother Maria Kaupas Center catch up with
officers of Mt. Carmel Downtown Inc.,
Edward Hirsch (far left), Cathy Besser and
Lynn Kufta (far right).