Up Close – Shawn Caden

Up Close – Shawn Caden

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL
WITH ALAN K. STOUT

Shawn Caden is a professional musician and currently performs with the bands the Dishonest Fiddlers and Jung Bergo. Caden is a native of Clarks Summit and is a graduate of Abington Heights High School. He also studied audio engineering at Luzerne County Community College. He and his girlfriend, Kate O’Malley, have three children: Phaedra, 5; Aldous, 3; and Ignatia, nine months. They live in Honesdale.
Meet Shawn Caden …

You play guitar, mandolin, saxophone and keyboards. When did you first realize you wanted to become a musician?
When I was in grade school, in fifth grade, I started playing drums in the concert band. I have an older brother who was already into drumming, so I kind of fell into that. When I got to high school, in ninth grade, I picked up the guitar and got into the melodic end of things. And never looked back.

The two bands you’re currently playing with are both doing well. They’ve both recorded original music and each are building a nice following. Can you tell us a little about your work with each project?
With the Dishonest Fiddlers, I just got on board recently (with group founder Dave Brown.) I play mandolin, and I like bluegrass, and Dave writes a lot of original tunes. There’s a couple of festivals coming up that we’re playing, including the Susquehanna Breakdown. Jung Bergo has two CDs, and we’re working on the third. I have a home studio, and we’re doing some stuff there. The first CD was recorded with Bret Alexander at Saturation Acres, and the second CD was mostly recorded at my house. We’ll also be playing some festivals on the summer circuit.

Who were some of your biggest musical influences?
When I first started playing guitar, Pink Floyd was it. First was the grunge area — Nirvana and 311 — but once I started to really want to play guitar, it was David Gilmour. Then, I got into the jam scene, with Phish and the Grateful Dead, and that kind of snowballed on top of all that stuff.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Family stuff. I try to get them to play. I would love to have a house full of musicians. One can only hope. (Laughs.)

Any hobbies? Are you a collector?
Just musical stuff. I love effects pedals. And for whatever reason, friends of mine just dump instruments on my lap. So I have a lot of weird things. I have a zither. I have a rubab. I own two sitars, a harmonium and a Renaissance instrument called a crumhorn. It’s just weird stuff that you’d never see anywhere.

Favorite cities?
Philadelphia and New York. On the West Coast: Portland, Oregon.

Favorite place to vacation?
My family used to rent a house in North Carolina. That was always fun. Beach life for a week was a cool getaway.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
The change of seasons. They’re extreme, but I think I’d get bored living in the same atmosphere all the time.

All-time favorite movies?
Mel Brooks movies. And Monty Python.

All-time favorite TV show?
“Arrested Development.” It’s the most witty comedy I’ve seen. It’s a family you can relate to, but you’d never actually want to be related to those people. (Laughs.)

Favorite food?
I recently got into a more vegetarian diet. Veggie sushi is really good.

Favorite holiday?
Christmas. Everybody’s around. Everybody gets together.

Any pets?
Two dogs, Gryphon and Tyler.

Guilty pleasure?
Whiskey.

Biggest pet peeve?
Communication. Although I’m probably just as guilty as everybody else. But in the day and age of technology when it’s almost impossible not to stay in touch with somebody, communication is still always an issue.

Is there anything about you that might surprise even your friends?
I like a lot of Indian classical music. I’ve been playing sitar at my house. That’s an angle that not everybody knows. Other than that, not really. I’m a pretty honest person, to a fault. (Laughs.) Sometimes it gets me in trouble.

Have you had a defining personal moment?
Becoming a father. That’s a big one. I don’t feel the same as I ever had. An emotional rollercoaster. When my daughter was born, I couldn’t see through the tears. It was a life-changing event.

photos by emma black
Up Close – Sheila Sankur

Up Close – Sheila Sankur

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL
WITH ALAN K. STOUT

Sheila Sankar is the co-owner and operator of Crotti’s on Ash, a classic cocktail and gourmet grilled cheese lounge located in Scranton. Sankar runs the bar, which opened 10 months ago, with her boyfriend, Joe Crotti. She is a native of Archbald and is a graduate of Bishop O’Hara High School. She later studied at Indiana Institute of Pennsylvania, the Art Institute of Philadelphia and Luzerne County Community College. She received a degree in pre-law from Penn State Worthington Scranton. She lives in Dunmore.
Meet Shelia Sankar …

Tell us a little about Crotti’s on Ash.
It’s a grilled cheese bar, and typically on the menu we have five different types of grilled cheese. There’s an original American. And we have bacon/bourbon, which has bacon, sauerkraut and spicy mustard. We also have a Caprese, with tomato, basil, olive oil and mozzarella.

And we have one for dessert, with mascarpone cheese, strawberries, Nutella, honey and chocolate syrup. Joe, who got some of the ideas from New York, wanted to bring a different kind of classic corner bar into the area. We have 35 or 36 different bourbons, including Pappy Van Winkle, which no other bars have. It’s like $1,600 to $3,500 a bottle, depending on the time of the year. And people are buying it for $100 a shot. We’re also starting whiskey tastings and wine tastings.

What do you enjoy the most about working there?
I’ve been bartending since I was 18. This is what I know. I was at Tink’s and Heil’s while I was in school, and after they closed, I was going to get a day job and do that whole thing, but Blu Wasabi in Clarks Summit called me and I ended up being there for nine years. And towards the end, I was managing. I know it. I love it. And then Joe had the idea to open a bar, and I said, “No.” (Laughs.) But looking back, I’m really happy that we did. It’s definitely a journey. I like people. And I like making drinks. I like really clean martinis. I infuse my own flavored vodkas. I like to stick with a clean, healthy concept for the bar, which I feel is kind of different for this area.

You’re also an artist. With your busy schedule, do you still do any paintings?
Yes. I’d say about 80 percent of the paintings in the bar are mine. I also paint a lot of animals – people’s pets. I’ve always loved animals and cartoon characters. That’s what comes the easiest to me. It’s fun.

What to you enjoy doing in your free time?
I used to work out all the time, but since we’ve had the bar I haven’t had time. But I like doing it, and going hiking. And I really like painting.

Favorite music?
I’m a big ‘90s baby. Tori Amos and Blind Melon are probably my all-time favorites. And Ani DiFranco, Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains. And, for a curveball, Lady Gaga.

All-time favorite movie?
“The Departed.” I must have seen it 80 times. I could probably recite half of it.
Favorite TV shows?
“Game of Thrones,” “Dexter” and “Boardwalk Empire.”

Do you follow sports?
I have been forced to watch football and the Green Bay Packers because it’s constantly on my TV. I had to paint a giant “G” in my boyfriend’s son’s room, so I am a Packers fan now. (Laughs.)

Favorite city?
New York.

Favorite vacation spot?
A beach, with a piña colada and blue water. I don’t care where.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
The people. It’s a small town. People know each other and are really supportive of each other.

Favorite food?
Chicken tenders. And crab legs.

Favorite holiday?
Halloween.

Biggest pet peeve?
I don’t like spiders. That’s a literal pet peeve. And I don’t like it when customers snap their fingers for a drink. Or they wave their hands, or scream, “Hey bartender!”

Guilty pleasure?
Probably, on a day off, just going away. Going to New York. Going to bars, trying drinks and hanging out. And I like Peppermint Patties.

Any pets?
A Boxer, Titan.

Is there anything about you that might surprise even your friends?
I’m really social, and I talk a lot. I’m used to being in the restaurant business. But I had severe anxiety growing up and panic attacks until I was about 16 years old. I didn’t speak. I wouldn’t go out in public. My mom always said, “I don’t know what happened, but you just flipped the switch.”

Have you had a memorable defining personal moment?
I would never show anyone my artwork. Ever. Most of it was all at my mom’s house. When I started dating Joe, he pushed me to do a First Friday. This was five-and-a-half years ago. He said, “Just do it.” And I did it, and I ended up selling nine of my paintings. I was crying, hysterically. And I haven’t stopped selling paintings. But back then, I was so afraid to see people’s reactions … I was so hard on myself … but him pushing me to do that brought my wall down. I never believed in myself, but he pushed me to do that, and to embrace it, and to keep painting.
UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.


photos by emma black
Up Close – Jessica McDonough

Up Close – Jessica McDonough

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL WITH ALAN K. STOUT

Jessica McDonough is a mutisystemic therapist with Community Solutions Inc. She also is involved in regional theater. McDonough is a native of Honesdale and is a graduate of Honesdale High School and Grove City College, where she received a degree in music education. She received a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling from Marywood University. She lives in Scranton.
Meet Jessica McDonough …

Can you tell us a little about the therapeutic work that you do with teens?
I work with adolescents who are starting to show anti-social behavior or difficulties that are a little more intense that your average kid. A lot of our kids come from juvenile parole referrals or Children and Youth. Essentially, what we like to do is go in and work with the adolescent and their family, but we also work with all of the systems in their life, so we talk with the school and, if possible, their peers. We try to connect them with more positive things that can help them get back on the right track.

What do you enjoy about it?
I enjoy empowering children and their families to see their potential. I think it’s really easy to paint those sort of adolescents into a box, and they aren’t bad kids. They’re kids that haven’t been given the same type of opportunities, or maybe their parents don’t have the skill set to help them be as successful. I think what specifically sets Community Solutions work apart is we’re really empowering the family to do it for themselves. For each client that I have, I’ll generally meet with them three times a week for several hours. We’re right in there, and we get to know them pretty well. And ideally, after I leave after five months, they can continue to grow and make progress.

You’ve also been pretty involved with local theater, doing work with everyone from the Gaslight Theater to the Scranton Shakespeare Festival to the New Vintage Ensemble. When did you first realize you had an interest in acting?
I think as soon as I could talk, I knew I wanted to act. (Laughs) I used to put on ridiculous short plays for my family, and even if I wanted to go to the store, I would put on a song and dance number about it. When I first went to college, I had originally planned on majoring in performing arts, but quickly realized I could still do that work, but also get a more viable degree, which is why I did music education. And I actually taught music for eight years, prior to moving into my current field. But I’ve always loved theater.

What has been your most memorable play or role?
My favorite, to date, was playing Ophelia in “Drowning Ophelia.” That was with the Gaslight Theater Company.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I like to go for hikes. I took up crocheting. And I like reading. And I still do some acting. I also DJ with Patrice Wilding. We call it “SaturBae.” We do it every three or four months, mostly at The Bog. It’s really a dance party for ladies. It’s fun to see women be able to come out and cut loose. And it’s not necessarily geared toward younger women. A lot of them are moms, and it’s a big night out for them.

Favorite music?
I love a band called the Dirty Projectors. They’re just beautiful. Their music is just a little off the beaten path. I like the Alabama Shakes a lot, and I love Beyoncé. I also really like Kanye West’s music. As a person I’m not so sure, but I think he’s a very talented artist.

All-time favorite movie?
“The Goonies.”

Favorite TV show?
“The Gilmore Girls” and “The OA.”

Favorite city?
I did a cross-country trip two years ago with my best friend, and I loved Sedona. It’s not really a city, but it’s a cool place to go. Charleston is really cool, and Omaha is really fun.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
There’s something that’s very real about the interactions that I have with people here. People in this area are going to tell you how it is, but they’re also going to support you and be there for you. There’s a candor that I really appreciate, and when I travel out of this area, I miss that. It’s candor balanced with kindness. I really love Scranton.

Favorite food?
I love pizza. My boyfriend thinks I could survive on pizza alone. And I would be willing to try. (Laughs.)

Favorite holiday?
Halloween.

Favorite book or author?
I love the “Harry Potter” series. I use it in my practice a lot, with kids, because I think that Harry’s story is really motivating for a lot of kids that come from difficult circumstances. And I found it motivating as a kid as well.

Any pets?
Two cats: Fred and Ellie. And a foster cat, Smidge. She’s an older cat that I take care of, and she’s been passed around, but I think she’ll probably finish out with me. (Laughs)

Biggest pet peeve?
I don’t like it when people don’t say what they’re thinking or feeling. When people talk around you, or behind your back, or other people’s backs – I have a hard time with that. I just feel that so much time gets wasted by just not being upfront with people. I think there’s a way to have those conversations where it shouldn’t have to be so difficult.

Have you had a moment or event in your life that has helped shape you into the person you are today?
I don’t know if it was one particular person or one particular moment, but a series of events in my early twenties really led to me making the decision to look critically at my life, and how I was choosing to interact with people, and to make a change for the better. I love my family dearly, but I come from a traumatic background. There was some trauma in my childhood, and I was recreating bad patterns with friends and with relationships, and seeking out people who just kind of perpetuated some of the things that I believed about myself, whatever they may have been. And there was a point in my mid-twenties when I just ended a relationship with someone that I knew wasn’t good for me, and it was the turning point for me to say, “I’m scared to ask for the things I really want, but I can’t keep living this way.” At that point I took some time for myself and I went to a really wonderful therapist, who helped me to safely start to work on those things. And it changed not only the course of my life, but the quality of my life. Tenfold.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at
alankstout@comcast.net.

photos by emma black

Up Close: Peter Ventura

Up Close: Peter Ventura

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL
WITH ALAN K. STOUT

Peter Ventura is the co-owner and operator of Coney Island Lunch in Scranton. He operates the business with his brother, Bob. The family-run business was first opened by their grandfather in 1923. Peter first began working there regularly in 1972, when he was a junior in high school. A native of Scranton, he is a graduate of Scranton Technical High School. He lived in Spring Brook Township for 25 years and has lived in Clarks Summit since 2006. He and his wife, Kathryn, have two sons, Mark and John.
Meet Peter Ventura …

Though you literally grew up around a family business and have helped run the business for more than 30 years, was there ever a time when you thought you might do something else? Or did you always know this is where you wanted to be?
Actually, my second year out of high school, I was going to join the military. I had everything filled out and was ready to go. I went to Wilkes-Barre to be sworn in, and I changed my mind. And they left me there. They wouldn’t give me a ride back to Scranton. I had to call my father, and he came and got me. Needless to say, he was happy. That was my only adventure outside. I started working for my grandfather when I was eleven years old. I mean, you can’t actually consider it “working” when you’re family, but I came down on a Saturday, and he needed the floor mopped or something, and he gave me 50 cents. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but I was able to buy five packs of baseball cards, a 16 oz. bottle of Coke and a big bag of chips. And that was the kicker. Having money. All of these years, the business has always been good to me.

Didn’t you originally take over your grandfather’s shift, which was the night shift?
Yes. We went through some of the worst times in Scranton in the ’70s, when things were really bad. And this area was sort of, not the “red light” district, but it was called “The Strip,” on Lackawanna Avenue, and we had a lot of “entertainment” that used to come in, nightly. (Laughs) And I actually liked it. And another good thing about it was that I was able to go out at night. We would close, and by the time I cleaned up, all my friends who were out would already be loaded, and I’d be out there straight. There were a lot of after-hours bars back then. All of that just worked to make me want to stay here even more.
What do you still enjoy about it the most?
I can’t really say that I’ve had some bad days here. Generally, the people that come in every day — and there are actually people that come in every day — I like talking with them. I’m a talker. Baseball, politics … I’m the perfect person for this kind of business. A lot of times, you’ll get a business, and if they can’t deal with the public, they’re not going to make it. Whereas a guy like me, I love it.

Your cheeseburger was named one of the best in the country by NASCAR Illustrated and your hot dogs have been featured on Fox News. What is your favorite item on your own menu?
I eat hot dogs. I eat them all the time. And I have unbelievablely perfect cholesterol numbers. Good arteries. I guess I was born blessed. And everywhere I go, to any town I go to, if is see little hot dog joints, I’m there. I’ve got to try them out.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
A few things. I’m an 18th century guy in the 21st century. I really like U.S. history, especially 1700s and 1800s, and I like to go to historic places. I also enjoy Eve Online. I’ve been playing since 2007. I have five high-def monitors in my office, connected to two computers. I’m an industrialist in the game. I build ships and mines.

The restaurant features a lot of decorations dedicated to baseball. I assume you’re a big fan.
I love baseball. I was a season ticket holder with the Red Barons and the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees for many years and I enjoy minor league games. I also had season tickets for the New Jersey Cardinals, and I go out to Williamsport once in a while, because the Crosscutters are a Cardinal team. And I go to Binghamton a lot.

All-time favorite movie?
I just watched “Ben Hur” again. I’ve watched it a million times. And my wife recently got me “Rogue One” for my birthday, and it was the only “Star Wars” movie I didn’t see in the theater. I love anything that starts with “Star,” whether it’s “Star Wars” or “Star Trek.”

Favorite thing about NEPA?
I can walk out the front door of my restaurant and be less than two hours from New York and Philadelphia, and look to my left and see a mountain green, and look to my right and see a mountain green, and in between, in this valley, is a little bit of everything. And that’s pretty hard to find anywhere. This is a real melting pot. In a lot of places, you have to go to sections of the city to find something, but in Scranton or Wilkes-Barre, just up and down, north to south, east to west, you’re going to find something you’re going to want. And that’s what’s unique about it.

Do you remember your first car?
A 1972 Chevy Vega. Brand new. It was nice. Beautiful car. I paid $1,845 for it, and I paid with cash. I drove it maybe four blocks, up to Scranton Central, and the engine blew. I didn’t know what to do, so I left it on the side of the road.

That happened to the brand new car?
What happened was they didn’t put oil in the engine. It was an aluminum block engine, and the piston just shot right through it. It was steaming. I called my father and he said, “That’s enough of those. I want you to look at this station wagon.” It had a 454 in it. What did I know? I just heard “454” and said, “OK.” He gave me some money towards it, because it was about $5,600. Little did I know he wanted me to transport stuff for the business. (Laughs.) So that was my second car. The first one lasted about 20 minutes.

Biggest pet peeve?
All of the years I’ve been here, and I’m 62 years old, I can’t stand it when people put Scranton or this area down. I won’t get mad at them, but I’ll tell them about all of the good things. I’ll say, “We might have had some trying times here and there, but it’s not like what you’re saying.” That’s my pet peeve. Don’t badmouth Scranton if you’re going to talk to me, because it’s been good to me.

Any pets?
A cat, Barney.

Is there anything about you that might surprise people?
I can watch “Downton Abbey,” and I’ll start crying during the crying scenes. I’m a big guy, but if there are sad parts in movies, like a sad scene in “The Green Mile,” I’ll start bawling. My wife will be sitting there and I’ll try to hide it, but I have a soft spot. I don’t cry when I’m making hot dogs.

Have you had what you might consider a defining personal moment?
It happened when I was a kid. One time, my stepfather told me, “Whenever you meet someone, shake their hand.” I was 13 or 14 years old, and I don’t know why, but it stuck with me. Everywhere I went, I shook hands, and my father was always proud of that. He used to race horses, and we had them in stable, and the first time I did it, we had a new driver, and I met him down near Pocono Downs. My father introduced me to him, and I stuck my hand out to shake his hand, and it sort of surprised him. When he was walking away, he said to my father, “That was really nice that your son shook my hand.” And he said, “I taught him to do that.” That was memorable … my father telling me to shake people’s hands.”

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

photos by emma black

Up Close: Kathryn Bondi

Up Close: Kathryn Bondi

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL
WITH ALAN K. STOUT

Kathryn Bondi is a digital graphic designer with Posture Interactive and an adjunct faculty member of Marywood University, where she teaches graphic design. Bondi is a native of Bethlehem but has lived in Scranton since attending Marywood, where she received a degree in graphic design. She is the vice president of the board of AAF Northeast Pennsylvania. She lives in Scranton.
Meet Kathryn Bondi …

When did you first realize you had an interest in graphic design?
I think it goes back to high school. I always loved art. My mom was an art history major, and I grew up really having a love and an appreciation of art. I was always drawing and doing crafts. But when I got to high school, reality kind of set in, and I realized I needed to combine that with a way to make money. I used to get requests to do people’s tattoo designs and T-shirt designs, and I realized I liked combining the drawing aspect with the actual logistics and layout, and sourcing materials, and trying to find the best way to deliver a creative product. I was like, “I think this is what I want to do. I want to do package designs, T-shirts, websites … I want to put artistic direction into a product and deliver it to someone.”

What do you enjoy about teaching?
It wasn’t that long ago that I was there, so I can relate to being in their shoes. I can relate to being in their seat and asking, “Is this really want I want to do for the rest of my life?” or “Do I even know what it’s like to do this in the real world?” When I started, I was probably thinking I’d be doing magazines and newspapers, but that is not what I’m doing. Maybe on a small scale, to some degree, but it’s mostly web. That’s the direction everything has gone. So I might say, “Hey, I know you’re shying away from web code, but you might want to tip-toe into that.” I like discussing their options. Saying, “You’re really strong with illustration. Maybe that really is your route, and maybe you might want to take that a step further and start licensing your illustrations on a website.” It’s giving ideas on venues that maybe they didn’t think existed and getting them to explore those venues.
Can you talk a little about your work with the American Advertising Federation?
It’s a national federation and we serve Lackawanna and Luzerne County. There are all kinds of great national events and benefits, so we try to educate people as to why they might want to become a member. There’s also a government relations component. We try to get involved on the Hill in terms of advertising, where things will affect you if you have an agency or are a freelancer. There’s also continuing education, so we have speaker events. And there’s also community service. You get out of it what you put into it. If you come to the events and you want to learn more about copywriting, or sales, or digital adverting – that’s something that you can grow and benefit from.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
There’s not much of it, but I draw when I can. And I always come back to cooking and gardening. I like being able to grow my own food and then find a way to turn that into something amazing. And whether it’s my boyfriend or my family, I’ve always been a firm believer that food brings people together. Maybe that’s because I’m Italian. (Laughs) I also do handmade jewelry. (www.etsy.com/shop/BrokenTwig)

You’re also involved with local theater, correct?
Yes. I first got involved in theater in high school, but it was more on the speech and debate side of things, with oral interpretation events. I would do dramatic pieces and poetry and prose. I also played music in high school, so I didn’t usually get to be in plays, because I was usually playing in the pit band for the plays. But for the past two or three years, I’ve gotten involved with the Diva Theater and I really like it. I’d forgotten how much I like to just get on the stage and let loose. It’s a good outlet. My first one was “The Lion In Winter.” Most recently, I was in “In the Dark.” I’ve also gotten into set design and did the stage design for “Glengarry Glen Ross.”

Favorite music?
My all-time favorite artist is Beck. I’m a fan of his whole catalog and I’ve followed him since I was a kid. I generally go towards the alternative genre and indie/folk. Lately though, I’ve been more into Washed Out and Boards of Canada – stuff that you can just have on in the background. It’s very relaxing.

All-time favorite movie?
I like indie focus films and indie films – stuff that makes you think. By the end of the film, I want to be surprised. I like Wes Anderson. I like the design of his films. He has really interesting color pallets and shots. It’s very symmetrical.

Favorite TV show?
I’m currently going through “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” I also like “Rick and Morty.”

Favorite food?
Pasta.

Favorite holiday?
Halloween.

Favorite city?
Portland, Maine.
Favorite vacation spot?
Ocean City, New Jersey. That’s always been our family vacation spot.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
I love a lot about Northeast Pennsylvania. A lot of people from where I’m from in the Lehigh Valley are transplants, which some might see as refreshing, but I like the idea that everyone here has a connection to the area. People know you. There’s a sense of community. I also like the entrepreneurial spirit. You can just do something and no one’s going to say, “No.”

Guilty pleasure?
Sitting on the couch playing video games and not doing anything. Sometimes you just need to shut down and hang out in your PJs on the couch.

Biggest pet peeve?
Negativity. Negative people.

Any pets?
A dog, Mars, and a cat, Ares.

Is there anything about you that might surprise even your friends?
As much as I talk to people and I enjoy talking to people, I’m kind of a homebody. Growing up, I always had one or two very good select friends, but I never had “the gang.” To me, a good Friday night was sitting in my room, drawing and listening to music. I wasn’t very social. So that may surprise people that I know now and that have seen me out and about. That’s not how I always used to be.

Most influential person in your life?
My mom. I definitely owe a lot to her. I even have a tattoo in honor of her. It’s based off of her wedding portrait, but I did in it in the style of Alphonse Mucha, because I also love art history. She was an art history major and I minored in art history. Growing up, she fostered that in me. We went to museums together, and I definitely feel that she created the creative part of me. She could see that I also had an interest, and she helped me recognize it and know what to do with it. She’s been instrumental in helping shape how I see myself.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

photos by emma black

Up Close: Missy Vaughn

Up Close: Missy Vaughn

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL
WITH ALAN K. STOUT

Missy Vaughn is a registered nurse with DaVita, specializing in acute dialysis, who works at Regional Hospital of Scranton, Moses Taylor Hospital and Pocono Medical Center. Vaughn is a graduate of Scranton Central High School and Penn State University, where she received a degree in physiology. After working in the physical therapy field for 10 years, she returned to Penn State and became a registered nurse. She has two sons, Nicholas and Frank, and lives in Jefferson Twp.
Meet Missy Vaughn…

What first made you decide that you wanted to become a nurse?
It goes way back to high school. I’ve always taken care of people. When I was 15, I started working with mentally challenged individuals at Keystone City Residence. All through high school, that was my job. I was always interested in helping people and using my intelligence, because I loved science. It was just a natural progression. So I went to physiology school. Later, after staying home with my boys for a while, I felt I needed a job where I felt challenged every day. And nursing changes every day. I meet new people every day. And I can make a difference in a lot of people’s lives.

What do you enjoy the most about your work?
Actually getting to know the patients. If someone’s a little crabby, you know you can change their attitude just by giving them a piece of candy or something. A lot of times, because they’re acutely ill, they’re with us for quite some time. I just had a patient that was in the ICU for two months and did not communicate whatsoever. And last week, he had a trachea placed, and he came walking into the room and said, “Hey, Melissa!” He had heard everything we said. He knew about everything we talked about. He knew about my children. It was nice to see him talk and walk and be able to leave the hospital.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I really enjoy cooking. It’s like my mental break. Everybody always asks, “Are you going to cook for me?” or “When can I come over?” I’m also an avid skier, and I love to dance. And recently, I’ve become an excellent traveler. (Laughs) I’m really good at it. I went to Spain. I was in Turkey. And I’ve gone on my own, to visit people. Last month, I went to Vegas. I was driving home, the snow was coming down, and I said, “I’m going to Vegas.” Traveling is one thing that I want to focus on in the future.

Favorite music?
It’s eclectic. I love all ages of music and all types of music. We have speakers throughout the house, so when my sons hear the music, they go, “Mom’s cooking again.” When I put the music on, they know. I just love everything.

What was the best concert you ever saw?
My very first concert was exciting. It was the Violent Femmes. Sting was amazing. Billy Joel was amazing.

Do you follow sports?
Of course, the Eagles.

Of course. Weren’t you a Philadelphia Eagles cheerleader?
I was a professional cheerleader for the Eagles for two years. We did all of the home games. We only did road games if we went to the playoffs, and my first year that I cheered, we played Dallas for a seed in the playoffs, and we lost. But that’s still my team. It’s love and hate.

Do you have a charity of choice?
I do some work with the National Kidney Foundation. There is a great need for organ donors.

Favorite city?
Barcelona and, of course, New York City. And I love Philadelphia. I feel at home there.

Favorite vacation spot?
Anywhere where there’s sand, sun and some trees. That works for me.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
The sense of community that we have here.
A lot of people are involved in charities and giving back to the community. It’s like we kind of take care of our own.

All-time favorite movie?
“Love Affair” with Warren Beatty and Annette Bening.

Favorite TV show?
“The Walking Dead.”

First car?
A ’91 or ’92 mystic magenta Geo Storm.

Favorite holiday?
Christmas is fun. I like to decorate. But I actually like Thanksgiving the best.

Favorite food?
I’m all about meat.

Any pets?
Two golden retrievers. Bruno is 14, and Bailee is 4.

Guilty pleasure?
Wine. And scratch-off lottery tickets.

Is there anything about you that might surprise even your friends?
I met Ted Nugent at a concert years ago. I think I was 20. And somehow I talked a guy into letting me into the back. Ted Nugent was walking around with a bunch of fans that were backstage VIPs or something and he stopped and said to me, “I have to tell you. I wrote ‘Foxy Lady’ about you.” He signed a poster, “To my Foxy lady … Ted Nugent.” (Laughs)

Have you had anything specific that’s happened to you in your life that has helped shaped you into the person you are today?
I knew my best friend in high school. We weren’t best friends then, but we met up again years later. And meeting back up with her and learning about the struggles that she had been through — she was married, had a newborn baby and was diagnosed with breast cancer, and her husband walked out — helping her go through those struggles has taught me a lot. She taught me how to be a better friend. And you also learn that some things aren’t always transparent and you can’t always understand what other people are going through. It’s taught me to think more about other people, even in how I think about my patients. I’ll question them, “Do you live at home?” or “What are you going to do when you get out of here?” It’s taught me even more about assisting them and finding the right path for them, if they need help.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

 

photos by emma black

Up Close: Zhach Kelsch

Up Close: Zhach Kelsch

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL
WITH ALAN K. STOUT

Zhach Kelsch is a professional drummer and drumming instructor who teaches at Northeast Music Center, Dickson City. He has performed and recorded with regional bands such as Fighting Zero and OurAfter and recently recorded with Aaron Fink. Kelsch plays with two bands from the Lehigh Valley area, Vicious and Doubting Thomas, and with Philadelphia-based band Modern Luxe. He is a Carbondale native and graduated from Carbondale Junior-Senior High School and Penn State University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in business. He has lived in Philadelphia for the past five years and recently relocated to Lake Harmony.
Meet Zhach Kelsch …

When did you first realize that you wanted to play drums?
I started when I was 6. My dad was a drummer, and he quit because he had me. (Laughs) And so he put the drums away. I was helping my grandmother clean the attic when I was 6 years old, and I found his road cases with his drums in them. They were these really cool 1976 drums. They’re called Vistalite, so they’re acrylic and you can see through them. And they were a bicentennial edition. I’ve since found out that they’re worth a lot of money, which is funny, because he bought them for like $500 and now they’re worth more than $10,000. They’re red, white and blue. … I’m 6 years old, and they look like jellybeans. (Laughs) I begged him to set them up, and though he was kind of rusty, he could still play, and I was just blown away just watching. Seeing each hand do something different, and the feet do different things, but it all comes together … I was like, “This is the only thing I want to do.”

Who are some of your all-time favorite drummers?
I’m a fan of guys that are almost the behind-the-scenes session guys. As a drummer, you’re not the “rock star” face, but I like the guys who have done it and made a living. They’re the guys that get hired by every artist, though a lot of people probably won’t know their names. Vinnie Colaiuta is one of my all-time favorites. Josh Freese. And a local guy, Kevin Soffera from Allentown, is a guy I completely look up to. And I’ve liked Danny Carey from Tool since I was 6, and I still like him now. He’s one of those guys with staying power.
Who are some of your favorite bands?
Tool, Metallica and nowadays I’ve really gotten into funk, and I’m into Lettuce. And I like the funk legends like Tower of Power and Earth, Wind & Fire.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I like to stay active. I’m a gym rat. In the winter I snowboard. In the summer I wakeboard, and I like to ride my motorcycle. And I like to read about business and philosophy.

Favorite city?
I got to do a tour last year of the West Coast, which went from San Diego all the way to Seattle. Seattle is amazing. And I also liked Santa Monica.

Favorite vacation spot?
It depends on which mood I’m in. I love Vermont, and I also love anything Caribbean.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
I’ve travelled a lot from playing, but it always feels like home. The family is still here, and I’ve always liked it here.

Favorite food?
Anything healthy … sushi and vegetables.
And Italian.

All-time favorite movie?
“Johnny Dangerously,” “Blazing Saddles” and “Shawshank Redemption.”

Favorite TV show?
“Seinfeld” and “Family Guy.” And I like documentaries.

Favorite type of reading?
I like magazines. I like Forbes and The Economist.

Biggest pet peeve?
A negative attitude.

Guilty pleasure?
I like a drink, socially. I was at a wedding last weekend, and I thought, “Alright. I’m not working. Let’s have a drink.”

Is there anyone, or anything, in your life that has helped define you as a person?
My dad. He’s an unbelievable moral guide. He’s the North Star. He always does the right thing. Everybody that knows him respects him. I try to follow his lead as much as I can.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

photos by emma black

Up Close: Thomas Frable

Up Close: Thomas Frable

Thomas Frable is a senior stylist at Alexander’s Salon & Spa, Scranton. A city native, he is a graduate of Scranton High School and Empire Beauty School. He was voted best stylist in the 2016 Electric City readers’ poll. He and his boyfriend, Allan, live in Scranton.

You’ve been a hair stylist for almost 10 years. When did you first realize it was something you wanted to do?

Probably around age 23 or 24. I realized I had to go to school for something. After high school, I just worked a series of jobs. I figured a trade, instead of going to college, would be better. And then when I really sat down to think about it, I realized I wanted to do hair or design, and hair just came more naturally to me. I had either cut my own hair, or people would ask me advice about their hair. It just seemed to be something that fit into my life throughout my life, but I had just never acknowledged it.

Do you work with both male and female clients?

Both. And I’d say it’s pretty 50/50. Short hair styles for men and pixies for women were the first thing that came naturally to me, and then everything kind of came after that. I do pretty much everything, from short to long hair cuts, to colors, hair extensions, color techniques, updos, eyebrows. … I don’t really do anything beyond hair, except for waxing. I don’t do makeup or nails.

What do you enjoy the most about the work?

Being one-on-one with the person. Making them feel comfortable, like they can trust me to help achieve whatever it is that they’re looking for and to help get them that confidence for themselves. I just enjoy communicating and just trying to put the puzzle pieces together, of what they’re asking, and figuring out what it actually means for them. And when people say, “I love it,” or just to see their body language, or they just smile and say “thank you” … you’re just kind of connecting with the person.

Some people seem to enjoy the conversations they have with their stylists just as much as the haircuts. And some stylists really seem to know a lot about their clients’ lives.

Yeah. For sure. You’re essentially somebody’s bartender/therapist at the same time. (Laughs) Anybody can cut your hair, but I like to think that a lot of people come to me for me. Not to say that in an egotistic way, but I like to make people feel comfortable.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I’m very much like a cat in that I like to lay around and keep to myself for the most part. But at the same time, I’m active. I like to run. I usually just do half marathons. I don’t go above that. Otherwise, it takes too much training, and I like to lay around. (Laughs) To be social and go out, I generally like places like Trax or POSH. Or anywhere with family or friends.

Do you have any hobbies? Are you a collector?

“Animal Crossing” Amiibo cards for Nintendo. I’m like a large child with those, and I play to de-stress and decompress. There’s a series of about 450 cards, and I probably have about 390 of them. I never had a collection or anything like that growing up, so as an adult, I needed to fill that. It just makes me happy, and it’s something simple.

Who are some of your favorite musical artists?

My range is all over the place. Anything that sounds good. I loved the Rolling Stones in high school, and I saw them when I was 23. Tegan and Sara, Amy Winehouse, Adele, Beyonce, Whitney Houston, Cake. It mostly just depends on the environment and what mood I’m in.

Favorite city?

New York. It’s close. And it seems like it’s the center of the universe. It has everything going on. You can just pick a part of town and get lost in it.

Favorite vacation spot?

So far, of the places I’ve been, I’d say Aruba. “One happy island.” Perfect weather. It was never too hot. There was always a breeze. Everybody was chilled. It was a really nice place.

Favorite thing about NEPA?

It’s home. And I like that it’s close to New York. And you can even do a day trip to the beach. A lot of my closest friends are either here, or they’ve moved to Philadelphia. This is home, but it’s not too far to get there or anywhere.

Favorite food?

Mexican and Brazilian.

All-time favorite movie?

“Beetlejuice.”

Favorite TV show?

“The Golden Girls.”

Favorite holiday?

Halloween.

Favorite author?

Augusten Burroughs.

Guilty pleasure?

Animal Crossing.”

Have you had a defining personal moment?

More recently, my relationship with Allan has really helped push me in a more positive direction. But looking back, I didn’t come out until I was 21 or 22, and oddly enough, I came out to my family first. My dad, who I thought I’d tell last, ended up being the first person. And then I told my mom. And then I kept it to myself for a little bit longer. And then, after my 22nd birthday, a friend helped me really come out. And it’s one of those things where you feel like, “Yes. Finally.” But then it’s like, “Who am I?” So that’s when a lot of serious thinking comes into play. It’s like, “OK. I can change my life. I can head in the right direction to be happy for myself.” And I think that’s when the career choice came into play. There was something to focus on. And build upon.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

photos by emma black

Up Close: JoLynn O’Malley

Up Close: JoLynn O’Malley

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL WITH ALAN K. STOUT

JoLynn O’Malley is a dental hygienist with the Abington Center for Cosmetic and Family Dentistry, Clarks Summit, working with Dr. Charles Dennis. A native of Jermyn, O’Malley is a graduate of Lakeland Junior-Senior High School and later studied at Misericordia University. She received a degree in dental hygiene from Luzerne County Community College. She and her husband, Peter, live in Archbald.
Meet JoLynn O’Malley …

What led to your initial interest in becoming a dental hygienist?
Years ago, I dated someone that made fun of my teeth, and I felt so self-conscious that I went and got braces at age 20. In the midst of that, I got a job at a dental office. I started at the front desk, and the dentist would sometimes call me back to assist him, and that kind of put a little bug in my ear — that I liked doing it. So I went to hygiene school. I’m certified in anesthesia and am a public health hygienist. I’d been at two other offices previously, and I’ve been with Dr. Dennis for almost 11 years.

What do you enjoy about it the most?
I like making people feel good about themselves. Because it happened to me. When someone says, “JoLynn, you’re the best. You make me feel comfortable,” and we can change their smile and their whole outlook on life — that makes me feel good. Even if it’s one person I did that for, I did my job. Being able to work for Dr. Dennis and having the opportunity to treat patients’ needs and give them the results they are looking for makes for a very rewarding job. I enjoy treating patents individually and not making them feel like a number, and he gives me the freedom to do that. After 11 years, the patients are like family.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I love listening to music. I’m a big country fan, and I’m a Nashville person. I do a little bit of yoga, which I started recently, but other than that, it’s country music.

Who are some of your favorite artists?
Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton. And Rascal Flatts is my ultimate favorite.

Do you have any hobbies?
I hunt with my dad every year, but that’s more of a tradition. I’ve been doing it with him since I was 13, and I think it makes him happy. He has three girls, and I’m the only one that does it. (Laughs)

Favorite city?
Nashville. I’ve been there eight times. Last year, I went twice. I went for the CMA Fest in June and in October for my birthday.

Favorite place to vacation?
Nashville. (Laughs) I’ve been to Vegas, and that was fun, but Nashville would be my first choice.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
My family and my friends are here.

Favorite food?
Sushi.

All-time favorite movie?
“Dirty Dancing.”

Favorite TV show?
“Seinfeld.”

Favorite holiday?
Thanksgiving.

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
“Life is too short.” I say that a lot, and a lot more now than I used to. A lot of people that have been close to me, such as aunts and uncles, are starting to pass, and I’ve realized that if you’re not happy doing what you’re doing, you might not be here tomorrow. That’s probably why I go to Nashville as much as I do. Life is short. Try to be happy.

Guilty pleasure?
Chocolate.

Is there anything about you that might surprise even your friends?
Some people think that nothing ever bothers me, and that I have no emotion, and that I just let everything fall off my shoulders. But really, deep down, everything bothers me. I don’t show it to anyone, but behind closed doors I’m not as strong as people think I am. People think that life’s easy for me, but it really isn’t. I‘m just keep it more to myself.

Have you had a moment or time in your life that has helped define you and make you the person you are today?
The first time I went to Music City, I felt more comfortable doing things for me. It opened my eyes to letting myself be who I want to be and not worrying about how everybody else wants me to be. I always felt that I did things for everybody else to make them happy, and I always sacrificed. But those trips that I take are for me. Being there, I realized how much I really enjoy country music. I grew up with it. It was a big part of my family. But the whole environment there is just different. The vibe is different. It’s really something I love to do.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

photos by emma black

Up Close: Michelle Reilly

Up Close: Michelle Reilly

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL
WITH ALAN K. STOUT

Michelle Reilly is a mortgage loan originator with Benchmark McCabe Mortgage who also serves on the advisory boards of several area nonprofits and is president of Mountaintop Rotary. Reilly is a native of Mountaintop and a graduate of Crestwood High School and Pennsylvania Real Estate Academy. She has two children, Molly and Harry, and lives in Mountaintop.
Meet Michelle Reilly …

You’re also very involved in the community. Tell us about your work with the Rotary.
It involves a lot of events and a lot of fundraising. It’s like another full-time job. (Laughs) But I can’t believe how much I love it. And it’s growing. Our club has doubled in size over the past few years. It’s a lot of work, but there’s a great reward when you’re helping people … whether it’s a $1,000 check to help people with autism or a check to the library or care packages for children in hospitals. We had an amazing fundraiser right before Christmas where we worked in conjunction with some other service clubs, where we collected food donations and monetary donations to fill up backpacks for kids who might go hungry during the holidays. When they get their breakfast and lunch at school every day and there’s no school for two weeks, they don’t get food. So we filled up backpacks for these kids to take home. It’s things like that … just little things, but they go on and on.

What other community-oriented organizations are you involved with?
I sit on the board of associates of the Lehigh Valley Health Network. I’m also a member of the Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce and also attend meetings in Hazleton. And most recently, I’ve been appointed to the board of the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza. And I volunteer with the Future Business Leaders of America.

How did you first get involved in real estate? You did quite a few other things, previously, correct?
For 18 years, while I was raising my kids, I had a cleaning business. And my family has had a business in Mountaintop, Reilly’s Garage, for more than 60 years, and I also worked there in the office. But I eventually got into real estate. I had some influential people in my life that were in the real-estate industry, and they suggested I give it a shot. And so I started part-time. I was doing three jobs. I was cleaning, I was helping in the office at the family business and doing real estate. And I was also modeling. I went to modeling school when I was in high school, and I did that off and on for a while. At one point, I went to John Casablancas outside of Philadelphia to work. But that was hard with the commuting because all of the work was down that way. I also did it locally here and there and did a few commercials, but it was impossible to make a living. The real estate eventually just kind of weaned into a full-time job. I was with Lewith & Freedman for eight years and Century 21 for five years. In the fall of 2016, I was approached by Benchmark McCabe Mortgage.

So now you’re not necessarily helping
people sell homes, but rather you help them finance homes?
Correct. I still get to work with all of the real-estate agents and stay in contact with them. And I still get to spend time with the buyers. It’s just in a little bit of a different way. It’s just another part of the business.

What you do enjoy about it?
Helping people. You get gratification from their happy faces. It’s exciting. The goal is always to see people achieve their dreams of home ownership. Handing over the keys at closing is a very exciting moment for everyone.

It doesn’t sound like you have a lot of free time, but when you do, what do you enjoy doing?
I try to make time for live music. I love to go out and hear live music. I also play piano, and I kind of half-heartedly play guitar. And I love to sing. I grew up singing. My mom was the organist at her church for more than 60 years, and I sang in the choir. That’s where I began to sing, and then it kind of spawned into singing at funerals or weddings, and with friends in bands — just for fun. Music is my favorite. If somebody says, “Let’s go to a concert,” I’m like, “Let’s do it.” I also love fashion and art, and I’m starting to appreciate film a little bit more. I also like to power-walk and run. And I plan to find time to learn to speak fluently in French, Spanish and Italian. (Laughs)

Who are some of your favorite musical artists?
It’s a wide span. My iTunes goes from Aerosmith to Shawn Mendes and everything in between. From Bruno Mars to the Eagles. I love everything. I really do. My favorite band is Journey. My favorite album is “Frampton Comes Alive,” and the best concert I’ve seen was probably the Eagles. My favorite current band is OneRepublic.

All-time favorite movie?
“Saturday Night Fever.”

Favorite TV show?
I like “Scandal” right now. And “Two and A Half Men” with Charlie Sheen.

Favorite author?
Paul Cwalina.

Do you remember your first car?
A 1976 metallic blue Chevy Malibu.

Favorite city?
San Diego.

Favorite vacation spot?
The Outer Banks. But the best place I’ve ever been was Hawaii.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
It’s a good place to raise a family. We’re close to a lot of things, yet we’re tucked away in our little safety net.

Favorite food?
Seafood.

Favorite holiday?
Christmas.

Guilty pleasure?
Cabernet.

Have you had a defining personal moment or something that has helped shape you into the person you are today?
There have been so many. My life has been such a journey. It’s had twists and turns, and there’s been a series of so many events. And I’m still on the journey, and I’m enjoying the journey. And I still have big dreams.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

photos by emma black

Up Close: Heather Luklanchuk

Up Close: Heather Luklanchuk

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL
WITH ALAN K. STOUT

Heather Luklanchuk is on online health and fitness coach; an elementary school teacher at the Lutheran Academy, Scranton; and a realtor with Liberty Realty & Appraisal Services, Dickson City. Luklanchuck is a native of Throop and a graduate of Bishop O’Hara High School and Penn State Worthington Scranton, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies. She also received a master’s degree in elementary education from Marywood University. She lives in Throop.
Meet Heather Luklanchuck …

Most fitness instructors work with people in a gym. You work with people online. How’d that come about?
Through a friend who does the same thing. She mentioned it to me and thought I would be good at it. Personally, I am not a gym person. I find it overwhelming, and just the time … getting ready to go there, and the traveling … I could already have my workout done at home. So I thought, “There’s got to be other people out there like me who feel the same way — who are busy — but want to be healthy and make the time to dedicate themselves to a workout.” I thought this would be the perfect avenue for that. And there’s little to no equipment. It’s very doable. You can stream it at home on your laptop or wherever. It’s pretty accessible.

How can people find your workout sessions online?
Through Facebook. It’s www.facebook.com/heatherlukefitness. People can message me there, and then I add them to the groups I run online, and they can access everything they need. It’s customized, so I want to make sure that I talk to the person first and understand what their goals are, what has worked for them in the past, what has not worked for them in the past and what they’ve had success with. Things like that can help me gear them toward the workout that I know they will be successful with and that they will enjoy doing. Sometimes people will start something, and then they drop off. My goal is to get them to start and finish the program.

What do you enjoy about it?
The community. Just the support that you give and get from one another is unmatched. They’re lifting you up. Especially women. It’s hard sometimes, because people are always beating you down or judging you. This is a group where you’re safe and everyone’s on your side and on your team and cheering for you and rooting for you. Some days, when you really feel like giving up, someone’s going to say the right thing to keep you going. And it might be someone who is doing a program, just like you, or it might be a coach. It’s just amazing to see the cohesive interaction.

What do you enjoy about teaching?
My favorite part is seeing how a child’s mind works, and over time seeing them progress through what they’ve learned, and applying what they’ve learned even months later. When you think they’re not paying attention, or you’re not sure if they understood a concept, and then they show it to you in writing or on a test and “the light bulb” goes off — it’s kind of a magical moment.

What do you enjoy about real estate?
Having the ability to help people find their dream home. I work with a lot of first-time home buyers, and it’s such an overwhelming feeling for them and they’re so nervous, and I love that I’m able to ease their fears and help them find the best place for them. And I also like working with sellers and being able to help them sell their homes.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I love to travel. And I like to be outside in nature as much as possible, whether it’s going for a hike or to waterfalls. I also love to read.

Favorite music?
Bob Marley, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen. Those are probably my top three.

Do you follow sports?
Eagles and Yankees.

All-time favorite movie?
“The Wizard of Oz.”

Favorite TV show?
“Sex in the City.”

Favorite city?
New York City. I like the busyness of it and that there’s something to do on every corner.

Favorite place to vacation?
Any beach. It doesn’t matter where. As long as there’s an ocean.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
I like our location because we’re conveniently located to everything. You can get to New York. You can get to Philadelphia. You can get to the beach. And we still have the hometown vibe.

Favorite food?
Pizza.

Any pets?
Two cats: Cayenne and Grigio.

Biggest pet peeve?
When people don’t use their blinker.

Is there anything about you that might surprise people?
I’m probably more daring than people would think. I went skydiving and snorkeled with stingrays and sharks. I have a very adventurous side, and I’m an adrenaline junkie.

What, if anything, has had the greatest influence or impact on your life? Is there anything that’s happened to you that has really helped shape you or define you?
Getting into coaching has helped me believe in myself more than I ever had in the past. That was about two years ago, and it’s helped build my confidence in myself, in that I can help others and grow as a person while I’m doing that. And my mom has been the most influential person in my life. She’s always been in my corner and cheering me on and supporting me in everything I do. No matter how many different paths I take, she’s with me.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

photos by emma black

Up Close: Jennifer Barrett

Up Close: Jennifer Barrett

Jennifer Barrett is the owner and operator of Woven, a self-operated business that specializes in handmade jewelry and dreamcatchers. Her products are available at The Wonderstone Gallery in Dunmore and The Velvet Maple in Honesdale. She is also a director at the child care center at Keystone College. Barrett is a graduate of Abington Heights High School and Keystone College, where she received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in early childhood leadership. She lives in Clarks Summit.
Meet Jennifer Barrett…

Your Facebook page for Woven describes your work as being “created with my bohemian spirit and soul and inspired by the world around me. There are endless opportunities for inspiration in our world and I hope to continue to show that through my artwork.” That’s a pretty good description, but can you elaborate?
I really don’t know how to explain “bohemian” style. It’s kind of a different take on “hippie.” Though that’s usually associated with tie-dye or ’60s, where as bohemian is more of a “free spirit” type of person. It kind of fits that style.

When did you first start making jewelry and dreamcatchers?
I started doing the dream catchers first, probably almost two years ago, just as a hobby and for fun. My friend used to make jewelry, and she had a table at Arts on The Square, so I set up with her one day, and a few things sold, and I thought, “OK. Maybe I can actually make this into something.” And it just kind of expanded from there.

For those unfamiliar, can you describe a dreamcatcher?
They’re home décor. There’s a Native American tradition where you hang one above your bed and it catches the bad dreams and lets the good ones pass through. Mine are a bit different. They’re more bohemian.

When did you first start making jewelry?
Not too long ago. Just over the last few months. I use a lot of stones. I like very earthy pieces. I think it just fits the style of what I’m going for with all of my stuff. I enjoy making both earrings and necklaces. And I also make pillows.

What do you enjoy about it the most?
It’s relaxing. I work at a pre-school so it can be chaotic and loud and stressful. (Laughs) I can just go home, sit in my room, put some music on, and make them.

What do you enjoy doing it your free time?
I’m an amateur photographer, and I like taking pictures of friends and family on the weekends. And just hanging out and spending time with friends and family.

Do you have any hobbies?
My hobby would really just include Woven. And photography. That’s what I like to do to relax.

Who are some of your favorite musical artist?
Right now, I love Alt-J, Milky Chance and Matisyahu. They’re my top three right now. I listen to them constantly.

All-time favorite movie?
“Blow.”

Favorite TV show?
“The Office.” I love TV, but I usually don’t watch shows until they come on Netflix. But once I finish something, I go right back to “The Office.” I can watch it over and over again. It will never not be funny.

Favorite city?
I haven’t been to a lot, but out of the ones I’ve been to, Boston is definitely my favorite. It wasn’t overwhelming or too crowded. You go to New York City and there are people everywhere. I just felt more comfortable in Boston.

Favorite vacation spot?
I just went, last year, to the Dominican Republic, so right now that’s my favorite. But I’m going to Mexico in June. And I can’t wait for Mexico.
Favorite thing about NEPA?
It’s my home. I’m comfortable here. Everyone kind of knows everyone. You’re not really afraid to walk anywhere. You can have the city, in Scranton, or be hiking in the woods. It’s just comforting to be here.

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
It’s from the movie “Blow.” The father says to his son: “Sometimes you’re flush, and sometimes you’re bust. When you’re up, it’s never as good as it seems, and when you’re down, you never think you’ll be up again. But life goes on.”

Do you have any pets?
Three pit bulls and a black Lab. Four big dogs.

Guilty pleasure?
Maroni’s Pizza and Manning’s Ice Cream.

Biggest pet peeve?
Tardiness. People that are late. I’m always on time or at least a few minutes early.

Is there anything about you that might really surprise people?
I’m pretty open, so everyone that knows me pretty much knows me in and out. But I am a vegetarian. I haven’t eaten meat in over a year. I was a vegetarian in high school, and then I stopped, but I’ve started again.

Have you had a moment in your life that has helped define you as a person. Or is there someone that has had the greatest influence on you?
My parents really shaped who I am. They’ve just supported me with everything. For a while, I struggled with finding out who I was. You almost feel lost sometimes, especially if you see other people you know that are extremely successful. And whether I was sad, or down, or even with Woven, if I’ve been frustrated and think that I’m not doing well, they’re always the ones to say, “No, you’re not. You’re really good.” They keep me motivated. My parents are definitely the two people that I look up to the most.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.
photos by emma black

Up Close: Katherine Pohlidal

Up Close: Katherine Pohlidal

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL
WITH ALAN K. STOUT

Katherine Pohlidal is the director of Ruth Matthews Bourger Women with Children Program at Misericordia University. A native of Glen Lyon, she is a graduate of Bishop Hoban High School and Penn State University, where she earned a degree in sociology and psychology. She earned a master’s degree in education in counseling psychology from Penn State and an master’s degree in business administration from Alvernia University. She lives in Shavertown.
Meet Katherine Pohlidal …

Tell us a little about the Women with Children program at Misericordia.
It was started in 2000 by Sister Jean Messaros, who is now the vice president of mission integration at Misericordia. She discovered that there were a lot of single moms in the area that were trying to get into college but just couldn’t afford it. It was not a feasible option. And so she decided that she wanted to help single moms living at the poverty level get their four-year degree. Since then, we have been slowly building, and in 2017, we are up to three homes on our lower campus that house up to 16 families. Our target group is single mothers living at the poverty level in the Luzerne, Lackawanna and Wyoming county area, but we also accept women from all over the country. We’re one of only eight programs of its kind in the country. It’s a very, very unique program.

So the women studying in the program live on campus with their children?
Yes. It’s actually a pretty incredible program. Each house is community living, so our families share the space. Each mom and child get their own bedrooms, but it’s common living space on the main floor. The housing, for up to four years, is free. And it’s a gift from the university. We’re the only program in the country that does that. The women do pay for their tuition, but we’re constantly grant-writing and fundraising for scholarship dollars to keep their debt loads down. Our goal, for when they get their degree, is that they’re going to go off and be successful, which they are. We have 100-percent success if you graduate from our program. The goal is to break down the barriers of poverty, two generations at a time. And it works.

Besides economic status, what other prerequisites are there for these moms to be involved in the program? You also must be looking for people that are highly committed to finishing school.
It’s a tall order. And it’s not for everyone, because the rigor of the academics and the pressure that our women are under is pretty tremendous. A woman first has to be accepted to the university before they’re eligible for our program, so that creates that threshold of academic eligibility. But once they come in, our women are very high performers. They’re extremely committed. They’re full-time students/full-time moms, and they generally graduate at the top of their classes because they just work so hard.

What do you enjoy about it the most?
It’s very rewarding because you see these wonderful outcomes. Providing people that might not necessarily have a shot, the opportunity to get their degree and go on to fulfill their dreams, whether that be professionally or personally, is just tremendous. I am a firm believer that you can really make an impact if you give people an opportunity and a chance to do better for themselves.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I love trail-running with my two dogs. I have two black Labs, and I love being outdoors and in nature. I also love to play tennis. I’m an avid tennis player.

Do you have any hobbies?
I love looking for antiques and old finds, and rehabbing old furniture. I always think that’s fun.

Favorite music?
My tastes are pretty eclectic. It could be anything from old throwbacks like Ella Fitzgerald to Wynton Marsalis or Diana Krall. Or U2, or classic rock. And I love Led Zeppelin. It just depends on my mood.

Do you follow sports?
Penn State football and all Big Ten sports with Penn State. But especially football.

Favorite city?
Philadelphia. I lived outside of Philly for almost 10 years. Before this job, I worked at Ursinus, and I just love Philly. I just love the history and the people.

Favorite vacation spot?
Cape Cod.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
The people. There’s just a unique type of person around here, which I think you recognize especially if you grew up around here. People are just sort of naturally more friendly. You’re in line at Wegmans, and people just start talking to you. And there’s just something about that. It’s part of our legacy. I appreciate the local culture.

Favorite food?
My mom’s lasagna.

All-time favorite movie?
“Casablanca.” I like old things. I think maybe I’m just an old soul, but I trend towards older things, and I think that movie is just perfect in any way.

Favorite TV show?
I just watched “The Crown” series on Netflix and loved it.

Favorite holiday?
Christmas. Just because of my family and all of the traditions that come with it.

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
“You’re never wrong to do the right thing” — Mark Twain.

Favorite book or author?
I love American history. And a book that really stands out is “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Biggest pet peeve?
When people are smoking in their car and they flick the butt out the window. I hate that. It drives me nuts.

Guilty pleasure?
Great red wine and Belgian chocolate. Preferably together.

Is there anything about you that might surprise even your friends?
I love motorcycles. I won’t get one, because I’d probably be doomed, but maybe someday. (Laughs) I actually have my permit. I was the only woman at the class at Harley-Davidson with all of these guys. It was just something I wanted to do. I love them. And that might surprise some people. There’s something freeing about it. One day I’d like to plan a trip and just go. I think it would be really cool to motorcycle through Europe.

Have you had a moment or experience that has helped shape you as a person?
I had a great opportunity to visit India around 2009. …. Being exposed to that dynamic of abject poverty really had a big impact on my perspective, in that people can still live and survive through a lot of different things. And at the same time, being at the Taj Mahal — it’s so immense and so beautiful. Seeing the juxtaposition of the two — there’s so many beautiful things in the world, and there’s so many harsh things in the world — and how do you find that middle ground? It gave me a lot of perspective, just about appreciating your life. And it’s helped to drive a lot of what I do, just because I think one person can make a difference, and one person can have an impact.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

photos by emma black

Up Close: Amanda Krieg

Up Close: Amanda Krieg

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL
WITH ALAN K. STOUT

Amanda Krieg is owner and operator of Amanda Krieg Photography, a Clarks Summit studio that opened in 2015. Krieg is a native of Scranton but moved to Factoryville when she was 12. She is a graduate of Lackawanna Trail Junior-Senior High School and Keystone College, where she received a degree in visual arts. She and her husband, Taylor, have a daughter, Isabella, 17 months. They live in Clarks Summit.
Meet Amanda Krieg …

When did you first realize that you loved photography?
In college. It was one of my art electives. It was just a film photography class, and I just kind of lived in the dark room all the time. All of my other classes just fell to the wayside. I remember my teacher saying, “You’ve got to get out of the dark room. The chemicals aren’t good for you.” I’d spend 10 hours in there. I just loved it. I don’t do that now. I shoot digitally. But I do love film. That’s how I learned.

Is that when you knew you might want to make it a career?
Originally, just from seeing some of my postings online of things I was working on at school, a friend of mine asked if I’d photograph her wedding. And I said, “No way.” I said, “I don’t photograph people. I photograph barns and country roads.” (Laughs) But I was talking to my mom about it, and she said, “But what if you really like it? What if you do like photographing people?” So I went back to her and told her that I was honored that she asked me, and that though I had already told her, “No,” was there any chance that if she had already hired a professional, that I could still come and just check it out and see what they’re doing, and also take some photos at no cost. She had hired someone at that point, and they allowed me to go, and I brought my camera. And I stayed the longest. I just fell in love with it. And then from that wedding I got another, and then another, and it just spiraled. And I think that’s because I love it. I got told that a lot from the couples that I work with — that they can tell that I love what I do. And I think that’s really important.
When was that first wedding that you photographed?
That was 2011. This will be my seventh wedding season.

What else do you specialize in besides weddings?
Newborns, children, families … I really like to shoot outside. I think if we lived in a place where it was warmer, I wouldn’t even have a studio. But we live in Northeast PA, and not everyone wants to take their kids out in the snow for pictures. (Laughs) But I like the studio. It’s a nice place to meet my wedding couples.

What do you enjoy the most about the work?
For me, the thing about photography … I’ve had family members pass away, and my sister passed away, and after somebody passes, all you really have are your memories and your pictures. So for me, I think about that every single time I do a shoot. It’s a big deal. These are things that people are going to look back on. Photos last a lifetime and bring back so many memories.

What has been your most memorable shoot?
That first wedding that I shot was kind of a “eureka” moment for me. Even that day, I thought about not going. But I’m so glad I listened to my mom. It was amazing. I loved it. It was like a light switch for me. I can still remember how I felt and how exciting it was just to try and get all of the different views that I would want if it were my wedding. I’ve done so many, but that one stands out the most because it was such a turning point.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Playing with my daughter. She loves “Sesame Street,” and we watch a lot of “Sesame Street.” I love book-making, which I learned in school. I like painting and up-cycling old furniture. I love music, and I love to travel. And I just recently got into cooking, and I love it.

Who are some of your favorite musical artists?
Coldplay, Dave Matthews Band, Jack Johnson and the Avett Brothers.

Favorite color?
Turquoise.

Favorite city?
San Francisco.

Favorite vacation spot?
Disney World. Probably because of our daughter.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
I love the seasons. Each season seems to bring out something different in me, even in my work.

Favorite food?
Italian. Specifically, pizza.

All-time favorite movie?
“Cruel Intentions.”

Favorite TV show?
“Fixer Upper.”

Favorite holiday?
I love Halloween and Christmas, and the Fourth of July, because my birthday is on the fifth.

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
“Isn’t it funny how, day by day, nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different” — C.S. Lewis. It’s on my website. It kind of relates to how I feel about what I do. Pictures kind of bring us back to that.

Favorite book or author?
I’m a serial reader. I like to read series. Right now I’m reading “The Magnolia Story.”

Do you have any pets?
Two dogs. A husky, Riley, and a Pomeranian, Lucy.

Guilty pleasure?
Chocolate.

Biggest pet peeve?
The sound of people chewing too loudly. Including my husband. (Laughs)

Who, if anyone, has had the greatest influence on your life?
Absolutely my mom. She supports me with everything. Good or bad, she’s always there. She’s a really strong person. Her mom passed away when she was only 15. All of her siblings passed away, as did two of her children. She’s had a lot of loss, but you would meet her and never know. She’s just so strong. She always looks to the future and just keeps pushing. She’s definitely my biggest role model.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

photos by emma black

 

Up Close: Rory Flynn

Up Close: Rory Flynn

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL
WITH ALAN K. STOUT

Rory Flynn is the executive chef and kitchen manager at Ale Mary’s in Scranton. He has held the position for three years. He is a graduate of Scranton Preparatory School and Kutztown University, where he received a degree in social work. He also received an associate degree in culinary arts at Luzerne County Community College. He and his wife, Nicole, live in Scranton.
Meet Rory Flynn …

You have degrees in social work and culinary arts. How did you end up choosing a career in cooking?
Cooking was always something I was fond of. Both of my grandmothers always cooked Sunday and holiday meals, and I was always watching and learning. After I graduated from Kutztown, I worked at the Friendship House, which basically paid for me to go to culinary school. While I worked there, I was also going to school part-time for culinary. I was also working part-time at the Waldorf, a social club up on the East Mountain. My neighbor, from where I grew up, was the head chef there, and he brought me in to learn. Even when I was at Kutztown, I talked to my parents about how I always really wanted to go to culinary school. And it even stems back to high school, when I went on a service trip Mexico, and I saw a different culture with food. Wanting to help people is what brought me on the path to social work, but food was always in the back of my head.

What do you like about it?
Seeing the enjoyment that everyone else gets by eating your food. There’s a lot more that goes into running a kitchen than just the cooking aspect, but it’s really about seeing others enjoy your food and feeling good about it. I always say my food is “feel-good food.” When you break up with your boyfriend or girlfriend and you just want to pig out, it’s the type of food you’re going to eat. (Laughs.)

What are some of your favorite items on your own menu?
I’m constantly changing it up. Right now we’re in the process of putting out a new menu, and I think we’re going back to the basics and some previous items that we had that customers have been requesting that we bring back. We used to have a chicken parm sandwich called the “Parmageddon,” which we’re putting back on. Mac and cheese is also always popular and is a house favorite, as are the pulled-pork nachos. And the wings are always a hit. We’ve won some awards. There are a lot of things people enjoy.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Relaxing. I like listening to music. I like getting tattooed. Reading. And just hanging out with my wife and my dog. The simple things.

Do you have any hobbies? Are you a collector?
Sneakers. I’m a big Vans guy. I probably have about 15 pairs.

Favorite music?
Old hip-hop, A Tribe Called Quest, Wu-Tang Clan, Rage Against the Machine, My Morning Jacket. It all depends on my mood.

Do you follow sports?
Buffalo Bills. I grew up with my father and brother being Dallas Cowboys fans, so I always rooted against them. (Laughs) And, for college, Duke basketball.

All-time favorite movie?
“The Goonies.”

Favorite city?
I don’t really like big cities. If I were to visit anywhere, it would be Jim Thorpe.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
The memories. Growing up here with family and friends. And trying to make new memories.

Favorite food?
A peanut butter and jelly sandwich with sliced bananas. When people ask me that question, that always shocks them. But I think it’s the simpler stuff that I like. That’s my favorite: chunky peanut butter, grape jelly and sliced bananas.

Favorite holiday?
Any that I get to spend with my family.

Favorite book or author?
“The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein. I have a tattoo of it. Just the whole concept of the book is something I grew up with. It holds a lot of meaning to me.

Biggest pet peeve?
Things not being in place. Even in the kitchen, I always feel everything has to have a spot. Some say it’s OCD, but I think everything should have its own little place. I like to be organized.

Guilty pleasure?
Big Macs from McDonald’s.

You mentioned your dog. What type do you have?
A bulldog named Henry. He’s my right-hand man. He’s actually going to be my next tattoo.

Is there anything about you that might surprise even your friends?
With my close friends, there’s nothing that really surprises them. I always say that my close friends understand me for who I am. I guess I have two different personalities with work and outside of work. I’m a friendly outgoing person outside of work, and at work, it’s strictly business. And with my close friends, there is really nothing that would surprise them.

Have you had a moment or a time period in your life that has helped shape you into the person you are today?
My service trip to Mexico. It was just before my senior year of high school. It was my first time travelling, and it was just an eye-opener … to see how really grateful I should be for what I have. Being in Mexico City and seeing a whole different side of the world — it was just the small things that you might take for granted, that I don’t take for granted anymore. I’m very grateful for what I have.
UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

photos by emma black