The Fayette County Cultural Trust: Enriching SWPA’s quality of life | Helping the Helpers

Artist Jeremy Raymer painted a mural portraying scenes from the history of Connellsville’s Italian-American community on the Italian Independent Social Club. Commissioned by Fayette County Cultural Trust, the mural was one of many assets that led Scenic Pittsburgh to present Connellsville with its inaugural Community Scenic Achievement Award in 2019 (Uniontown Herald-Standard photo)

(Editor’s Note: ‘Helping the Helpers,’ a cooperative effort between The Pennsylvania Capital-Star and Uniontown Herald-Standard is a daily series highlighting the work of volunteer groups and nonprofit organizations in southwestern Pennsylvania who are making a difference in their communities. The stories will run through Christmas Day)

By Mark Hofmann

CONNELLSVILLE, Pa. — The Fayette County Cultural Trust strives to enrich the area’s quality of life by promoting its cultural, artistic, historic and natural assets by creating partnerships to revitalize communities and further economic development efforts.

(Capital-Star file)

“The Fayette County Cultural Trust is all about collaboration and inclusion using the philosophy that the only way forward is through teamwork,” said Executive Director Daniel Cocks.

One of the highlights of the Trust’s work has been the opening of the Connellsville Canteen, which is the only museum in Southwestern Pennsylvania that focuses on World War II and features stories of over 300 local Fayette County veterans from that war.

Cocks said since the pandemic, the Trust had to suspend breakfast and lunch service at the Connellsville Canteen due to occupancy restrictions.

“That reduced the funding coming into the canteen substantially as they had to cancel basically all events planned for 2020,” he said.

  • HOW TO HELP: Donations can be made to the Fayette County Cultural Trust by PayPal or with a credit card by visiting www.fayettetrust.org Checks can also be mailed to the Fayette County Cultural Trust, 139 West Crawford Avenue, Connellsville, Pa., 15425.

Canceled events at the venue included the Lunch & Learn, Dinner and Dialogue, Ambassador Program, dinner theater and other events, but said, Cocks, “The Canteen is still open for tours and private rentals.”

Still, he said, he’s hopeful that the Canteen programming will be back up and running by the spring of 2021.

In addition to the Canteen, the Trust started a grassroots Connellsville Main Street Program to help revitalize the downtown.

An interior view of the Connellsville Canteen, one of the many projects undertaken by the Fayette County Cultural Trust (Uniontown Herald-Standard photo)

The organization has also partnered with area Rotary organizations to manage Achievement in the Arts, a countywide initiative that recognizes three students among the county’s graduating seniors in the areas of music, visual arts and theater.

Additionally, the Trust has commissioned several artists from around the area to complete 10 murals throughout Connellsville, and has partnered in an initiative to put rural teaching artists into schools in West Virginia and Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Cocks said the Trust has also spearheaded several community events in Connellsville, including a farmers market, fall festival and Christmas event.

As the pandemic wore on, Cocks said, many of the foundations that have funded the Trust have concentrated their monetary support on virus-related issues instead of economic development organizations.

He said community support by way of donations in any amount would be greatly appreciated to help the Trust continue to its mission.

Mark Hofmann is a reporter for the Uniontown Herald-Standard, a publishing partner of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this story first appeared. Readers may email him at [email protected]