Opinion surveys are a useful tool for communities.

They can provide a measuring stick for progress and offer direction and focus.

But results of a questionable Penn State survey outlined in yesterday's edition don't hit the mark.

PSU's College of Agricultural Sciences' statewide survey was conducted two or more years ago and resulted in glass-half-empty findings in Tamaqua and many other places.

The resulting Tamaqua Community Report reveals a portrait of negativity, distrust and frustration as indicated by individuals who chose to complete and return the questionnaire. The report states: "Of all the communities surveyed, Tamaqua had the lowest level of average local trust by a small fraction."

Perhaps even more surprising is that the survey claims Tamaqua ranks second lowest in terms of volunteerism.

The survey failed to discover a dynamic town that has reinvented itself over the past 17 years through volunteerism and a series of broad-based community development initiatives.

For instance, the survey missed out on almost two decades of achievement by the volunteer-driven Tamaqua Area Community Partnership. Or how about the mult-million dollar downtown streetscape and infrastructure overhaul by Tamaqua Borough and the volunteer Main Street program? Or the $1.5M volunteer-driven Tamaqua Save-Our-Station project that preserved and restored an 1874 train station and restaurant, and $5M in improvements through Downtown Tamaqua, Inc., and its volunteer board?

The survey results completely bypassed the volunteer-driven Eastern Schuylkill Recreation Commission and its 13 years of success, the cultural enrichment offered at the Gallery at the Tamaqua Art Center, the exciting new, volunteer-organized Tamaqua Blue Raider Foundation, and the volunteer-driven Elm Street Program and its $500,000 worth of tangible successes in transforming the South Ward and instilling pride.

Similarly, the survey somehow managed to overlook the creation of Depot Square Park, the sustaining benefits of the John E. Morgan Trust and the free college education offered to Tamaqua Area High School graduates. Or how about the men and women of the four professionally-trained, highly-motivated volunteer fire companies that protect and serve? The list goes on and on.

The survey failed to discover that Tamaqua is held up nationally and internationally as an example of progress achieved through public-private cooperation and a spirit of volunteerism.

In short, the survey failed. It came up empty. But it definitely was half-glassed.

By Donald R. Serfass

dserfass@tnonline.com