Two women who helped to preserve the history of Jim Thorpe and transform it into a tourist destination were honored for their achievements by the Mauch Chunk Historical Society.
The society's fourth annual awards presentation was held at the Inn at Jim Thorpe on Tuesday evening, September 18.
This year's honorees were Anita Shapolsky, owner of the Anita Shapolsky Art Foundation, and Elissa Garofalo, president-executive director of the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor.
Master of ceremonies and local historian Jack Sterling began by citing the contributions of Anita Shapolsky, who was unable to attend because of inclement weather.
"Tonight, we honor Anita Shapolsky, owner of the Anita Shapolsky Art Foundation on West Broadway," Sterling began. "The building is the former First Presbyterian Church. It's not easy finding a new use for an old church, especially a huge imposing church like that. She has given it a new life as an arts center. She's kept the place in good repair and probably saved it from the wrecking ball.
"Anita came to Jim Thorpe on a visit with Ed Moran and Shozo Nagano in 1984. She and her husband had the vision and the ability to turn it into its current form as an arts center. It has Tiffany stained glass windows. For all her work in preserving and protecting one of our classic buildings here in old Mauch Chunk, I would like to present this to Anita and thank her on behalf of the society."
Ms. Shapolsky's award was accepted by Sandy Reese.
Jack Sterling then turned over the podium to his wife, Susan Sterling, director of the Dimmick Memorial Library, to make the presentation to Elissa Garofalo.
Susan Sterling began, "In 1969, she did an internship in Kemmerer, Wyoming. She worked for six months in the city of Scranton as a neighborhood planner. In 1980, Bruce Conrad gave a presentation for the Scranton Historical Society about the preservation planning efforts in Jim Thorpe.
"This is where she first heard about the possibilities of a Main Street project in Jim Thorpe. In 1981, she became Jim Thorpe's Main Street manager. Apart from finding grants to get people interested in taking care of their buildings, the Main Street program came up with design guidelines to help repair buildings, architectural guidebooks, the original Old-Tyme Christmas promotion, and recommendations to improve parking.
"In January 2000, Elissa joined the D&L staff where her duties included project management, marketing, heritage tourism, byway planning and public private partnerships that preserve and enhance heritage and cultural resources."
In accepting the award, Garofalo acknowledged her daughter Maggie, from Manhattan.
"I came to Jim Thorpe on January 1, 1981," Garofalo said. "I was not quite a year out of Penn State. Some friends of mine were having a party in State College for New Year's. I talked about this job in a place where I've never been."
On the way home she stopped to visit Jim Thorpe.
"Historic preservation for me was like the really cute gingerbread porches, little cottages and stone buildings-all the stuff I heard about preserving this National Historic District," she said. "I wondered what is this place?
"I came in and the town was quiet. You literally could hear a pin drop. The only place that was open was Dugan's store. We went in and Jack's dad was in there. I asked questions but he didn't have a clue about what the county was scheming up about this Main Street program.
"For the last 31 years, both my personal and professional life has revolved around this place. I love the outdoors. I loved to paddle the river. I biked the mountains, the hills, the Switchback.
"When people come to visit I spout off about all the stuff to do in our the town. I just love it. It all comes together. It's the people who live here. It's the real place. The events are great. I just love the place. I love the people.
"I love the fact that it was always just a little gritty. People always want to cooperate. That's what gives me such pride to see the way it is today. And to see the Opera House filled with music and see people walking the streets and looking up at the buildings and loving it. To see the people come with their bikes and doing the stuff that I loved. I spent 10 years in a business in town. I spent time doing marketing with Pocono Whitewater. I learned from everybody along the way.
"I am very happy and am very honored," she concluded. "I feel like Sally Fields when she said, 'You like me. You really like me.'"