Log In

Reset Password

Tamaqua Has Heart Project brings sense of community to area

The Tamaqua Has Heart Project started with hope — the hope that such an expansive project would be successful, that the concept of an interactive community art initiative would find the support and understanding it needed.

Then came the faith — the faith that everyone could come together to showcase just what the community of Tamaqua has to offer. That faith was strained a bit in mid project, when interest seemed to wane.

And don’t forget the love — the love of their community that led organizers to consider such a massive undertaking in the first place.

In the end, those three tenets came together, proving Tamaqua is the small town with a big heart.


Hope was alive as organizers of the heart project were coming off a successful “Dear Tamaqua” campaign, blending the past, present and future of the community for the 2015 National Night Out event.

Spearheaded by Tamaqua Community Art Center staff and volunteers, the concept was to take 11 white fiberglass hearts, each more than 3 feet tall; have each covered in a unique design by a local artist; display them around town; and auction them as a benefit for future art center activities.

It was a long range plan, two years in the making and execution.

After months of planning, the initiative was announced at the 2016 National Night Out event, when the community was introduced to the first heart.

Artists were encouraged to create two designs and sponsors were sought to help offset the cost of the fiberglass molds.

Everyone was encouraged to place a handprint on the sample heart, which later toured the community, attracting attention and thousands of multicolor handprints.

The initial buzz was encouraging, the sample heart was filling up, but sponsors proved to be a bit reluctant.

It would take more than just hope to keep the project alive.


The first few sponsors stepped up almost immediately, but the goal was to reach 11. It was tough going for organizers, who couldn’t help but feel disheartened.

Volunteer Kyle Whitley said “I worried a bit when momentum slowed and I thought of all the ‘what ifs.’ But I never let those thoughts stop me.”

Volunteers’ faith in the project was restored in the most unlikely manner when 93-year-old Flossie Fegley of New Ringgold stopped in at the Tamaqua Art Center for a candy making class. When she saw the handprinted heart, she immediately decided to become a sponsor.

In turn, her daughter, Lynn Fegley Meadows, challenged her Tamaqua Area High School classmates to pool resources to become a sponsor for another heart.

“The Tamaqua Area High School Class of 1978 had a hard time agreeing on a date for a 40th anniversary reunion, or even a small get-together, but almost every one of them on social media wanted to be part of this project.”

The full sponsorship cost of $500 was raised within 48 hours, solely through her Facebook contacts.

A second high school class, the TAHS Class of 1992, also accepted the challenge. Businesses and civic organizations also came forward, leading volunteer Wandie Zammer-Little to declare, “We’ve been recharged, rejuvenated.”

By February of this year, when the designs were to be unveiled, the total number of sponsored hearts had increased from the hoped for 11 to 13.


Once the designs were completed, the hearts were installed at several locations throughout the small community in time for an early June “tour.”

More than 300 people walked the six-block route, amazed by the thought and creativity behind each artist’s creation.

Ballots were available for those who wished to vote on their favorite heart.

“We hoped to have about 200 people come for the tour, but we handed out more than 250 ballots,” said art center director Leona Rega, who was instrumental in helping Whitley’s and Zammer-Little’s dreams come true.

Also assisting were art center assistants Lacey Timoney and Denae Starry.

The result

Many people wanted the hearts to stay in Tamaqua to showcase the many improvements made in the past few years, but their final destinations would be up to the successful bidders at the art auction on Sept. 28.

The auction was a gala event, complete with a red carpet, held at a Tamaqua landmark, the former Scheid’s Department Store on West Broad Street.

All but one of the hearts, the handprinted “Heart of the Community,” was available for purchase.

Successful bids ranged from $500 to $4,050, with an average bid of $1,200. The auction grossed about $15,500. A percentage of that was given to each artist to help defray the costs they incurred in transferring their designs from paper to the fiberglass hearts.

The rest will be used for future art center endeavors.

Zammer-Little’s reflected on the project, saying “I won’t forget Linda Miller, pointing out pictures to her grandchildren on one of the hearts and telling them the story of a coal miner’s life. The Heart Patrol was like walking the streets at night watching nobody would hurt your babies. Or tugging on Kyle‘s shirt, telling him to look at all the people admiring the hearts. The success of the heart project belongs to the community.”

“One of the most powerful feelings during the Tamaqua Has Heart project was when I first saw people coming out of their homes to look at, touch and soak in the beauty of the hearts along Broad Street. Uniting our community from every angle, local businesses, artists, educational institutions and residents far and near were key in the mission of personal relationship building. The icing on the cake was the gala; which solidified to us, that our little town with a big heart also has a hope for its future,” Rega said.

Whitley agreed, “I feel like we accomplished our goal. We united our community trough the arts, bringing a lot of attention to Tamaqua and the many improvements made over the last few years. This project is the very definition of our community, the little town with the big heart. We always find a way to overcome obstacles to make our town better and stronger. The hearts that stay here will show how we all come together to make our community thrive”.

The hope, faith and love generated by the project will permanently be displayed throughout Tamaqua, as nine of the 13 hearts found permanent homes within the community.

In mid-project, Lynn Fegley Meadows, left, and Wandie Zammer-Little look over the Heart of the Community, which ended up covered in thousands of handprints. Fegley Meadows and her mother, Flossie Fegley, provided a jolt to the project, responsible for the sponsorship of two individual hearts. TIMES NEWS FILE PHOTOS
Tamaqua borough workers transported and installed the posts and hearts in time for the June Heart of Tamaqua Walking Tour. Putting one of the hearts into place are Matt Mateyak and Rich Miller. Other employees who helped were Aaron Coggiano and Mark Leiby.
Artist Kevin Smith explains the ideas behind his design during the Heart of Tamaqua Walking Tour. The evening also included a St. Luke’s sponsored Walk With A Doc and a concert at the Tamaqua Train Station.
Related Article