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‘As meaningful as an experience gets’

Members of Pennsylvania College of Technology’s ConCreate Design Club joined municipal Department of Public Works employees Friday for installation of three benches in Williamsport’s Memorial Park, the culmination of a yearlong civic-improvement enterprise.

“The city bench project began as an idea last spring, after our club had already completed several community-based projects,” said Harrison Wohlfarth, of Midlothian, Virginia, who serves as co-president of the student organization. “During that time, the club was finding its identity as not only a concrete science educator, but also a community leader.” He and other club officers decided to continue in that direction, agreeing to provide the city with seven concrete benches for placement in local parks. (One more bench will be delivered to Memorial Park, while three are destined for Shaw Place this fall once a “Splash Pad” there is finished.)

Fresh from an April 29 Arbor Day ceremony in another part of the city, Mayor Derek Slaughter joins Madison Kistler and Harrison Wohlfarth in Memorial Park to affirm the project's success.
Fresh from an April 29 Arbor Day ceremony in another part of the city, Mayor Derek Slaughter joins Madison Kistler and Harrison Wohlfarth in Memorial Park to affirm the project’s success.

Further groundwork began in autumn, with help from first-year students in the program.

“The freshmen and I poured all the legs and bench tops that we would need for a potential city donation,” said Wohlfarth, an applied technology studies major and a 2020 graduate of the college’s building construction technology major. “At the same time, outside of lab, I began talking with local authorities and eventually got in touch with the Mayor’s Office toward the end of the Fall 2021 semester. We eventually set up a meeting and, before we knew it, the mayor and City Council were officially accepting our donation during a City Council meeting that Madison Kistler and I attended.”

Kistler, from Kutztown, is the club’s other co-president and will graduate this month in concrete science technology and applied technology studies. (She earned a degree in surveying technology last year.)

Fast-forward to Spring 2022, with the project in full swing.

“We wrapped up the fabrication phase and moved into assembly,” Wohlfarth said, while noting that assembly would prove to be more of a challenge than realized. “Certain dimensions were not as exact as they should have been, as the wooden forms were slightly warping, so re-dimensioning set us back quite a bit. After a few defects here and some cracked bench legs there, the project is finally up to quality.”

It’s a lesson that is emblazoned on the back of the club’s T-shirts: “We succeed by trowel and error.”

“What I’ve learned, as most people know, is that it takes a bit more time and planning to do something right. To do something both the right way and for the first time, however, requires an unpredictable amount of patience and time,” Wohlfarth said. “That, in a nutshell, is what this project has been about. It’s what all our projects are about. Learning from our experiences while helping the community. That’s about as meaningful as an experience gets.”

He, Kistler and club member Lily D. Ward, a civil engineering technology student from Williamsport, were on hand for the delivery and installation of the first three benches. And the students’ work was quickly met with good reviews from City Hall, both for its craft and for the conscientious attention to detail.

“The donation of benches from Pennsylvania College of Technology’s ConCreate Design Club is greatly appreciated,” said Mayor Derek Slaughter, who visited Memorial Park as the crew was completing its work. “The benches look fantastic and add a very nice touch to our parks. On behalf of the city, I would like to thank the students for their diligence and time spent on constructing the benches. I look forward to our continued relationship with the club and Penn College as a whole.”

– Photos by Tom Wilson, writer/editor-PCToday


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