Community Honors

Dori Waters receives well-deserved Abington Heights Civic League 2017 Woman of the Year Award  By Ben Freda – For Abington Journal

This article appeared in The Abington Journal  June 13, 2017


Emily Rancier, left, a member of AHCL, and Linda Young, right, chairman of AHCL’s leadership department, congratulation Dori Waters on her award. 

Ben Freda | For Abington Journal 

From left, clockwise, Cheryl O’Hora, Eileen Milunic, Jean Stephenson, Cathy Plishka, Betsy Osman, Kate Hollenberg, June Burns, Emily Rancier, Linda Young and Dori Waters. 


CLARKS SUMMIT — “In spite of all my faults, there’s one thing I’m good at, and that’s surrounding myself with smart, organized, and capable people who take my hair-brained ideas and make them work.”This is one of the statements mentioned by Dori Waters as she accepted the GFWC (General Federation of Women’s Club) Abington Heights Civic League 2017 Woman of the Year Award at Camelot Restuarant & Inn June 5. The ideas she referred to were the many contributions she had made to make the Abington area a good place for art and education.

By forming friendships of like-minded people, Waters created the Community Classroom, which provided book clubs, art classes and writing classes for everyone. The classes, formerly held at the Abington Art Studio, were provided to people of all abilities, including those with special needs. Her desire to reach out to special needs children was inspired by her daughter, Selena, who has taken classes in the Community Classroom.

Waters was also inspired by the Verve Vetru Art Studio in Dallas (part of the Deutsch Institute), whose director Gwen Harleman she met at La Bottega, Waters’ shop in Clarks Summit that displayed local artworks and held art workshops. Like Harleman, Waters also believes children with special needs are capable of learning art skills.

But Waters didn’t stop at just giving them the opportunity to make art. She and her husband, Joe, run a special Olympics equestrian program, in which children and adults with special needs ride horses at her farm. Selena learned to ride a horse through this program which led her to recently winning a gold medal for a riding competition called Trail Class held at Penn State University.

Waters’ passion for art and education led her to become a co-founder of The Gathering Place, where she currently teaches craft and chat classes. She also helps organize other classes, including health, finance, language and technology.

Seven years ago, she and educator Paula Bailie felt community classes needed a permanent home. After deciding to use the old Clarks Summit firehouse in downtown, Waters raised funds through private donations and grants to transform the building into a community arts and education center. Through her hard work, determination and help from volunteers, she was able to create The Gathering Place.

This is the first Woman of the Year Award presented by AHCL, Inc. and ois awarded to a woman who goes beyond family and job requirements to outreach her community or country. One award will be presented during every president’s (of AHCL) two-year term of office, if the award is warranted. Linda Young, AHCL chairman of the leadership program, along with her committee including Cheryl O’Hora (president of AHCL), Patty Lawler and Chris Perfilio nominated Waters as this year’s recipient.

“I feel honored and undeserving,” Waters said.

“I think she’s very deserving,” Lawler contradicted.

In her acceptance speech, Waters acknowledged the many volunteers who performed the leg work such as ‘paying bills, writing grants, maintaining The Gathering Place’s website.’

Waters’ longtime friend Emily Rancier, a member of AHCL, wrote a proposal/application with testimonials from the many friends she had made, one of whom is Warren Watkins, a Clarks Summit citizen, who knows Waters through the Appalachia Service Project. Waters led many fundraisers for this project, and encouraged her husband and her three children to go on mission trips for this cause to repair homes for underprivileged people living in the Appalachia area.

According to Watkins, “Dori is committed — when she sets out to do something, she accomplished it. She sets a high standard for all of us adults in the world of volunteerism.”

After handing Waters her award, Linda Young read aloud a Resolution of Commendation, paying tribute to her contributions and recognizing her as the first Abington Heights Civic League, Inc. “Woman of the Year” recipient.

“It’s a well deserved award,” said Cheryl O’Hora. “Dori’s an asset to the Abington community.”