NANTICOKE – Some of what James Haslam saw on East Main Street reminded him of back home in Vermont.
There were empty lots and storefronts and a mix of older and newer buildings along the main thoroughfare in downtown Nanticoke.
“It’s very similar to a lot of our towns,” said Haslam of Burlington.
A member of the Vermont Workers’ Center, he was among the nearly 110 community organizers from around the country participating in the Poverty Scholars Program Wilkes-Barre Regional Leadership School over the weekend at King’s College.
The Northeastern Pennsylvania Organizing Center hosted the school that started Friday and runs through today with the aim of educating people like Hasalem to become leaders in the effort to abolish poverty by studying the past and the present.
The downtown Nanticoke stop Saturday afternoon was a page in their textbook on the history of the region. It was one of the sites on the Wilkes-Barre Reality Tour that took them by bus past the derelict Huber Breaker in Ashley, the busy Arena Hub shopping area in Wilkes-Barre Township and the entertainment, dining and gambling mecca of the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs casino in Plains Township.
Huddled under the shade of a tree on the corner of East Main and Broadway streets, some of the program participants listened as Mitch Troutman, communication director of the NEPA Organizing Center, talked about the changes in places such as Nanticoke, which has experienced the loss of manufacturing and mining jobs.
“This is just a good example of what has happened to one of the downtowns,” said Troutman.
It didn’t look like his city of Philadelphia, said Daniel Jones, a student at New York University who is attending leadership school.
But, he noted, just like in a small town, a big city sustains a loss when industries and jobs move out.
Monica Roberts takes photographs of an empty storefront in downtown Nanticoke during ‘Reality Tour ’ sponsored by Poverty Scholars Program Saturday afternoon.
S. John Wilkin/The Times Leader