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Nonprofits in Carbon advised to partner, connect with businesses

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About 75 people attended Wednesday’s first Carbon County nonprofit forum at Carbon Career & Technical Institute in Jim Thorpe. (Photo/Christopher Holland)
About 75 people attended Wednesday’s first Carbon County nonprofit forum at Carbon Career & Technical Institute in Jim Thorpe. (Photo/Christopher Holland)

For nonprofits, partnerships are vital and help the local economy – especially when there also is a connection with the private sector.

That was the theme Wednesday afternoon when civic leaders, nonprofits and funders gathered at the Carbon Career & Technical Institute in Jim Thorpe for the first nonprofit forum in Carbon County.

The Carbon County Community Foundation partnered with the Carbon Chamber & Economic Development Corp. to put together the forum that shared knowledge, resources and encouraged collaboration to strengthen collective services in the county.

Officials speaking at the event spoke of the importance of having nonprofit organizations partner with one another and the private sector to share ideas that could benefit their companies and the community at large.


One example about how these partnerships benefit the community was the recent merger between Blue Mountain Health System and St. Luke’s University Health Network. St. Luke’s now runs the Gnaden Huetten Memorial Hospital in Lehighton and Palmerton Hospital in Palmerton.

Joe Guardiani, who has been with Blue Mountain Health System for many years and remains a staffer now as part of St. Luke’s, emphasized the importance of the merger and what it means for the community.

“We gathered data through assessments and really addressed the immediate needs at hand, and we decided that we needed to partner with others [health organizations] to tackle these issues head on,” Guardiani said.

He said that while both organizations were doing the same research independently, it made more sense to be able to work on these issues together, under one roof and fighting for the same cause.

“This merger will have a direct impact on those living in our local community, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds,” Guardiani said.


Other civic leaders that spoke at the event talked about while it’s important for nonprofits to partner with each other, it’s also imperative that these organizations are working with the local private sector.

Marc Rittle, vice president of impact at United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, attested to that.

He said what started out just serving Lehigh and Northampton counties has now expanded into the markets of Carbon and Monroe, working with companies including Pencor, a privately held telecommunications company in Palmerton.

“There are several different dimensions of collaboration,” Rittle said.

“From small partnerships to larger scale, working with businesses and corporations can also really help achieve your organization’s mission,” he said.


Officials emphasized that partnership doesn’t always mean merger.

They said it’s as easy as reaching out to one another to share ideas to reach the same goal.

They said sometimes it does make sense to form a merger, but a lot of the time it’s as simple as picking up the phone, calling your neighbor and asking for help.


Kathy Henderson, director of economic development at Carbon Chamber & Economic Development Corp., spoke to attendees about the resources available to them through the chamber.

“We have the chamber and economic development under one roof,” Henderson said. “Not everyone has it that way, but we find it a good synergy in working that way.”

Henderson works with manufacturers to assess their needs and offers Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority loans through the economic development corporation.

Henderson said that while she works a lot with the private sector, there are several grant applications that are available to the nonprofits as well, and she encourages them to apply.

“We’re able to help these organizations apply for the funds that they need,” she said. “The money is out there, so let’s go get it.”

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Christopher Holland

Christopher Holland

Christopher Holland is a researcher for Lehigh Valley Business and blogs on arts and entertainment in the region.

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