Bellefonte, Pennsylvania 16823
I love living in Bellefonte. It’s the place that I call home. The place where I bought my first house. The place where I have made some of my closest friends. It’s the place where I’ll probably have a lot more major “firsts.”
But quite a bit recently, it’s become the place that I’m always defending.
I moved to Bellefonte in the spring of 2017. I had always lived in small towns up until that point, and was looking for someplace new to call home -- where I would start my business and vowed to become more involved in my community.
I almost immediately fell in love with this town. People that have now become familiar faces approached me on that first week here. They said hello to me even though they didn’t know me, and made me feel welcome in a town that I had only seen during a short apartment tour the month before. It was the sense of community that drew me in initially, really.
But in just my short time here, I feel like our community is always under attack. And worst of all, it’s under attack by many people that also call our town home. It is being attacked by stereotypes that can’t seem to be shaken:
“Bellefonte is old, nothing is new here.”
“Bellefonte is boring, there’s nothing to do here.”
“There is nowhere to shop in Bellefonte.”
“There is nowhere to park in Bellefonte.”
The list of things that I hear can go on and on and on. And they couldn’t be further from the truth.
Bellefonte is a community that is home to many successful businesses. I can always find a gift for a party or a holiday right downtown, and all of the materials to go with it -- a card, wrapping paper, or whatever I need. And while businesses close sometimes, this is less of a reflection of our town as a whole than may seem at first glance.
It’s a town with really neat, exciting things happening: We have four craft beverage producers right in our small town, and we’re home to a wonderful art gallery where local artists are proud to show their work.
Centre County as a whole is one of the few counties where the population is actually growing. We are bucking trends. According to the Pennsylvania State Data Center, Centre County is the second-fastest growing county by percent change. Most counties are decreasing in population. Yes, State College gets a lot of attention for its growth, but we see residual benefits. For those of us that grew up in places that are actually dying, the potential Bellefonte has is exciting.
Bellefonte is the place where you are not only friends with your neighbors, but you can trust them and count on them to check on your vegetable garden while your gone or feed your cat. It’s the place where you can take an evening stroll and talk to your neighbors -- and sometimes strangers -- as they sit on their front porches sipping their last cup of coffee for the day.
And speaking of neighbors, it’s a place where young professionals like myself are able to find a home to buy that they can actually afford -- a place that doesn’t need an insane amount of work to start the next big chapters in their lives.
It’s a town full of history, not like any you can find nearby. Recently on Bellefonte.com’s social media accounts, a photo was posted of an old garage. Sure, it could have used a paint job and fixed up a bit -- but members of our own community were so quick to bash it.... to say that Bellefonte looks like trash. That old garage is a part of our history here, and part of the unique architecture that helps make Bellefonte so special.
What if the naysayers of Bellefonte took all of the energy that they expend writing negative comments about our community, and used them to do more good?
I have a challenge for you, Bellefutians: Take a stand against those that don’t promote good in your community. Comment on news articles reminding your neighbors what a beautiful town Bellefonte is. Share your photos online of your community and the great things that are happening in it. If anything, just try to remember that this community is, and can remain to be, a vibrant place for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren to live.
Even more importantly, get involved. By playing an active role in your community, whether that be through volunteerism or by sitting on one of our community’s many boards, you can have a say in the future of Bellefonte. You can help us work towards becoming a better community, rather than focusing on what was better in the past.
Ellen Matis is a Bellefonte.com columnist and owner of social media agency Hello Social Co. When she’s not hanging out in Bellefonte SpringBoard, you can usually find her working in her garden, hiking around Centre County, or grabbing a Samoa latte with skim from Cool Beans.
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