Penn State Beaver paints the town

Nearly 100 students and staff members from Penn State Beaver gathered in Aliquippa to clean and paint a few blighted city blocks.
By: April Johnston

As part of New Student Orientation, Beaver’s Class of 2020 joined fellow students and staff, community members and artists in Aliquippa to clean up, and add color to, a few blighted city blocks along Franklin Avenue.

Aliquippa, as longtime Beaver County residents know, was once home to J&L Steel and a vibrant business district. But in the 30 years since J&L’s closing, Franklin Avenue has deteriorated, looking much as you’d expect a “Rust Belt” city to look — worn and empty.

Valerie McElvy is one of those people who refuses to acquiesce to the moniker. She is director of Serving U Beaver County, an arm of the Franklin Center, the Aliquippa-based organization that provides human services, outreach and referral services to low-income and unemployed county residents. And she still very much believes in Aliquippa’s beauty and potential. Painting the town is akin to applying a full face of makeup — the inside is beautiful, but the outside needs to look the part.

She organized Saturday's (Aug. 20) event with the help of Jen Toof, Beaver's student activities coordinator, and she was pleased with the turnout - nearly 100 Penn State students and staff members showed up - and results.

"It's awesome, absolutely awesome,” McElvy said. “I'm so excited I'm not going to be able to sleep at all tonight.”