Mayor Tony Denisco knows what it will mean for his town to be featured on WVIA-TV’s “Our Town” series.
Denisco took office in June, 2011, and less than three months later, flood waters tore through his town into homes and businesses, washing away years of hard work, good living and memories.
“This is fabulous,” Denisco said of Wednesday night’s initial meeting with residents and WVIA personnel. “The town has been making a tremendous comeback and this will be a great boost — a shot in the arm — to help us out.”
Lisa Mazzarella, producer of the Our Town series, told about 35 residents that it’s up to them and their friends to participate in telling the story of their town.
Denisco said the process of putting together the “Our Town West Pittston” one-hour documentary will be as important to the town’s morale as the finished project — the second for Luzerne County and the 18th in the WVIA series. The show will premier in February, 2015.
But between now and then, led by Mazzarella, the people of West Pittston will bring their stories, their photographs and their memories to the next meeting on July 17 to start to put together what Mazzarella calls, “the tapestry” that is West Pittston.
That tapestry was shredded, soaked and muddied in September, 2011, and Denisco knows that the WVIA documentary will show residents and those beyond West Pittston, the mettle of its people and the beauty of the mostly residential town.
“This will bring the town together even more,” Denisco said. “We had some 859 homes and businesses affected by the flood and most came back. They want to stay here. This documentary will show why.”
Angelo Alfano, president of the West Pittston Little League, said his organization will get behind the documentary and provide many photos. A man in the audience said he has photos from the 1950s of Little League teams and players.
“The Little League has always been a big part of this town,” Alfano said. “We have our graduation night coming up and I will urge everyone to get involved.”
Businessman Cliff Melberger and his wife, Ruth, said people need to know about West Pittston and how it changed from an industrial town to primarily residential.
“You can walk to schools, churches, shopping centers, and recreational areas,” Melberger said of the one square mile town. “It’s a traditional small town in a great location between Scranton and Wilkes-Barre.”
Melberger said despite the threat of the Susquehanna River overflowing because the town is not protected by a levee system, people want to live in West Pittston and stay there.
“Here, everybody is a neighbor and they help each other,” he said. “It’s like coming back to your family.”
Mazzarella said WVIA will facilitate the project, but it’s up to the residents to supply the materials.
“You will supply the stories, the pictures, the videos,” she said. “This is your film that will tell the story of your town”
Mazzarella explained the process and said when all the stories are chosen, an interview day will be scheduled on a Saturday in August to film the people and their stories.
On July 17, Mazzarella said a “white board” session will be held to list all of the story ideas brought by residents and to determine which will be a part of the documentary.
“Urge your friends to show up,” Mazzarella said. “If you have passion for your town, come to the meeting and participate. Everything in West Pittston that you feel is important should be submitted”
Ron Prislupski, WVIA vice president of corporate development, said he and other staff members will canvas the streets of West Pittston to seek sponsorship for the project.
Melberger suggested contacting all West Pittston High School classes to let them know about the documentary.
Attorney Mike Cefalo has lived in West Pittston all of his life. He said the documentary is important to the town and its people.
“We’ve gone through floods and we keep coming back because we love it here,” he said. “People outside don’t know how great this town is. The people here are strong, loyal and they help each other. We have a great story to tell.”