News Release: Kathi Bankes to be Honored as Volunteer of the Year

WILKES-BARRE (May 6, 2016) – The Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce announced Kathi Bankes will be honored at its Extraordinary People Inspiring Community (EPIC) Awards with the Volunteer of the Year award.  Sponsored by Wells Fargo, the EPIC Awards will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 7, 2016 at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, Public Square, Wilkes-Barre.

BankesBankes is Private Dining Manager at Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Elixir Bistro, and Wolfgang Puck, and a hospitality industry veteran with Metz Culinary Management.

“Not only does Kathi dedicate much of her own time to volunteer for multiple community causes,” said nominator Maureen Metz, “Her enthusiasm consistently inspires others to do the same. Her involvement with the American Red Cross, Greater Wilkes-Barre Association for the Blind, American Heart Association, the Chamber’s Women’s Network, and numerous other organizations she has helped over the years is truly remarkable.”

“Because of her many efforts, Kathi has earned the respect and gratitude of those for whom and with whom she serves.  She is known for her outgoing and friendly manner, intelligence, work ethic, positive attitude, teamwork mentality, and commitment.  Providing the building blocks for numerous nonprofits is a natural for her,” wrote co-nominator Bobbie Steever of TFP Limited in a letter of support.

“Kathi is driven to meet and exceed expectations with any challenge she is given. It is this work ethic paired with her passion for community that so many organizations in our region are better because of,” added Chamber CEO Wico van Genderen.

Bankes joins already announced honorees Teri Ooms, Innovator of the Year and Patrice Persico, ATHENA Honoree.

Information about the event, including sponsorship and commemorative program book advertising is available by calling 570-823-2101 ext. 724 and visiting

Media Contact: John Dawe, CNP, CFRE (570-408-1741)

News Release: Patrice Persico to receive 2016 ATHENA Award

WILKES-BARRE (April 28, 2016) – The Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce recently announced that it has selected Patrice Persico, Director of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving at King’s College, as the 2016 ATHENA™ Award recipient. The international award, sponsored locally by Riggs Asset Management, honors an individual for professional excellence, community service and assisting women in their attainment of professional excellence and leadership skills.

Patrice-BlogPersico will receive the award at the Chamber’s Extraordinary People Inspiring Community (EPIC) Celebration, sponsored by Wells Fargo, at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 7, 2016 at the F.M. Kirby Center, Public Square.

“Patrice’s active participation in both professional and volunteer endeavors exhibits her keen sense of pride for the region and her desire to advance Northeastern Pennsylvania as a place for all to live and prosper,” said Chamber of Commerce Vice Chair and nominator Mary Erwine, President of Erwine Home Health & Hospice.

“She has quietly served our community for many years,” added co-nominator Sue Kluger, former executive director of Leadership Wilkes-Barre. “She is an example to emerging women leaders and confidant and peer to current women leaders. From the YMCA to Community Health System, she has supported and aided other women in the region to move into leadership roles.”

“Patrice’s business accomplishments reflect three decades of leadership in all three of our community’s key sectors – Academia, Business, and Community,” said Chamber CEO Wico van Genderen. “Her contributions to the community are indeed Epic!”

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Media Contact: John Dawe, CFRE – 570-408-1741 –

News Release: Chamber opens technology workshop, launches Wilkes-Barre Connect

Picture2April 20, 2016 – WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – On Wednesday night, the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber officially opened the Wilkes-Barre THINK Center – a state-of-the-art technology workshop and multimedia center at its Innovation Center building at 7 South Main Street in Downtown Wilkes-Barre.

“The nearly 6,000 square foot facility provides individuals with the tools and support they need to turn a concept into a business,” according to Joseph Boylan, Chamber Vice President of Economic Development, “The facility features three tech-driven private conference rooms, a co-working space with plug-and-play tables for students and entrepreneurs to meet, work, network, share ideas, and collaborate.”

“A fifty-seat theatre and lecture hall is the focal point of the center,” Boylan added. “With equipment to host virtual meetings, podcasts, lectures, competitions, training programs, mentoring sessions, and teleconferences, this is something brand new for the region.”

In addition the Chamber launched its new Wilkes-Barre Connect initiative. Connect brings together partner service providers to ensure that all start-up and existing businesses have access to the resources, services, and facilities they need to grow their business in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Picture1“The connect program brings the best mentoring, training, networking, technical assistance, and financial opportunity curation into one system,” said Chamber President Wico van Genderen, “The program brings together the resources of seven initial partners all working to help both new and existing businesses grow and thrive.”

The program has been in development over the past year that Boylan says has been “ensuring we understand what each partner does and leveraging it accordingly, all while adopting a common language to assist entrepreneurs.”

Partners include the Wilkes University SBDC, Family Business Alliance, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Allan P. Kirby Center for Free Enterprise & Entrepreneurship, Diamond City Partnership (DCP), Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development; and the Chamber. The Chamber serves as administrator of the initiative.

“Connect is designed to handle the needs for all businesses and industry sectors and requires now membership or fee – it is absolutely FREE to join,” added Boylan. Information is available at

About The Name:
The name “THINK Center” was created by King’s College Junior Accounting Major Andrew Coco.  “THINK means Technology Helping to Inspire New Knowledge. Technology is the ticket to new opportunities and is essential in keeping the world connected. The T.H.I.N.K. Center allows for individuals to better themselves whether it be learning new technical skills, learning more about what makes them curious, or creating connections with leaders in the Wyoming Valley and around the world. With the knowledge gained at the T.H.I.N.K. center, people in the Wyoming Valley will see a brighter future for themselves, their families, and their communities,” said Coco.



Media Contact: John Dawe, CNP, CFRE, Chief Information Officer (

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Let’s Take a Walk Around Downtown Wilkes-Barre: America’s Best Community


If you take a walk around downtown Wilkes-Barre, you will find over 40 small and large retailers, and 40 more diverse restaurants that feature tastes from around the world.

Public Square serves as an anchor site to 5 of our area’s renowned colleges and universities, including King’s College, Wilkes University, Luzerne County Community College, and soon to come Commonwealth Medical College and Penn State Wilkes-Barre in shared space facilities. The students from these local colleges and universities give the downtown a vital energy and vision.

The Innovation Center on Public Square is home to local start-up companies, a soon to come entrepreneurial and business training center, and eBay Enterprise Marketing Solutions, who just announced that they have officially moved their headquarters to Wilkes-Barre! This means that the company will be hiring an additional 50 employees, on top of the hires projected from their expansion in June.

The River Street Historic District includes over 200 historic buildings throughout the main streets of River Street, Franklin Street, the Susquehanna River Common, and smaller connecting streets. These buildings represent many of the architectural styles from the 19th and 20th century, including: Art Deco, Baroque, Beaux Arts, Chateauesque, Craftsman Style, Gothic Revival, Classical Revival, Greek Revival, Moorish Revival, Colonial Revival International, Italiante, High Victorian Gothic, Neoclassical Revival, Queen Anne, Tudor Revival, Renaissance, and Romanesque.


Our park-like, 55 acre River Common space connects the River Street Historic District and Public Square to the rest of the downtown by opening the riverfront back up to the community with community events such as the annual Riverfest, Chalkfest, as well as holiday, athletic, and concert gatherings.

Performance spaces, arts organizations, and cultural events bring creativity to the downtown. Wilkes-Barre is proud to house the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, the Wyoming Valley Arts League, Downtown Arts, the Luzerne County Historical Museum, the Fine Arts Fiesta, our Third Friday Art Walk, and various art galleries.

All of these entities are located within 16 blocks of our walkable downtown core!