All posts tagged oil city

Gesing Named Citizen of the Year

Leah Cover Photo Richard Sayer

The Venango Area Chamber of Commerce will host our Annual Awards Banquet on Wednesday, February 27, at Cross Creek Resort in Titusville.  At this year’s event, we will recognize the Citizen of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, Business of the Year, and Partner in Business of the Year.

The Outstanding Citizen of the Year award is given each year by the Chamber to an individual who consistently shows leadership through extensive and diverse participation in volunteerism and service to community.

Leah 6Leah Gesing, the 2018 Citizen of the Year, has been a tireless volunteer in her neighborhood and in several organizations.

A President Township native, Leah graduated in 1972 from West Forest High School in Tionesta, worked in the food preparation department at Oil City Hospital and retired as “a lunch lady” in 2007 from Oil City High School.

“I was retired and I saw things happening in my neighborhood – drug activity and violence – and I wanted to help change that,” she said. “So some of us got together and formed the South Side Neighborhood Association in the summer of 2007.”

The organization’s first project was the creation of a neighborhood playground because “there was nothing in the East End for children,” said Gesing. In less than two years, the all-volunteer group had secured a vacant lot, raised funds, purchased equipment and installed a Laugh and Play playground.

“It was one of our greatest accomplishments because we got a playground but we also brought the community together,” she said. “We showed it was time to step up, pay attention to your neighborhood, bring people together and get stuff done.”

LeahIt was just the first installment in what Gesing describes as her personal agenda to “step up” to identify problems and find solutions in her home community.

The Oil City Main Street program drew Gesing’s attention and she volunteered for the Adopt-A-Block program, seasonal planting projects and more.

Noting Gesing’s “can do attitude” lends itself to successful projects, former county commissioner Bonnie Summers wrote that the award recipient was keenly involved in drug and alcohol prevention programs, the Safe House initiative, summer playground series and the county’s Land Bank project. Summers adds, “She does these many acts of kindness for us in this community because of her love and passion. Helping others and making our community strong and safe is the foundation of Leah Gesing’s life.”

Sonja Hawkins, former mayor of Oil City, credited Gesing with “making each participant feel personally valued” in the various city projects she tackled. There was a private side, too, as Gesing “quietly provided meals for shut-ins, visited those with needs and consistently helped many people who have felt alone,” noted Hawkins.

Leah 3Jodi, Dave and Elicia Donze, owners of Best Printing, said they met Gesing when she was promoting the new neighborhood association. She has the knack of keeping volunteers energized over the long haul and could be counted on “to turn on the lights at the beginning of an event and turn them off at the end,” they wrote.

On the private side, Gesing was honored this fall by her church, the Crossing Free Methodist Church of Oil City, that held a “Leah, You Rock!” surprise party to honor her service that includes organizing meals for church events, working with contractors on building projects, helping with the church youth ministry and more.

Her service, too, has extended to the Pleasantville Family Camp, a Christian camp affiliated with the Free Methodist Conference, where she works on camp improvements and finds ways to “improve and grow the ministry.”

While Gesing leans back from the platitudes and insists they reflect “the work that a lot of us together do rather than just one person,” her husband Frank, a retired General Telephone Co. employee, is quick to argue the other side.

“She’s offered her services all her life, to her church and her community,” he said. “She has a lot of energy and she doesn’t waste it but instead makes it work for good things. And, it doesn’t take long to like her. She’s not in it for the glory.”

For Leah, life has a lot of lessons but a few are easy ones.

Gesings“I hate negativity and I just want to say to someone ‘get over yourself’. Just get out there and help someone or some project. I will tell you, it makes your heart happy to do things for someone. So, get involved and make it better. Start loving your city and enjoying it,” she said.

“I would hope all kids have their heart in helping their neighborhoods. We need them. All you have to do is reach out, step forward and help,” said Leah.

She and her husband, Frank, married in 1985 and have lived on Central Avenue for many years. The Gesing’s have two sons, Frank Jr. and Karl, and three grandchildren.

Leah will be recognized at the Chamber’s Annual Dinner on Wednesday, February 27, at Cross Creek Resort in Titusville, along with our Business of the Year, Matric Group, and Partner in Business of the Year, the Barrow-Civic Theatre. Learn more about the Annual Dinner here.


This article was published in the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce’s January 2019 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.


The Positive Impact of Public Artwork

Rotary 1Artists have been hard at work, adding to the many reasons people should be visiting the region’s downtown business districts. At the least, murals provide an attractive way to spruce up a building.  Done well, public artwork is educational and often engages a community in its creation.  In Franklin, two of the most recent projects do exactly that. Rotary Way, an alley off of Liberty Street, has long sat as a white canvas.  Recently, the Rotary Club solicited the services of local artist Stephen Leccia to complete a mural. After sharing concepts, Stephen and the Club settled on a montage which included the Venango County Courthouse and images representing the various service projects that the Rotary Club supports. Much of the mural is done, but additional art is likely to be added.  An unveiling and “meet the artist” will be held on October 17th.

Zach Covington, President of the Franklin Rotary and Director of the Barrow Theatre remarks “The trend for public art is to engage people, creating a connection between the art and the community.  It may involve community members actually creating the art or it can be that they interact with the art, as in those who take their picture with the butterfly wings on the side of Buffalo Street Lanes.” Ronnie Beith, Franklin Events Coordinator agrees “Murals are a fantastic addition to our downtown, educational and historic, for residents and visitors.”

The Oil City Main Street Program is building on its downtown murals initiative. Three new original murals will appear in the North Side Business District in the weeks ahead, with a Mural Walk in late October to celebrate their completion.

Deac Mong Mural - Leah GesingAll three of the new murals are original works of art created by professional muralists. Two of the artists have local ties, including Deac Mong of Rocky Grove; and Berry Breene, an Oil City native who now lives in the Pittsburgh area. Bernie Wilke, a Pittsburgh artist who also created a downtown Oil City mural in 2016, is the lead artist in the third project. The location of the new murals includes 50 Seneca Street (Mong), 275 Seneca Street (Breene) and the underpass of Veterans Memorial Bridge (Wilke). The murals, funded by the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the National Park Service via ORA as the Oil Region National Heritage Area, and the Elizabeth S. Black Charitable Trust via PNC Charitable Trusts and Penn Soil RC&D Council, carry various themes that include elements of oil history & heritage, transportation, wildlife, and music.

Schools are also getting in on the benefits of incorporating art.  Students are now being encouraged to paint ceiling tiles, parking spaces and contribute to other art projects around the Oil City High School.  Principal Scott Stahl suggests that this all contributes to a more positive school climate, one where students share ownership of the facilities.  Studies suggest that this improved climate has a significant impact on academic performance.Murals

In addition to the new downtown murals, original works of art, the aging oil & gas signs on a mural created by Oil City High School art students in 1998, on the side of Williams Travel, will be updated by Sign Designery of Titusville and Caldwell Signage Solutions of Oil City.

The Oil City Main Street Mural Walk will be held on Saturday, October 27th beginning at 10:00 am. Details are still in the works and will be posted on and Facebook @oilcitymainstreetprogram and @artsoilcity once finalized.

This article was published in the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce’s October 2018 edition of the VenangoWorks! Newsletter.

Oil City BridgeFest


The first ever BridgeFest is happening over two evenings this August in Oil City!

The event on Friday, August  17, will be hosted by the Oil City Arts Council on Veterans Memorial Bridge. From 4 to 10 p.m. Dead Level and The Probables will perform, and there will also be food vendors, art vendors, and children’s activities.

The Oil City Main Street Program will host the second day of BridgeFest on Saturday, August 18, on Center Street Bridge, with a DJ and games.

This article was published in the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce’s July 2018 edition of the VenangoWorks! Newsletter.

Oil City Main Street: Farmers Market, Music on the Square & Flags for Sale

OCFMkt060718_5The Oil City Farmers’ Market is open for the 2018 season each Thursday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the Central Avenue plaza.

The market is open to vendors selling farm-fresh, homemade or handcrafted items. Approximately 10 vendors are registered for this season, with more expected to come in as the produce season peaks.

This year, the market modified its hours. Vendors may choose an early shift (9 a.m.–2 p.m.), late shift (2–7 p.m.), or all day. Although the early shift is fairly full, there are open spots remaining on the late shift, particularly for produce vendors.

To create awareness of the market, Market Fest events have been scheduled this season, featuring live entertainment from 5-7 p.m. and are open to additional vendors and community organizations. Upcoming dates are Thursday, July 19, and Thursday, August 16. “We were excited that The Taco Shack, one of our downtown restaurants, is also participating in Market Fest events,” stated Bailey. “The combination of street food, live music, and locally grown or crafted products makes for a great evening.”MOS_Aug2017_blankets

The Oil City Farmers’ Market is facilitated by the Oil City Main Street Program. Interested vendors may contact Kathy Bailey in the Main Street Office at (814) 677-3152, ext. 101 or

The Oil City Main Street Program is also holding “Music on the Square” this summer, with a performance by Max Schang’s Trio of Blues on Wednesday, July 25, at 7 p.m. as a “bonus” event during Oil Heritage Festival. Additional Music on the Square events are scheduled for August 2 and September 14.

OC FlagWould you like to show your community pride? Oil City Flags are available for purchase. Available sizes include: 12.5” x 15” garden flag for $13.25, 28” x 40” porch flag for $24.99, or large 3’ x 5’ flag ($115, special order). The new flags were coordinated by the Oil City Main Street Program, with initial inventory funded through Take Pride in Oil City.

Flags may be purchased at the Oil Region Alliance Office and or ordered by credit card and shipped for an additional $7 by calling (814) 677-3152.

This article was published in the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce’s July 2018 edition of the VenangoWorks! Newsletter.


Webco Industries Makes Donation to Oil City Playground

logoWebco Industries, a longtime member of the Chamber, recently made a donation of $15,000 to support the Land of Laughter Playground in Oil City. The City plans to install new playground equipment and to landscape the property, which has not been upgraded since it was built over 20 years ago.

The donation from Webco is the largest received by the campaign for the playground. Work is planned to begin in May. In addition to their support of community efforts, Webco is in the midst of its own expansion to nearby plots of land purchased by the company.

Webco, located on Seneca Street in Oil City with an additional facility in Reno, came to the area in 1988 and went public in 1994. The company  is a specialty manufacturer of high-quality carbon and stainless steel tubing products.

Learn more about the business at

This article was published in the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce’s May 2018 edition of the VenangoWorks! Newsletter.