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Acts of Faith: Maguire Works to Help Restore Downtown Philipsburg to Its Former Glory

by and on July 15, 2019 6:00 AM
Philipsburg, PA

Faith Maguire believes in the power of kindness, even when it results in a run-in with the law.

Maguire, a community volunteer-turned-coordinator of the Philipsburg Revitalization Corporation (PRC), was recently planting flowers in downtown Philipsburg in the wee hours of the morning. Maguire likes to work when town is quiet and peaceful and free from distractions.

She was immersed in her floriculture at 2 a.m. when two state policemen showed up.

“I know a lot of the state troopers, so I didn’t really think a whole lot about it,” Maguire said. “Jokingly, I thought, one of the troopers said he had a complaint about a woman and her dog downtown ripping flowers out. I laughed.

“So we started chatting about (something else), and after we were done, I said, ‘But really, why did you guys come down?’ And the trooper said, ‘No, really, we had a complaint that a crazy lady and her dog were ripping all the flowers out downtown.’”

Maguire said she “appreciated the fact that somebody noticed something going on and called the police.

“In their defense,” Maguire said, “I was ripping all the flowers out. I redid one pot three different times.”

A different energy that goes beyond a spruced-up Front Street is evident in downtown Philipsburg these days, and it all started with an act of Faith.

Maguire works part-time as a van and bus driver for Long Motor Buses in Philipsburg. A year ago, she told a group of eighth graders she would be taking them on a trip downtown, and not a single student was eager to visit Front Street.

“The kids said, ‘What are we going downtown for? We hate that place,’” Maguire said. “I told them, ‘That’s not what it was like when I was growing up.’”

Maguire’s father had been a policeman in Philipsburg, and she worked as a waitress on Front Street from age 13 to 18. She describes those years as a “very influential time of my life.

“I walked these streets all the time, and my dad was the cop,” Maguire said. “You bought everything — clothes, shoes — downtown. And I knew everybody. Everybody knew everybody. That’s just the way it was. When people feel ownership of a place, it’s amazing how they’ll treat you.”

Maguire traveled the United States before she settled down and got married. She also lived in State College for 13 years.

“In every town, no matter where I went, there was never any place better than home,” Maguire said. “When I had my granddaughter, I thought, ‘I really want her to experience at least a portion of what I experienced. I want her to have a little pride in (this town).’”

Maguire said when she told her fellow borough council members about the school kids’ aversion to visiting downtown Philipsburg, they identified with the students’ attitude.

And that was all the motivation Maguire needed.

“Before the kids came down, I went on this mission to try to beautify the downtown as much as possible before they got here,” Maguire said.

The first task on her list was putting up some curtains in an unkempt store front. Maguire said that after those were hung up, “It was like a metamorphosis.”

The next step she took was to call around to the owners of empty stores.

“I called them again. And I called them again. And I surprise-visited some of them,” Maguire said.

Most of the building owners have ended up giving Maguire keys to their properties so she can clean the windows. She’s also helped facilitate tours of some of the unoccupied buildings. In this year alone, half-a-dozen businesses have set up shop in downtown Philipsburg, with more on the way.

Over the past year, too, Maguire has taken on a more involved role with the PRC. Since its restructuring, and thanks to funding from the Moshannon Valley Economic Development Partnership, the organization has put on several successful events downtown, including the annual Wine Walk and Brew HaHa, which Maguire said raised twice as much money this year as in past years.

Maguire said the next big goal of the PRC is to start a fundraising campaign aimed at hiring an executive director and to get back on the Main Street Program.

“We’ve definitely made big strides, and it’s just going to keep on growing,” Maguire said of the PRC.

In the meantime, Maguire will continue her efforts to restore downtown Philipsburg to its former glory. She said she takes inspiration from a former director she worked with at the YMCA youth theater program who encouraged her to, “Make things grand. Don’t just give them what they want — give them more than what they want.”

Colorful flowers, cheerful store fronts, fluttering flags and bustling businesses have all got Philipsburg looking grander than it has in a long time.

“I watched this place go up and down, up and down, and now it’s my turn to make it right,” Maguire said. “I just love that this is my hometown. I don’t want to die without making some kind of impact on the world. I think everybody has a responsibility to do that. If it’s beautifying an area where I’m leaving a footprint for the rest of this place’s life, I’m going to do it.”



This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.


Teresa Mull
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