Dunmorean of the Month: Alyssa Bielinski

Dunmore’s Alyssa Bielinski helps raise $13.7 million as director for Penn State’s THON

By Steve Svetovich

Dunmore graduate Alyssa Bielinski served as director of Pennsylvania State University’s THON that raised $13.7 million last month for Four Diamonds Penn State Children’s Hospital in Hershey.

“The money was raised so families of children in this hospital do not have to worry about a bill,” the 2018 Dunmore graduate said. “The money will also be used for funds and research.”

Alyssa, 22, put in countless hours of time and effort to help raise money over the past year.

THON was held Feb. 18 to 20 at Penn State at State College. The event was held for 46 consecutive hours with students standing or dancing the entire time to raise money for the cause.

THON 2022 marked its return to the Bryce Jordan Center with its highest fund-raising total to date.

Last year’s THON was forced to go virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving behind a filled Bryce Jordan Center for a Zoom live stream where dancers participated from home.

THON 2022: Spark Endless Light celebrated its 50th anniversary and a return to the Bryce Jordan Center. THON 2022 shattered the 2014 record by raising $13,756,374.50 to combat childhood cancer.

There were some changes this year due to the pandemic. Children with active cancer treatment were not able to attend. All attendees had to adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols.

In 1973, 78 dancers stood for 30 hours in the first Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon at the HUB-Robeson Center, raising about $2,000 for charity.

Since then, it has evolved into the world’s largest student-run philanthropy and has raised more than $200 million to combat pediatric cancer.

The Penn State IFC/Penhellenic Dance Marathon or THON is a student-run philanthropy committed to enhancing the lives of children and families impacted by cancer. Its mission is to provide emotional and financial support, spread awareness, and ensure funding for critical research – all in pursuit of a cure.

Students, volunteers and Four Diamonds families joined together at the Bryce Jordan Center for 46 hours. The volunteers gave children and their families the opportunity to forget their cancer diagnosis. Close to 700 students were recognized as dancers for THON Weekend, a feat that entails standing on their feet for the entirety of the weekend.

Daughter of AnnMarie Bielinski, Alyssa has volunteered for THON since her freshman year at Penn State. She was named Special Events Director this year as a senior. She was previously on the rules and regulation committee.

Well-spoken and articulate, Alyssa is a senior Rehab and Human Services major. She has a 3.7 grade point average at Penn State.

Alyssa graduated seventh in her class at Dunmore High School where she attained a 97 academic average. She was a member of TACT, SADD, Spanish Club, Earth Club and National Honor Society. She played four years of softball and was captain as a first baseman in her senior year.

Her plan after college graduation is to work in the non-profit development field of human services. She would like to add an internship before she enters the work world.

She said her experience with THON has been fulfilling. “It has been absolutely amazing,” she said. “You really grow as a person and it prepares you for life after college. You meet so many people and it is very rewarding. You get to hear and share so many stories. It is an awesome experience.

“I go to a lot of weekly meetings and lead a committee of 18 captains. There are 109 committee members. Special Events Director is a full year effort.”

This year’s event started at 4 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 18, and concluded at 6 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 20.

Alyssa said emergency medical staff and athletic trainers were on standby for the dancers.

“This is a year-round effort for me,” she said. “We are involved in events to raise money throughout the entire year.”

Mature beyond her young years, Alyssa said THON partners with the Penn State football team, holds a 5K run with over 3,000 runners in October, and runs a family carnival in December, among other charitable functions.

“The THON Weekend is our visible event, but my job is to continue with events year-round.

“This was a record-breaking year. It was so humbling to see all of this emotional support coming back. We contacted a lot of organizations and raised so much money through our fund-raising efforts.

“This has been such an amazing experience. I have built so many wonderful relationships through this over the past four years.

“It is such an experience that I can not even measure its worth. It will certainly help prepare me for life beyond college.”

Dunmorean of the Month: Tom Swinick

By Steve Svetovich

Dunmore lost a great man in mid November.

He was synonymous with the Swinick Development.

Tom Swinick died at age 65 this past Nov. 15, just days before Thanksgiving.

He was survived by his beloved wife of 41 years, the former Geralyn Noone, his high school sweetheart.

Swinick was a family man, friend, man of faith, and he believed in a strong work ethic.

He loved his customers and shared their happiness when they were moving into a new home.

“A quality home is the only kind you can afford.”

Custom built. Choice lots. Fine features.

He was most known as owner and operator of the Swinick Development, Dunmore, and the Countryside Apartment Complex, Hollisterville.

He was a dedicated businessman to his craft of building a quality custom-built home.

And his reputation was impeccable. Never tarnished.

He was president of Swinick Homes and Swinick Realty Company. He was a member of the Lackawanna County Home Builders Association, and for over 30 years the San Cataldo Club in Dunmore.

Born and raised in Dunmore, he was the son of Margaret A. Marhevka Swnick of Florida and the late Zachary T. Swinick.

A 1974 graduate of Scranton Preparatory School, he received a bachelor of science degree. in finance and an MBA from the University of Scranton.

Tom Swinick is shown on a bulldozer in his development back in 1979.

A proud man, he valued his customers who he always felt should be happy in their “Swinick home.”

There were even several customers who built a second home with him. Some built larger homes and others downsized, but wanted to stay in “The Swinick Development.”

Swinick’s wife Geralyn said he had a photographic memory regarding water pipes, sewer pipes, and gas lines within the development.

“His customers would call him and Tom would answer questions regarding where any important information was for them,” she said  “He always remembered exactly where he purchased their siding, shingles, or whatever.

“My heart is heavy, but filled with great pride for a man who made a lifelong effort to be professional and honest. He was always ‘on call’ for his customers and took tremendous pride in his work”

Tom and Geralyn Swinick, who were high school sweethearts, are shown in 1992 in the 600 block of East Swinick Drive.

The Swinicks married in 1980, but had known each other since 1974.The couple had three daughters: Mellody Swinick, Roaring Brook Township; Laura Swinick Fierro and Sarah Swinick, both of Dunmore; and a son Thomas Swinick, Dunmore. A son-in-law Anthony Fierro and two grandchildren Nicholas, 4, and Matthew, 1, Roaring Brook Township, also survive.

Swinick’s late dad Zachary Swinick founded the Swinick Development in 1965. However, the younger Swinick started working for his dad at age 14 in 1970. He started building homes himself in 1987.

In 1988, he started Phase 4 and Phase 5 of the Swinick Development. His promise to customers was always “quality custom built homes.” And he held true to his words.

“He was a family man first,” said his wife. “However he took great pride in satisfying the people in his homes. He worked all the time, only taking time off for his family. He took pride in handing the keys over to his customers after the homes were built. Working 12 hour days was the norm for him. His strong work ethic may have contributed to heart issues.

“He liked doing all of the work himself, including the accounting and the billing. He was all hands on.”

The Fourth of July was the prominent Dunmore home builder’s birthday. “That was his favorite holiday,” his wife said. “He loved to be out on the back deck, grilling, having a cookout with family and friends and watching the fireworks on the Fourth.”

Swinick was a member of SS Anthony and Rocco Parish, Dunmore, and former member of Christ the King Church, Dunmore.

“He took great pride in his church and used to say the Saint Rocco’s Church picnic was the best in the world. And he believed it.”

An industrious, honest man, Swinick loved being “Pop” to his two grandchildren, loved the New York Yankees, and enjoyed walking his family dog, Bulldozer, in the Swinick Development.

Dunmorean of the Month: Suzy Polizzi Moraski

By Steve Svetovich

Polizzi Kelly Insurance, 203 East Drinker St., Dunmore, is a family business and constant in the borough for 70 years now.

And Suzy Polizzi Moraski, current owner and still only 51, has been a part of it for the past 35 years.

“I started working there every day after school when I was 16,” she said. “And I haven’t stopped since. I have no plans in the near future to stop.”

The business began at the Dunmore home of her late grandfather Michael Polizzi in 1952.

In 1956, it shifted to its current location at Dunmore Corners.

In 1968, said Moraski, her grandfather partnered with Paul Kelly. The partnership lasted until 1984 when the Polizzi family bought it outright, she added.

Her grandfather died in 2006 which resulted in her dad, also Michael Polizzi, taking over that year.

When her dad died in 2018, Polizzi Moraski took over a business she had already spent over three decades working in with her late dad and late grandfather.

As the new owner, she knew all the ropes.

The 1988 Dunmore graduate has been married 23 years to Steve Moraski. The couple has a daughter Marissa, 22, a West Chester University graduate with a bachelor of science degree in elementary education. She is a substitute teacher at Dunmore High School.

Polizzi Moraski received an associate’s degree in business administration from Penn State Worthington in 1990. She worked in her family’s insurance business all through high school and college. She went right into it full force in 1990. “I worked there every day after school, so it was an easy transition.”

Polizzi Kelly Insurance is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m, to 4 p.m, The business sells homeowners, automobile, property, commercial and small business insurance. The business also deals with tag and title, payroll services and notary services.

Daughter of Grace Polizzi and the late Michael Polizzi, the lifetime Dunmore resident said the business recently had remodeling work completed to make it a more modern office.

“We kept a lot of the old signs though,” she said. “We wanted to keep some of the old history of the building intact.”

Polizzi Moraski’s late dad also taught science for over 30 years at Dunmore Middle School.

Her husband is a supervisor at Canon Business Process Services at Dunmore Industrial Park.

Her cousin is Donna Loughney, wife of former Dunmore Mayor Patrick “Nibs” Loughney.

She talked about the business challenge during the past two years of COVID-19. “There have been a few challenges,” she said. “We don’t see as many customers in the building as in the past. A lot of the business is done over the phone or online. People love to save money, so they shop around. But we try to always accommodate our loyal customers.

“There are a lot of insurance companies in Dunmore, so there is a lot of competition. We don’t have a lot of control over rates, but we do our best to accommodate and provide a better service. We try to keep our same values intact.”

The hard-working Dunmore native said her favorite part of the job is her customers. “We see many of the same customers for many years. We see customers who grew up in this town. We watched them grow up. We know a lot of people in Dunmore. We’ve had generations of customers. Talking to them and helping them is the best part of the job. We love the people and the community.”

All of Polizzi Moraski’s siblings worked in the business too. Her siblings are Michael and Matthew Polizzi and Michelle Rinaldi.

Her brother Michael is affiliated with a mortgage company located on the second floor of the building.

“I want to do this as long as possible,” the long-time business owner said. “I enjoy serving the people in this community.”