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Lycoming College is proud to announce a partnership with local business owners to facilitate the sales of Dominican-made saddle blankets to help improve the quality of life for families who live in the village of El Naranjito in the Dominican Republic. Barbara and Denyse Miele of Gustonian Gifts, 357 Pine St., in downtown Williamsport, are offering for sale a limited number of one-of-a-kind saddle blankets during First Friday events on Dec. 1, with 100 percent of the proceeds going back to the women of El Naranjito who created them.
Hand-stitched for use on the mules that provide transportation in the community, these beautiful pieces of art make a striking statement when used as a rug or wall hanging. Jonathan Williamson, associate professor of political science at Lycoming College and chair of the department, will be on hand to tell the stories of the Dominican women who made the blankets. As one of the College’s faculty members involved in the project, Williamson has first-hand knowledge of the village and its members.
“By providing the women of El Naranjito a rare opportunity to generate income for their households, the Williamsport community is helping to put them into a position where they are able to strengthen their economies and their communities,” said Caroline Payne, associate professor of political science at Lycoming College and director of the College’s program in the Dominican Republic. “We are excited for this project to help improve the lives of our Dominican hosts.”
Gustonian Gifts is the latest partner connected to Lycoming College’s program where faculty and students work with the coffee farming families of the remote, mountainous El Naranjito region of the Dominican Republic on sustainable community and economic development projects. Warrior Coffee, the exclusive coffee of Lycoming College, is a result of this partnership. Other projects include efforts to improve water quality in the region, to increase access to electricity through solar power, and to expand educational opportunities through teacher training and English-language instruction. Other local partners include Alabaster Coffee and Tea Roasters and Wegmans.
This partnership between Lycoming College and Gustonian Gifts is another small example of the College’s commitment to build meaningful ties in the greater Williamsport community. Following First Friday, the blankets will be on sale, while supplies last, during regular business hours at Gustonian Gifts, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-5p.m., and Sunday 11a.m.-5p.m.