A local non-profit organization dedicated to fostering learning at all ages is hoping to breathe new life into an Abington-area landmark.

The Abington Area Community Classroom (AACC) recently unveiled its plans to transform the first floor of the Clarks Summit Borough Building, 304 S. State St., into "The Gathering Place." According to organizers, The Gathering Place will serve as an arts and education center for Clarks Summit and the greater Abington area. It will also serve as the main location for the AACC's spring and fall class sessions.

"This is the future home of the Abingtons," said Dori Waters of the Abington Area Community Classroom. "It might not look like much now, but we at the Abington Area Community Classroom have great imaginations and this is what our vision is."

"Some day, you might walk in here and someone might be playing the harp or the dulcimer," Waters continued. "There might be friends sitting at a table, laughing and sipping coffee. There might be a group in the corner discussing the latest novel while a group might be in the back room critiquing each other's novels. There will be beautiful artwork on the walls, including local artists and artists with special needs. Last but not least, there might be the pungent smells of onions coming from the kitchen while a cooking class learns the fine art of caramelization. This isn't a vague dream, this is already happening, only in scattered locations throughout the community."

The overall proposed cost of the renovations to the Clarks Summit Borough Building ranges between $200,000-$300,000 and will be put out to bid in the near future. Waters explained that the overall mission of The Gathering Place is to become a place where all people will feel welcome, stressing the AACC's commitment to people with special needs.

"We have been the community's classroom, now we want to be the community's living room," she said, adding that the current location of Clarks Summit Borough's Emergency Management Services office will become a satellite location for the Verve Vertu Art Studio, part of the Deutsch Institute.

Besides allowing the artists at Verve Vertu to sell their art at The Gathering Place, Waters added that other people with special needs will have the opportunity to work in the building's proposed café.

David Degnon of Highland Associates, who is responsible for producing the conceptual interior and exterior designs of The Gathering Place, explained that the AACC's project fills a void in the region.

"We've been working with this group for two years and a lot of progress has been made," he said. "We are very proud of the downtown that we have in Clarks Summit. There is a piece that is missing; when we look at what this could be, not just a place where people can go to but a place that can help others, you see how exciting it really is."

Commemorative bricks, which will be placed along the back wall near the café, are available for $100 and there are other sponsorship opportunities for potential donors. Entire classrooms are available for dedication, with donations ranging from $20,000-$50,000 and commemorative leaves for a stained glass tree are available for prices ranging from $1,000-$10,000. Anyone interested in donating toward The Gathering Place is asked to contact Mary Ann Nichols at 570-586-4721 or visit www.gatheringplaceCS.org for more information.