From impoverished Haiti to storm-damaged Mississippi to the heart of downtown Johnstown, Sean McCool has volunteered, in a variety of roles, to help different communities in recent years.
He has gone to Haiti – with Crucified Church, where he serves as a worship leader, and F1 Engineering – to provide comfort by building housing, constructing beds, and installing solar power systems for orphanages. McCool also went to Mississippi to assist after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Some of his mission work has been done in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity, Hosanna Industries and Emmanuel Baptist Church.
Over the past few months, he has spearheaded the Central Park Square project to help improve the city’s historic and culturally significant landmark.
“I did a ton of volunteer work out of town,” McCool, a Richland Township resident, said. “I’ve been to Haiti probably six or seven times. I did a lot of work after Hurricane Katrina.
“We had groups and teams that went down after the hurricane hit. I’ve done different projects at different places. But it always seemed to be away from Johnstown. … Going out of town, then you have to come back, and you have to give to where you live, too.”
McCool became interested in Central Park through Vision 2025, a collaborative, grassroots effort to improve Johnstown and the surrounding area over the next few years. He attended his first Vision 2025 meeting in late 2016.
“I just went knowing that I wanted to get involved in some way,” said McCool, a creative services and marketing specialist at Pennsylvania Highlands Community College and writer for Pirates Prospects. “I didn’t really know what that way was.
“I kind of knew what I’m capable of, what my background is, what I’m good at.”
He added: “I live here. This is my town. I want to be able to give back to it. I want to see it thrive as much as possible. I can’t sit back and expect everybody else to do it. You know what I mean? I had to figure out a way to get involved myself, no matter what I was doing.”
McCool was drawn to Central Park because of it being such a prominent part of the community’s identity.
“It’s kind of the hub,” McCool said. “It’s the center part. If you look at other thriving cities, they all have some sort of center area or a park where everything kind of stems from. I felt like, in Johnstown, it’s just essential for the park to be the keystone of the Vision process and hopefully bringing some businesses here, and making it a place that people want to go, making it a destination. That’s the goal.”
At age 29, McCool is one of many younger professionals getting involved in the local community through organizations such as Vision 2025.
“We’re not going to sit on our hands,” McCool said. “We’re not going to sit back and wait for somebody else to give it to us. We’re go-getters. We want to see something done, and we want to do a good job. I feel, and I hope, that these businesses and these different people down here just trust us and really think that we’re in it to do something.”
He continued: “The 20-something and 30-something young professionals here in town, there’s a lot of talent, there are many young professionals here in town that have a lot of skill and lot of talent that can utilize those skills and talents to do good. It’s just finding the right places for people to plug in. That’s what Vision 2025 did for me.
“It’s about giving back to the community – however you possibly can – no matter how big or how small.”