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Just CLICK: DuBois photographer mentors teens

DuBOIS — Joelle Watt has been photographing memorable moments in people’s lives since 2003.

“I was doing senior pictures, I was doing weddings, I was doing family pictures. Basically, anything that came across my way I would shoot, building my business,” Watt said as she sat in her studio at 38 W. Scribner Ave., DuBois, which she opened in April 2012. On the desk were bottles of water, her name labeled on the paper wrapped around them. She notes that she likes “people to feel like it’s special” when they come to her studio.

Continuing with her story, Watt said she started to realize that she was making very solid relationships with the girls she was photographing.

She started to see the change in somebody when she would turn the back of the camera around and they would say, “That’s not me.”

“I would say, ‘That is you.’ They’re like, ‘I don’t look like that.’ I say, ‘But, that’s how I see you,’” Watt said. “I feel like God gave me this. I don’t think there’s one ugly person in this world. I think there’s something unique and beautiful in every single person. I feel like I was given this gift that when I put my camera up, I’m able to see that.”

Watt — noting she loves boys, she’s married with a son and two daughters — said she connects with girls and women.

“Here I am, and I see that I don’t just shoot these girls in pictures, but we continue having a relationship after senior pictures,” Watt said. “I realized what a difference it could make in somebody’s life by showing them — not just saying — ‘Oh, you’re so pretty,’ but showing them their beauty.”

That’s when she expanded her heart and talent toward her mission of reaching girls and women of all ages and started “Be Your Own Beautiful.”

Speaking from life experiences, and incorporating her background in women’s portraiture, Watt travels nationwide performing at seminars, schools, clubs, churches and conferences. Her seminars also feature a live beauty shoot to truly empower women of all ages to find worth and value within themselves.

“I have a secular version and a faith-based version. I have programs for young girls, teenagers, and women. It’s all on the same information, I just change the format,” Watt said. “I go in and I talk to them about ways that they can become beautiful from the inside out. Because I want them to be rooted in an identity that they have built, not what they look for in somebody else.”

As she’s having these extended relationships with seniors in high school, Watt was also trying to do work with different non-profit organizations with her business.

“I have a heart with my ‘Be Your Own Beautiful. How can I pull all of this together? That’s how CLICK came about,” Watt said. The program is designed around the mantra, “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of other things,” from Pericles.

Started last year, Watt specifically targeted several seniors who she knew had the integrity and the characteristics that would be good for this group.

People can do CLICK for two different reasons, said Watt, noting that ultimately she’d like for them to do it for both reasons.

“The first reason would be that they love to get their picture taken,” Watt said. “With CLICK, I call it my CLICK Student Ambassadors, because they represent my studio. They either sign up because they like to have their pictures taken or that they are people who want to give back to the community.”

“There’s so many girls out there who have gone through things in their own life and are like, ‘I’ve learned this. I want to help other people.’ That’s the kind of person that I am and that’s what I’m finding with the girls that have joined CLICK, as well,” Watt said.

The girls who sign up for CLICK receive three to six shoots during the year.

“Any time I need a model, any time that I have a new idea that I want to try out, or I’m going to go somewhere and have a mini session, I say, ‘Hey, I’ve got time open. Who wants their picture taken?’ I kind of treat them like extended children,” Watt said. “Then, especially if they’re interested in photography, like they’re available, they can come to any of my classes that I have, or I’ll put them to work, like I’ll have them hand out papers or different things like that. They can come to all of my classes.”

The group also collectively agrees to complete three charity events a year. This program allows the teens to receive hands-on business hours as well as community services hours, teaching them to run a business, but also the importance of giving back to the community. For example, this year on Small Business Saturday, they did Santa Claus pictures at Brady Street Florist. All the members participated, and those coming for pictures were asked to bring canned good items for the food pantry.

When the CLICK group attends the charity events those count for community service hours.

“So looking from a college perspective, they have hands-on training in a business, not just about business, but about giving back to the community,” Watt said.

Watt enjoys giving back to the community.

“My daughter goes away on a mission trip, like she’s sent to Jamaica. They want me to go, and I said, ‘People need so much here that I can give to them.’ I feel like I am making a difference right here, and that’s what I try to teach these CLICK girls.

For more information about CLICK, contact Watt at 814-590-0593 or on her website: joellewatt.com. 


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Photography is a way of life for DuBois photographer

DuBOIS — Making time stand still was not photographer Joelle Watt’s first passion.

“I had a theater scholarship when I was graduating from high school. I had plans on doing that and I wanted to be on Broadway,” Watt recalled.

But then she experienced what she calls a “twist” in her life.

“There was a circumstance that changed my life. I decided not to go forward with that,” Watt said.

After losing her identity in every way, Watt said she put herself back together several years later. She said she discovered, “This is who I am. This is how I’m established.”

After moving away from the DuBois area for a short time, Watt said she came back and started spending a lot of time with her twin sisters.

“They’re 11 years younger than me and I would take them out for days with my mom’s 35 mm camera and just take pictures of them,” Watt recalled.

She’d take the photos to be developed at local department stores.

“I’d get messages back on my envelopes that you got back and they would say, ‘These are so great. Do you do this for a living?’ Little notes to me and they always made me feel nice,” she said.

“One day, the photo manager at Walmart, and understand this is probably close to 20 years ago, the photo manager came out and she said, ‘You bring your pictures all the time and they are so good.’”

Watt said the woman told her that she should consider photography as a career.

“My mom had told me that just for somebody outside of my circle to speak into me, and that is a key point, is that I needed somebody who didn’t love me to speak that to me.”

She then called Clarion University and asked if they had photography classes.

“They said, ‘No, we just dissolved our photography department because we’re going to all digital,” said Watt.

Disappointed, she told them she wanted to learn on a camera.

The Clarion University representative suggested that the professor would still teach her.

“I met with him one-on-one for about $10 a lesson,” Watt said. “He taught me how to shoot with a manual 35 millimeter camera. He also taught me how to print and develop in the dark room.”

Relating that her love for photography started with a camera the professor lent her and the first pictures she took, developed and printed were of her twin sisters, she said she still has those photos on the wall today in her studio in downtown DuBois.

Photography may have not been Watt’s first passion, but now it is the way that she lives rather than something she just does.

Her words on her website may describe it best:

”My whole life, I’ve gone around asking my heart to stop moments so that I would not forget. What I get to do with my camera is just that. I shoot what my heart sees. The moments — how they feel. When you look at your images — no matter what kind they are, you will see the beauty of moments. The unmatched emotion, and the value of time standing still for even a moment. With my camera, I stop time. And then, I give it back to you.”


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ON BLUEBERRY HILL: Family-owned farm to participate in weekend festival

REYNOLDSVILLE — A local blueberry farm has been passed down through three generations, and continues to thrive as time goes on.

Kim and Phil Engle are the current owners of Blueberry Hill Farm in Reynoldsville, which will be a part in the trolley field trip at the Red, White and Blueberry Festival this weekend.

Trolley rides will take families and berry pickers to Maxim Blueberry Farm and Blueberry Hill Farm on Saturday, offering the chance to pick and taste freshly-grown, local blueberries and support area farmers.

Kim Engle said her grandfather started planting the bushes in 1957, and the farm was passed down to her parents, and now to her and her husband. Many people may know the business by the name “Himes Blueberry Hill.” Himes is Engle’s former last name, and the farm is now simply, “Blueberry Hill Farm.”

Blueberry bushes are not only a beautiful sight, but if they’re planted right, you can pluck the tasty fruits right off the branch and eat them in the field. A bush has to be “mature” enough to bear fruit, which can take three or four years after planting. Most late-season berries are ready in mid July and August.

When Engle looks back in time, she recalls always being involved in her family’s blueberry farm and growing up there. So it was only natural that about 14 years ago, it was her turn to take over. She also considers it an enjoyable hobby.

Picking blueberries and walking through rows of scenic bushes is a unique experience and activity families can do together, Engle said.

“The kids really enjoy being out there, and being able to come out and play and pick,” she said. “It’s just a really good experience to do things with your kids again.”

Just as she remembers growing up around blueberry bushes, some of the people who visit the farm consider it a part of their childhood as well, Engle said.

“We have so many people tell us they came here with their parents and grandparents,” she said. “They remember coming when they were little.”

The farm has participated in Red, White and Blueberry Festival activities since it began five years ago. Engle’s daughter even dresses up in a blueberry mascot costume.

“It’s a great community thing, and people enjoy going back to local events,” she said. “It’s so nice to see people you know and support your family and friends.”

The festival has become a staple in the Reynoldsville community, and a way for local people and businesses to stay involved, Engle said.

Around the Fourth of July, the farm begins holding picking events every Saturday and Sunday until mid-August, Engle said. They also sell canned peaches and apples, collected from other farms.

Blueberry Hill Farm is located at 10160 Route 322, Reynoldsville. For more information, call 814-371-1871.


Photo by Chris Wechtenhiser 

St. Marys Minor League All-Star Kaylen Eozzo, right, slides in safely to score on a wild pitch in the top of the first inning Tuesday as Harborcreek pitcher Talon King fields a late throw back to plate. St. Marys scored three time in the frame on its way to a 6-2 victory.


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Winery at Wilcox shoots for success with 'Dreamsicle' fundraiser

DuBOIS — A team of people making dreams come true gathered at the Winery at Wilcox in the DuBois Mall last week to celebrate a partnership shooting for success.

The newly released “Dreamsicle” wine at WAW will give $1.50 of the price of each bottle sold to the DuBois Dream.

The DuBois Dream is a minor league basketball organization that gives back to the community through doing what they love — playing basketball.

Albert Varacallo III said it all started in honor of his father, Dr. Albert Varacallo — who was killed in a bicycle accident in 2010 — and his foundation, the Dr. Albert Varacallo Foundation. It has since grown to shoot for many causes.

The Dream does a lot with local youth and gives back to organizations such as Caring and Sharing for Kids, Grady’s Decision and the Arc of Jefferson and Clearfield Counties.

“Each year, we pick causes to play for,” he said. “I thought, ‘Why not spread the word about good causes while we play?’”

Varacallo has started a DuBois Dream AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) basketball program, which has 130 children currently participating, he said. He hopes to generate sufficient funds to build a gym in the area to help house it and similar programs.

“I’m really appreciative of them teaming up and supporting us,” Varacallo said of the winery. “They are taking what we do to an all-new level.”

WAW Owner Jamie Williams said the Dreamsicle wine is already sold out at The Winery at Hunters Valley in Ohio.

A $168 check was presented to Varacallo already at the premiere of the Dreamsicle wine on July 5, which was held at the WAW in the DuBois Mall. Friends and fans showed up to buy a bottle and show their support for the Dream. The orange Dreamsicle label will be remade to include the DuBois Dream logo.

Through the winery business, they have raised money for several outlets, such as the hospital, fire departments and breast cancer awareness, Jamie said. Each year, they design and dedicate a special bottle to a certain cause they care about.

The first year, the pink bottle called “Hope Whispers,” sold to benefit those suffering breast cancer, raised thousands of dollars, and was an inspiration to keep the fundraiser going, Jamie said.

Jamie’s son plays basketball and is also a coach himself, so the Dream was a cause he could get excited about. It’s also rewarding to give back to an organization that gives back itself, he said.

Founder Mike Williams said from the time he was 14 years old, his father taught him to give back to the community. Since then, he and his wife, Carol, and son, Jamie, have been able to do that through the wine business.

“Money has never been the object,” Mike said. “If you can help someone, you should. I have always been like that — it’s become a way of life.”

The Winery at Wilcox went from being the newest winery in Pennsylvania to one of the top five in the last five years, Mike said. They were number one on the “Pennsylvania producers that made the most wine in 2016” list at www.pennlive.com.

They try to help other organizations, wineries and people, such as parolees who aren’t able to find a job, Mike said. It’s important to give people a chance to learn and better themselves.

“When you have that support, you have the opportunity to do what’s right, so we do,” he said. “There are so many opportunities to help people, and it’s the least we can do.”


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RIDING FOR VETS: Elk County motorcycle group to host summer fundraiser

KERSEY — An Elk County organization dedicated to helping others will celebrate summer for a good cause this weekend.

Elk County ABATE — Alliance of Bikers Aimed Toward Education — will hold the third annual “summer bash” on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, featuring bands, vendors and fellowship.

The Elk County ABATE chapter has 155 members who aim to promote motorcycle awareness and rights of motorcyclists, while also giving back to the community and staying involved through charitable events and activities.

Proceeds will benefit Ride for Vets of Ridgway, a local organization dedicated to advocating for and helping veterans.

Elk County ABATE President Jeff Mohney said Ride for Vets helps transport veterans where they need to go, such as medical appointments. It’s important to support local veterans who are struggling, especially since there are veteran members of ABATE, a spokesman said.

With the help of a grant from St. Marys United Way and PFL of St. Marys, ABATE was able to donate $1,500 to Rides for Vets last year.

“This shows support back to the vets who need our help,” Mohney said. “This is what we’re about.”

Mohney said they do many other things throughout the year, like the Make-A-Wish motorcycle ride fundraiser held last weekend at the VFW in Emporium with 137 participants. They are hoping to be able to fund four wishes by December, with the granting of each wish costing about $4,000.

On Friday, the band DTK will play at 6:30 p.m., followed by Old Skool. Both Old Skool and Dos Beardos will play on Saturday.

The event will be held at 316 Dietz Road in Kersey. Single tickets are $35 or $50 per couple.


Elaine Haskins / Photo by Elaine Haskins 

Pictured is Albert Louis Varacallo III, the owner of the DuBois Dream.