Burns: Irene Huschak named 2019 Charlie Vizzini Volunteerism Award winner

Huschak has worked tirelessly to improve Portage community, preserve history

EBENSBURG, Jan. 31 – State Rep. Frank Burns, D-Cambria, today announced Irene Huschak, a tireless advocate and volunteer in the Portage community, has been named the recipient of the 2019 Charlie Vizzini Volunteerism Award.

“Irene has been a tireless advocate for the Portage community, one of those truly special people who step up to the plate again and again, to make their communities better places,” Burns said. “She is a shining example of selfless service, someone who never asked, ‘who can help’ but rather, ‘how can I help.’ Irene really exemplifies what this award is about, and I am proud to name her our volunteer of 2019.”

Well known in the Portage community, Huschak has volunteered for more than 15 years with the Portage Area Historical Society, including acting as president for the last eight years. During that time she organized countless events and fundraisers to benefit the society, and the Portage Railroad Museum, which it runs.

Her efforts to preserve local history extended beyond the museum – she regularly interviews area seniors for the historical society’s newsletter, collecting oral histories and photographs to ensure that local history and stories are not lost to time. She also ensures this information is passed on, by giving educational presentations at local nonprofits and personal care homes.

She may be best known regionally for her work to preserve the original brick “Patton Pavers” that have lined the streets of Portage for more than 100 years. When it was announced the pavers would be removed, Irene protested to the borough council and convinced them to preserve a section of the pavers in front of the museum, a cause which drew local attention in the news media.

Pavers that were removed from the streets were also later donated by the borough for a terrace and memorial bench, engraved with the names of historic Portage businesses – another project she spearheaded.

Huschak has been involved in many other events and causes, as well, in the Portage area; a true community stalwart, Burns said. When attendance at the local pool started to decline, she rallied to the cause, and raised $4,000 to ensure that financially changed youth could attend.

“Through this award, we’re trying to recognize someone in the district who has volunteered to make the community a better place,” Burns said. “Clearly Irene fits that bill and is a great example of community volunteerism.”

The award is named after Charlie Vizzini, who has amassed more than 8,000 hours by volunteering in Burns’ legislative office – fielding more than 1,000 constituent service matters and saving taxpayers approximately $100,000.