Category Archive: News & Events

Apr 26

Living Side by Side: For the Love of the Game

Everyone who knows Jon Martin knows that he has a deep, abiding love of all things sports, particularly NASCAR and golf, which he’s been playing since he was eight. His encyclopedic knowledge of competitive games extends beyond teams, players and stats to include the very venues where all the action takes place. Show him a picture of a speedway, and he’ll tell you which one it is. Watching the Masters and you don’t know what hole Phil Mickelson is playing, just ask Jon, even though he may have just walked into the room.

By all accounts, Jon, 41, a 15-year Penn-Mar resident, should be in a wheelchair. He was born with cerebral palsy with left hemiplegia that involves paralysis of one side of the body and developmental delays. His parents Martha “Marti” and Nathaniel “Nat” Martin were living in Richmond, Virginia at the time of his birth, and in an ironic twist, Nat, an occupational therapist, had just completed an affiliation with the city’s Cerebral Palsy Center.

“Call it whatever you want – divine intervention,” says Nat. “My experience with the CP Center was a blessing, as it gave us the tremendous basis for understanding and providing Jon with early intervention therapy. He was six months old when he started and today we can’t believe how functional and active he has been.”

Despite his cerebral palsy which has mainly affected his speech, fine motor skills and sensation on his left side, Jon has always been very active, outgoing, and competitive playing a host of sports over the years including softball and bowling with the York Special Olympics, and of course golf, which he plays regularly with either his dad or both his parents. He’s competed in the Special Olympics National Golf Invitational three times, and the year he played in Port St. Lucie, Fla., he took home a gold in his flight.

Not surprisingly, Jon’s love and deep knowledge of sports has prompted him to express to Penn-Mar Residential Supervisor, Ruby Jarrett, who oversees Jon’s home, which he shares with four active roommates, that he would have liked to have been a sportscaster. “That would have been his ultimate dream,” she says. “He watches all sports, and never misses a NASCAR race. Jon knows all the teams, when they’re playing, what their current stats are, and who’s won in the past. It’s amazing what he knows.”

Interestingly, Jon’s passion for NASCAR came via football. During the 1980s Jon was attending therapy in Carlisle, Pa., and on occasion, as a special treat, Marti would take him to watch the Washington Redskins train (Carlisle was their training camp for 34 years). A chance meeting with former Redskins coach Joe Gibbs one year, led to an invitation for Jon to come down to Redskins Park to watch the team practice. Jon became an instant Joe Gibbs fan. When Gibbs retired from coaching in 1992, to focus on his NASCAR team, Jon also made the transition, and has been a loyal NASCAR fan ever since.

For years now, Jon, Marti and Nat have been attending a race a year, which Jon gets to pick out for Christmas. His current favorite driver is “Rocket Man” Ryan Newman, and, as his dad points out, he has a thing for Danika Patrick. This year the family will pack their motor home, which they recently acquired after years of tent camping at the various NASCAR sites, and head down to Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee. Their trip this coming August 21st coincides with the total solar eclipse that will pass through the center of the U.S., making this year’s trip that much more exciting.

“I used to say Jon would have been a good athlete,” says Nat “No, Jon IS a good athlete.” Marti adds, “He’s slowing down a little bit now, but he still plays golf. His interest in NASCAR has given him another outlet, and an opportunity for all of us to share in an exhilarating experience.”

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Apr 17

$250,000 Challenge Grant to Support Community Employment Opportunities for Adults with Disabilities


FREELAND, Md. – April 17, 2017 – With a lack of employment and inclusion opportunities, individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) struggle to be integrated in the communities in which they live. Thanks to a $250,000 challenge grant from The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, the nonprofit Penn-Mar Human Services, an Employment First provider, will be able to expand its Community Employment (CE) program over the next two years, to help men and women with IDD find and keep jobs in Maryland and Pennsylvania.


Penn-Mar’s Community Employment program, established in 2010, is regionally recognized for its innovative and collaborative approach to placing adults with IDD in community-based jobs in Baltimore, Carroll and Harford Counties, Maryland, and York County, Pennsylvania. The overarching goal of the CE program is to explore and discover talents that lead to placing individuals with IDD into competitive jobs, thereby decreasing the poverty rate of these individuals and creating greater opportunities for community inclusion.


As a standard challenge grant, The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation grant – $125,000 per year for two years – will leverage other donations for Penn-Mar’s CE program. Penn-Mar has already raised more than $100,000 through generous matching grants from The Marion I. and Henry J. Knott Foundation, $45,000; People’s Bank, $25,000; Transamerica Foundation, $25,000; Koons Westminster, $5,000; and The John J. Leidy Foundation, $4,000. The Challenge Grant will enable Penn-Mar to increase the number of individuals participating in the CE program, diversify the businesses in Penn-Mar’s employer portfolio, and increase job retention rates for the individuals participating in the program.


“We are very grateful to The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation for its generosity and to the matching funding partners for helping Penn-Mar continue to break down the barriers to employment and full social inclusion for the men and women we support,” said Gregory T. Miller, Penn-Mar’s president and CEO.”


Individuals with disabilities face barriers the majority of the non-disabled community does not struggle through. The three major barriers, as identified by US Department of Health and Human Services, are: (1) the lack of appropriate jobs and training; (2) need for specific accommodations; (3) access to and use of transportation systems. Penn-Mar’s customized approached reduces the need for accommodations and thereby opens up additional employment opportunities.


Additionally, the fear of exploitation and loss of benefits are also of great concern. These barriers are the result of the denial of opportunities provided to individuals with disabilities and the practice of keeping these individuals sheltered and invisible in communities throughout the country. In 2010, Penn-Mar’s Board of Directors unanimously voted to transition from the popular, but antiquated sheltered workshop model to an inclusive community-based employment program.


Penn-Mar’s customized approach to community-based employment has a zero exclusion commitment to anyone who wants to work. No one is turned away because of their disability. All individuals undergo a Discovery Process – an assessment of skills, abilities, interests, motivations and ideal work conditions. The key is not to fill a slot but find  work the person wants to do and has the skills to be successful, along with meeting an unmet need for the employer. All work is competitive, in the community and in integrated work places – people with and without disabilities working alongside each other.


The CE program has four distinct processes and stages that aid in attaining and retaining a career: the aforementioned Career Exploration and Discovery process, Job Development, The Hire, and Stabilization and Retention.


The US Office of Disability Employment Policy estimates that 70 percent of working-aged individuals with disabilities nationwide are unemployed, and one-third of those employed earn an income below the federally mandated minimum wage. Without job opportunities and fair wages, individuals with disabilities are nearly three times as likely to live in poverty than people without disabilities. The poverty rate for individuals with disabilities in Maryland is a marginal improvement on the national average of 28.7 percent, ranging from 16.7 to 24.6 percent, however, in Pennsylvania the poverty rate is at 27.8 to 30.2 percent. In the non-disabled community, the poverty rates are 7.5 to 10.9 percent and 10.9 to 12.8 percent in Maryland and Pennsylvania respectively.


For information about Penn-Mar’s Community Employment program and supporting employment and inclusion initiatives for individuals with disabilities, call 410-343-1069, or visit


About Penn-Mar Human Services

Penn-Mar Human Services, founded in 1981, serves more than 400 adults with intellectual disabilities through its residential, respite, educational, vocational and supported employment programs in northern Baltimore, Carroll and Harford Counties in Maryland, and in southern York County in Pennsylvania.


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Apr 03

Living Side by Side: Family Is What You Make It


When we think of family, in its purest form, our thoughts, more often than not, travel home to a place that is loving, nurturing and safe. A place in which the people we are connected to at the very center of our lives share with us mutual respect and understanding.


Up until about four years ago, Jimmy, 55, lived with his father, and for a long time they had shared a very full and active social and recreational life together in the community. When his father fell ill, and too ill to care for Jimmy himself, he turned to Penn-Mar in search of a home where he felt secure that his son could live and be cared for when he was gone.


Jimmy’s first home at Penn-Mar turned out not to be quite the right fit for him. A very energetic and outgoing person by nature, Jimmy thrives on activity and the men he first shared a home with were not as mobile and active as he wanted to be. So he asked for a transfer.


“Given the understanding that the people you live with are your roommates for life, we try very hard to place an individual with others who share many commonalities,” says Kathryn “Kas” Jasinski, Residential Supervisor, who this past January celebrated her 10th anniversary with Penn-Mar. “Jimmy came to us and loved it right away. He loved the energy and the fun atmosphere.”


Jimmy shares his Penn-Mar home with Robert, Wayne and Greg. In the nearly two years that he’s been there, he’s taken on the role of the big brother and has become Kas’ right-hand man about the house, helping out with whatever is needed. As Kas says, Jimmy’s innate helper quality has come out in full force, and a day doesn’t go by when he doesn’t ask “What do you want me to do.”


For her part, Kas encourages Jimmy’s nurturing character, because she understands that he wants to help and needs to be stimulated and busy, and that he’s capable of great growth and potential. “That’s kind of how I am,” she says. “If someone finds something that I’m good at, it encourages me to grow and validates my purpose.”


And busy he is. Jimmy recently landed a part-time job as a construction site helper with one of Maryland’s top roofing and remodeling companies, Brothers Services Company, based in Hampstead. He leads physical therapy sessions at home with his roommates, and regularly attends Day Program activities. A self-advocate, Jimmy attended Developmental Disabilities Day in Annapolis on February 22, with a large group from Penn-Mar advocating for DSPs. “It was amazing,” says Kas, “As DSPs we’re his voice, but he was our voice that day. It made him so proud.”


The day of Penn-Mar’s 25th Annual Black Tie Gala was a busy one for Jimmy. Not only did he attend the event with Kas, but earlier that day had the honor and pride of walking Debbie Nickle, DSP and Kas’ former senior residential assistant, down the aisle at her wedding.


“I’m so impressed with him,” says Kas. “Our job is to help him reach his potential. If you have a relationship based on love, respect and care, they know it. It makes their lives better and it makes our lives better. The relationships we have with our individuals are mutually enriching and benefiting.”


As for Jimmy, it’s simple, “This is my home and Kas is family.”


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Mar 21

Working Side by Side: Standing Proud


We all aspire to find meaningful, fulfilling work, and for those of us who find it, the experience is transformative, providing us with a sense of purpose and pride. Penn-Mar resident and York County native Jedd Poff has found both.


Two years ago this past February, Jedd, who has fragile X syndrome, landed his first job at the Olive Garden in York, Pa., through Penn-Mar’s Competitive Integrated Employment program. Working together with Jedd and the Olive Garden, Penn-Mar Employment Support Manager Emily Malone and staff created a customized position that has been drawing on and drawing out Jedd’s talents and skills. The partnership has been a success, and Jedd has astounded everyone by how much he’s transformed.


“Jedd has excelled at his work and takes great pride in it,” says Emily. “The Olive Garden did an excellent job of molding his initial duties, which included wrapping silverware and some light custodial work. He’s made such quick progress in the past two years that they have added a lot of other tasks that he’s been able to do including food prep and baking their signature bread sticks.”


Emily attributes part of the success of this partnership to how management and staff at the Olive Garden have taken on the role of job coach themselves. “They have learned how to help Jedd, and understand what they need to give him to be successful.”


For Jedd’s mother, Debra Bennett, the successful partnership has been with Penn-Mar, who she says promotes peace for a parent. “As a parent of a disabled child you can’t do it all, and you don’t want to do it all because you want your child to be as independent as possible and to have a normal life. Working with Penn-Mar gives you that peace of mind.”


She marvels over his transformation in the past few years, and notes how his overall demeanor has changed since he started working, both in terms of his manner and appearance.


“Jedd went from not wanting to get a haircut to going every two weeks for a trim,” says Debra. “He has become very meticulous about his grooming. He takes great pride in his appearance, making sure his uniforms are dry cleaned every week. But the main thing is how his level of confidence and sense of purpose has soared.” – Something Penn-Mar Residential Supervisor, Dawn Mitzel, can attest to.


“Jedd’s social skills have really developed,” she says. “He’s so much more confident and socially outgoing, but he’s also developed an understanding of people’s personal space, especially on the job interacting with coworkers.”


Jedd’s social interaction doesn’t stop on the job. He keeps himself busy as a team member of the York County Special Olympics, concentrating on track and field as well as bowling on its All Star team. Recently he was asked to join a local bowling league.


Debra sees Jedd, who turns 35 this May, as successful as anybody because he is functioning at his highest level, as he pushes himself to learn and grow. “It’s a normal thing. I have a son, he has a job, and he’s happy.”


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Mar 21

Learning Side by Side: The Measure of Friendship


Friendship has often been described as two bodies with one mind. This could be said of two young men, who over the past year have become fast friends through Penn-Mar’s Community Learning Services (CLS) program.

Mike Gallo, 22, and Michael Orsulak, 24, were teamed up last March to participate in CLS, giving them the opportunity to access and participate in their community through connected and authentic learning, and real-world experiences. As friendships often start out, neither one was sure of the other, but over time their friendship has blossomed– to the extent that they now frequently finish each other’s sentences, or repeat what the other has said, especially if it involves a joke, which Mike, the comedian, often cracks.

Mark Rivera-Junkins, Community Learning Coordinator, who oversees CLS, notes that like the “best” friendships, Mike and Michael bring out the best in each other. “We have found that because of their friendship, they have become each other’s greatest motivator. If there’s something that Mike isn’t excited about, or vice versa, they’ll do it because the other is doing it. They are encouraging one another along the way.”

Mark sees the power of peer influence as playing an important role in the program, particularly as individuals are being exposed to things that they would not readily choose for themselves. Working with their CLS support professional She-Ra Pettiford, the two friends, engage in daily community activities that include volunteering at Our Daily Bread in Baltimore, and Meals on Wheels; various occupational therapy-based workshops through Studio One at Towson University; and recreational activities, like working out at their local YMCA. Recently, they had the opportunity to experience screen printing t-shirts alongside the staff at Charm City Tees in Baltimore.

Their shared interest in video games and computers has opened up learning opportunities for them to work independently. Their skills made it very easy for them to focus on the use of the computer lab at Towson University and the functions of the computer outside of just watching YouTube or playing games.

As their friendship has blossomed, so have their social interactions. Although socially reserved, because they’re interacting with people all day, every day, they’ve become more confident and outgoing. They recently went on a double date to dinner and a movie with two young women in another CLS group. The night was a hit, and CLS staff is trying to figure out how to foster more social engagement outside of the program.

What’s the measure of friendship? In their words, “We have fun and like to be goofy,” says Mike. “And we love to play video games,” adds Michael.

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Mar 13

Penn-Mar Self Advocates Making a Difference in Annapolis

A big thank you goes out to the 700 advocates including over 20 individual self-advocates, staff and family members from Penn-Mar who participated in the Developmental Disabilities Day in Annapolis on Thursday, February 22nd. They spoke to numerous legislators, key staff, and interns urging them to support the re-instatement of the 3.5% mandated rate community service rate. As of last week, it looks like their efforts worked and it will be restored in the budget.

Mark Rivera-Junkins, Community Learning Coordinator for Penn Mar, said, “I believe the most significant outcome of that day was witnessing the empowerment of the individuals we support, to speak on a topic that has an impact on them. As we continued to speak to more people throughout the day, those individuals who by nature are normally more reserved, requested to read the speech, wanted to pass out materials developed, or speak unscripted. Everyone who came with us wanted to contribute in some way and the act of empowerment was contagious.”

When speaking to staff and members of the government that day, our individuals wanted to let them know how important their support staff is to them.  Over 400 Penn-Mar individuals rely on support staff to live and work as independently as possible. They shared that it is hard to find people to support them when they can make more money working at McDonalds.

The day was very special to everyone who attended and now that they know their voice was heard, we all have reason to celebrate.  Thank you to all of our advocates who took the time to share their stories with our elected officials!

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Feb 09



FREELAND, Md. – Feb. 9, 2017 – Penn-Mar Human Services, a recognized leader in providing innovative, quality supports and services to hundreds of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Maryland and Pennsylvania, names Julia Huggins as the newest member on the board of The Penn-Mar Foundation.


Julia Huggins is president and general manager of the Mid-Atlantic office of Cigna, overseeing Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Ohio, Virginia, Washington, D.C. and West Virginia. She joined Cigna in 1999, after a 14-year career with Aetna. Under Huggins’ leadership, Cigna has been recognized by the Maryland Health Care Commission for its quality of care and service as the top-performing PPO plan in Maryland. The company also received a Million Hearts recognition from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.


“We are privileged to have Julia Huggins join The Penn-Mar Foundation board of directors,” says Kathy Rogers, the foundation’s executive director, and Chief Development Officer of Penn-Mar Human Services, headquartered in Freeland, Md. “Her knowledge and wealth of experience in the field of health care is a boon to our mission of providing our most vulnerable citizens the opportunities to live full and inclusive lives in the community.


Huggins is a graduate of Saint Joseph’s College, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Chemistry. Named one of The Baltimore Sun’s 25 Women to Watch in 2016, she is an active member of the community, sitting on the boards of the Maryland Business Group on Health, the American Diabetes Association – Maryland Chapter, the American Heart Association –Maryland, and the Montgomery County Business Roundtable for Education (MCBRE). She also participates in numerous community-sponsored events to promote health and wellbeing that include the American Diabetes Association’s Greater Maryland Tour de Cure, and the American Heart Association’s CPR in Schools Training.


Huggins resides in Westminster, Md. with her husband and four children.


About The Penn-Mar Foundation

The Penn-Mar Foundation supports the work of Penn-Mar Human Services and secures funding for programs and services that create opportunities for employment, community living and education for individuals with disabilities and all who share its vision of transforming life into living.


About Penn-Mar Human Services

Penn-Mar Human Services, founded in 1981, serves more than 400 adults with intellectual disabilities through its residential, respite, educational, vocational and supported employment programs in northern Baltimore, Carroll and Harford Counties in Maryland, and in southern York County in Pennsylvania.

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Jan 11

25th Annual Black Tie Gala honors Anne and Bob Kinsley


FREELAND, Md. — Jan. 11, 2017 – On Saturday, March 4, 2017, more than 500 friends of Penn-Mar Human Services will gather for the nonprofit’s 25th Annual Penn-Mar Black Tie Gala to raise more than half a million dollars in support of hundreds of men and women with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Maryland and Pennsylvania. This year’s milestone gala will honor longtime Penn-Mar supporters Anne and Bob Kinsley, of York, Pa.


Held every first Saturday in March during National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, Penn-Mar’s signature fundraising event raises hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the nonprofits operations and services with a mission to “Transform Life Into Living” for the men and women Penn-Mar serves. The event will be held at The Hunt Valley Inn, in Hunt Valley, Md.


This year, Penn-Mar is proud to honor Anne and Bob Kinsley, two outstanding pillars of our community whose philanthropy has benefited Penn-Mar and many other organizations. Bob is Chairman of Kinsley Construction, Inc., which he founded in 1963, and which currently employs a staff in excess of 1300 field employees and 150 management personnel with locations in York and Reading, Pa., Baltimore, Md., and Herndon, Va. Bob is also the managing partner of Kinsley Equities, a real estate development firm with projects throughout Maryland and Pennsylvania. Anne is involved with Kinsley Properties and Kinsley Management, the leasing and property management division of the Kinsley Organization.


The 25th Annual Penn-Mar Black Tie Gala begins at 6 p.m. with cocktails and a silent auction, followed by a multi-course gourmet dinner with paired wines rated 90-plus from around the world. In addition, the evening will include a spirited live auction to be followed by live music and dancing. This year’s live auction items include tickets to the Masters on a private jet, exclusive waterfowl hunt with legendary guide, Sean Mann, Annapolis boating overnight adventure, and vacation getaways.


The Founding Sponsor for this year’s gala is Kinsley Construction, Inc., and other sponsors include Glatfelter Insurance Group, Cigna, New Standard Corporation, as well as Brown Advisory, KELLY, PeoplesBank, and Barley Snyder Attorney at Law.


Sponsorship opportunities are still available and individual tickets to the gala are $200. For sponsorship information and to purchase tickets to the event, visit, or contact Jackie Summers, Penn-Mar Human Services’ Senior Director of Development, at 410-343-1069 x286 or at


About Penn-Mar Human Services

Penn-Mar Human Services, founded in 1981, serves more than 400 adults with developmental disabilities through its residential, respite, educational, vocational and supported employment  programs in northern Baltimore, Carroll and Harford Counties in Maryland, and in southern York County in Pennsylvania.


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Jan 09

Penn-Mar Human Services Receives Largest Single Private Gift: $1.5 Million to Establish Career Initiative Endowment


FREELAND, Md. – Jan. 9, 2017 –Penn-Mar Human Services in conjunction with Kay and Jim Pitts, of Naples, Florida, announce their gift of $1.5 million that establishes The Michael James Pitts Endowment for the Advancement of Direct Support Professionals. Their gift recognizes the vital role Direct Support Professionals play in “Transforming Life into Living” for the individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) who Penn-Mar supports.


Penn-Mar Human Services has had a tremendously positive affect on Michael and the Pitts family over the last 9 years. This generous gift establishes an endowment to fund, in perpetuity, Penn-Mar’s newly launched Direct Support Professional Career Ladder initiative. The mentored DSP Credentialing program will improve Penn-Mar’s employee recruitment and retention efforts, and addresses the challenges of an increasingly demanding employment environment that is plagued with high turnover. With this gift The Penn-Mar Foundation has a goal of building the fund to $10 million and will allow Penn-Mar to remain a premier service provider.


“We are honored and blessed to receive this transformational gift,” said Gregory T. Miller, Penn-Mar’s president and CEO. “Jim and Kay Pitts exemplify leadership at the highest level and their investment in Penn-Mar is both exciting and humbling. Many lives will be touched in a very positive way because of their generosity.”


As a recognized leader in providing quality supports and services for adults with IDD in Maryland and Pennsylvania, Penn-Mar pioneers ground-breaking programs that provide a high quality of life experiences, empower individuals to secure employment, contribute to their communities, build a network of social relationships and create opportunities for life-long learning. Additionally they provide exceptional care for medically involved clients such as Michael who requires 24 hour care. Having knowledgeable, experienced and skilled DSPs ensures that individuals can achieve these outcomes and live meaningful, productive lives.


“Direct Support Professionals have been an integral part of Michael’s life for over 30 years,” said Jim Pitts. “These are the individuals that we have trusted to care for his needs over that time. It is our desire to see that this initiative make a difference in the lives of individuals that work and live at Penn-Mar and to set the benchmark for educating and certifying these professionals throughout the country.”


About Penn-Mar’s Direct Support Professional Career Ladder Initiative

Penn-Mar’s DSP Career Ladder initiative is a vital component of a comprehensive recruitment and retention strategy that involves training, career path and credentialing development and a compensation plan. There is a rigorous standard to be accepted in the program. Performance metrics, along with input from colleagues, individuals and families are taken in to consideration when choosing candidates as well as an evaluation tool for their performance in the future. Candidates need to apply for each of three levels of advancement and meet certain performance standards to be eligible to move on to the next level of the program. The entire process of certification is lengthy and requires a minimum of 100 hours of course work and practicums. The objective measurement of skill demonstration will be completed by the National Alliance of Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) with whom Penn-Mar is partnering. By developing these standards that lead to professional credentialing and commensurate compensation, Penn-Mar is leading the national efforts to provide high-quality training and opportunities for Direct Support Staff that will ultimately reform the discrepancy between their unique skill sets and insufficient wages.


About Penn-Mar Human Services

Penn-Mar Human Services, founded in 1981, serves more than 400 adults with intellectual disabilities through its residential, respite, educational, vocational and supported employment programs in northern Baltimore, Carroll and Harford Counties in Maryland, and in southern York County in Pennsylvania.


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Dec 06

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