Force of nature, powerhouse, and go-getter are just some of the words used synonymously with his name, and a single conversation with Michael Tukeva will leave you with a smile on your face and a newfound excitement for the possibilities of a better community. With flashy shoes and the ability to laugh at himself, he’s clearly a man comfortable in his own skin, and his sincere altruistic values allow him to be persuasive without being pushy. But make no mistake; Michael gets results. His determination, keen business sense, and strong interpersonal skills have helped him lead Pocono Alliance, a grassroots non-profit organization, into a new era of success in Monroe County.
“Glamorizing problems won’t help. We need solutions, we need to get things done, and finding the right people who want to do that with us is just as important,” Michael says. In his five years as Executive Director, he’s been proactive about raising funds, creating awareness, developing a strong marketing plan, and fostering relationships.
“Pocono Alliance provides resources to the community by building relationships and creating solutions. Programs focus on self-sufficiency, healthy living, and child & family development.” That is Pocono Alliance’s mission statement. If you think it sounds broad, that’s because it is. With only five paid employees and a few volunteers, Pocono Alliance has more than a dozen different community programs. Over the years, five have grown enough to stand independently. For example, Family Promise, a 501(c)3, was born from a Pocono Alliance program.
Pocono Info is a free helpline that connects individuals with human services and information. Advocacy calls to other agencies are also made on the behalf of some to help establish eligibility or obtain needed services. They assist approximately 500 individuals via phone and 16,000 through their website per month.
Cops ‘n’ Kids is national literacy program that encourages relationships between children, community, and law enforcement, and strives to ensure kids have access to books. Stroud Regional Chief of Police, Bill Parrish, is involved with the local initiative brought to Monroe County through Pocono Alliance. Pocono Alliance maintains and coordinates book drives and distribution.
Tax to the Max program assists businesses paying a corporate net income tax, as well as others, with opportunities to turn some of their tax liability into a community asset. “Many Pennsylvania businesses can redirect some tax money to us, where it can be used as scholarships that will help our youth thrive. Unfortunately, there are still many who don’t know about the option, or don’t understand it,” Tuveka says.
Crossing Abilities, an all-inclusive playground, will open in Tannersville as part of the Mountain View Park this spring. The playground will be the first of its kind in Monroe County, tailored specifically to the needs of children with disabilities. Various community-wide efforts are underway to obtain funds still needed to complete the project. 6
Pocono Alliance has been serving Monroe County for ten years. With quiet strength, they have forged ahead as a leader in community wellness. Their progress and programs speak to their success. Visit www.poconoalliance.org for a complete list and overview of programs.
Written by J. Renee Olson
Photo by Stephen Lippay