TamaquaArea.com, in it’s entirety, was founded by Andrew Leibenguth in 2009 as a time-consuming way for him to battle growing mental and physical issues following his tour in Iraq in 2003.
Maintained solely by Andy for 5 years as a photo and video-only site, the website has now grown to provide an online place for everyone to come together, help each other, and learn about one another.
From December 2009 to December 2015, Andy had taken and posted a total of over 764,000 community photos and videos.
In 2015 alone, the site, to include it’s online photo archive and video channels, received over 10.3 million views.
Due to Andy’s worsening mental issues, TamaquaArea.com is slowly evolving into a community-driven website, rather than Andy doing all the work.
Of course, the site will continue to provide free news, photos, live feeds and more.
Below is a short explanation from Andy about why he started the website:
“I use this free community website, local charities, social media postings, community signage, and video/photo coverage as time-consuming ways to overcome personal issues I deal with since my return from Iraq, where I served as a Sergeant in the Marine Corps. Some things I continue to battle include high anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress disorder, post concussion syndrome, traumatic brain injury and chronic headaches. This website and involvement in my community involvement help me to deal with my issues and allow for “down” time when my issues become too unbearable.
This website was made to help bring all the great people, families, organizations, and businesses in and around Tamaqua together in one place to share stories, events, photos, and much more.
TamaquaArea.com community website isn’t your normal boring or non-updated community website. Myself and my news volunteers routinely upload and maintain the site by adding events, photos, videos, community news, organizations, businesses and much more.
And best of all… this website (to include all it’s photos and videos) are all free for everyone to use!”
Below is a larger explanation from Andy, his struggles and why he does what he does:
Since my return from Iraq over 10 years ago, I battle with anxiety, depression, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), TBI (traumatic brain injury), (PCS) post concussion syndrome, chronic headaches, social issues, control issues and so on.
During the last month of my tour in Iraq in 2003, I was transported to a military hospital in Kuwait after a fellow Marine under my command tried to take my life. Oddly, the Marine was not charged with any serious crime in my assault. In addition, my chain of command harassed me and truly did their best to hide it. These actions, combined with war-time anxiety, eventually resulted in myself fearing the Marine Corps. Oddly, I couldn’t accept that I had no control over what happened to me. I fight it everyday.
Despite numerous prescribed medications via military doctors, my depression worsened to a level of constant fear, paranoia, anxiety and anger. I was eventually medically discharged from the Marine Corps for PTSD, TBI and other issues in late 2004.
Following my medical discharge, I found myself becoming more and more angry at everyone and everything. Over time, all of my problems worsened and I felt increasingly out of control and depressed. On the verge of taking my own life in early 2006, something happened that changed everything. Without reason or how, my thought process told me to stay in control by fixing everything I could. Accepting this as my only option, I chose to focus my attention on my community, as I felt I didn’t have anything else to love anymore. This resulted with me to volunteer heavily with a number of local organizations (IE Salvation Army, Red Cross and Toys For Tots). This kept me very busy and positively focused for a number of years.
Wanting to help further, I made a simple free website for each of these local organizations using an easy online website making tool. That eventually resulted in me creating and maintaining a larger community-wide website (old TamaquaArea.com) which incorporated all non-profit organizations in my hometown. Not wanting to feel “incompetent” as the VA describes me, the website provided me a way to stay in semi-comfortable control of my life and surroundings.
That worked for a number of years, but the level of “positive satisfaction” diminished as I felt like I couldn’t help enough. Over time, I began submitting related photos and short articles to local news medias in hopes of helping more victims of tragedies. Most medias accepted my free photos on a regular basis, so I chose to keep submitting non-profit photos to them as a “helping” hobby.
In appreciation for news stations using my non-profit photos, I also chose to submit all types of community event photos free of charge. This eventually provided me a better level of control in my life and even led to a paid freelance reporter position with the local Times News newspaper in 2008.
Due to the passing of the Times News newspaper’s Tamaqua borough news chief in early 2010, I was asked by the paper if I wanted to fill his full-time position. At first I said no since I still suffered greatly with many mental issues and long-term social inabilities. Hoping for the best, I accepted the position and served as a full-time photographer and reporter. Sadly, this resulted in me sleeping 1 to 2 hours a day and turned me into a depressive workaholic. The job only provided me a time-consuming way of ignoring my depression and keeping pace with my chronic anxiety. Sadly, I knew it was making my issues worse.
My depression, combined with anxiety-driven work ethic, turned into an unhealthy and constant need to be liked. Unable to slow down or say no to anyone asking for a news story, I eventually made the decision to leave the Times News and focus my efforts on my self-help projects I had more control over (such as my community website).
Realizing the positive impact and control my website can have over the community, I opted to change my TamaquaArea.com community website to include short articles rather than only photos and videos.
Sadly, my constant anxiety, long-term social inabilities, depression and control issues prevent me from gaining long-term employment.
For now, my community website, my photo-taking and community involvement give me the needed control I crave in my life. They also provide me the positive means to stay productively busy, as my mental status won’t let me do anything else.
End of my rant… 🙂