A Mess in the Nest

Sparrow House

Sparrow House

Sparrow House is a playhouse, and an extension of the learning space at Swarthmore-Rutledge School. It’s also a hangout for kids who may be well beyond elementary age, some of whom seemingly were responsible for defacing Sparrow House two weeks ago with chalk-scrawled ethnic slurs, random phone numbers, derisive notes about Ridley, and, most concerning to many neighbors, crudely rendered swastikas.

Word of the defacement spread on the social media site Nextdoor Swarthmore on Sunday morning, September 18, and has continued since.

Some commenters have since wondered why the borough has not responded.

“The borough takes this very seriously, but Nextdoor is not an appropriate venue for us to comment,” said Swarthmore Mayor Tim Kearney. “The Swarthmore Police Department continues to investigate the incident, and the borough will communicate the conclusions of that investigation.” He noted that since there was no permanent property damage and no indication of malice toward any individual, it is unlikely that any criminal charges will ensue.

Further, Kearney said, there is no apparent connection to the swastika graffiti found earlier this month in a bathroom at Swarthmore College. In a message to the SRS community, Principal Dr. Angela Tuck said, “It breaks my heart to know that someone violated our sanctity. [SRS] staff members and I strive to support the needs of our children and keep them safe,” noting that the school custodian checks the grounds before children arrive each day.

Some commenters have suggested Sparrow House be razed, but Mayor Kearney cautions against overreaction. As an architect, he was part of a community team that designed and built the house in the late 1990s as “a place where kids could feel adventurous and independent, while their parents and teachers would know they are safe. The structure is still sound,” he said, “but needs refurbishment to again be prized. Those who were behind the project then would love to see the SRS community of this generation refresh the Sparrow House, and rededicate themselves to the ideas behind it.”

WES Using Data to Chart Course; SRS Parents Concerned About Class Size

Wallingford-Swarthmore School Board Cape Crusaders

Wallingford-Swarthmore School Board Cape Crusaders

Wallingford-Swarthmore School Board
By Katie Crawford

Wallingford Elementary School principal Josh Peterkin transformed Wallingford-Swarthmore School Board members into caped superheroes as part of his presentation on the school’s goals for the 2016-2017 year.

Following a dynamic presentation to the student body, Dav Pilkey posed for a picture with Miss Tara Gallagher’s 3rd grade class, school librarian Mrs. Martha Lambertsen, principal Mr. Joshua Peterkin, and Dav Pilkey’s well loved Dog Man comic book character. Pictured below from left to right starting in front row are Aunjulae J., Katie S., Sonya B., Isaac L., Ryan M., Luke M., Cosmo D., Jade H., Eryn B., Liliana N., Wesley C. and Lexi B. Pictured from left to right in the back row are School Librarian Mrs. Martha Lambertsen, Anya L., Abitha M., Amelia B., Megan B., Jackson M., School Principal Mr. Joshua Peterkin, “Dog Man”, Mr. Dav Pilkey, Kenneth J., Quentin F., Brady N., Kaitlyn H., Connor R., Bram P.-H., and Third Grade Teacher Miss Tara Gallagher.

Following a dynamic presentation to the student body, Dav Pilkey posed for a picture with  Tara Gallagher’s 3rd grade class, school librarian Martha Lambertsen, principal  Joshua Peterkin, and Dav Pilkey’s well loved “Dog Man” comic book character. Pictured below from left to right starting in front row are Aunjulae J., Katie S., Sonya B., Isaac L., Ryan M., Luke M., Cosmo D., Jade H., Eryn B., Liliana N., Wesley C. and Lexi B. Pictured from left to right in the back row are school librarian Martha Lambertsen, Anya L., Abitha M., Amelia B., Megan B., Jackson M., school principal  Joshua Peterkin, “Dog Man,” Dav Pilkey, Kenneth J., Quentin F., Brady N., Kaitlyn H., Connor R., Bram P.-H., and 3rd grade teacher  Tara Gallagher.

Peterkin emphasized that every decision at WES is made based on the premise that students are “the heart of the school.” He titled his presentation, “U.S.S. WES,” in order to demonstrate that while there may be “lots of other things on our radar that might distract us,” student success remains the objective of his navigation as captain of the ship.

Peterkin listed the enormous amount and variety of data that is collected over the course of a school year and explained how this year WES will focus on using this data most effectively. As part of this process, WES faculty and staff will study the book Data Wise: A Step by Step Guide to Using Assessment Results to Improve Teaching and Learning by Richard Murnane. Peterkin emphasized that alongside this study, the school’s ultimate goal is for students “to feel safe, enjoy school, to be challenged to explore their world and develop the skills to make them productive students and eventually citizens.”

SRS 3rd grade Super Readers

SRS 3rd grade Super Readers

Peterkin showed photographs of students reading and writing in the recently opened new atrium at WES, as well as photos from visiting author Dav Pilkey. The author recently read to WES students and shared his experience of living with dyslexia and ADHD. Pilkey, creator of the insanely popular “Captain Underpants” superhero, provided the capes, which Peterkin in turn shared with the board members, who seemed more than happy to join him as caped crusaders.

SRS Parents Protest Class Size

During audience recognition, the board heard from a group of SRS parents about their concerns over large class sizes in the 4th grade. While the current class sizes are within the district limits, they are larger than what students have experienced in recent years.

Swarthmore resident David Grande, whose daughter is currently an SRS 4th grader, noted that the current 4th grade went from five classrooms last year to four this year, increasing class sizes from the low 20s to the high 20s. The first ten days of school seemed to have been particularly crowded and chaotic for students. Grande reported that during math instruction, when children regroup based on ability levels, some class sizes ballooned to 29, leaving some students without a desk.

Grande spoke of the community’s frustration, noting that parents called and wrote the district over the summer about this impending problem. He believes this sudden change is resulting in teachers being stretched too thin, and expressed his worry about a “lost year” in his child’s education.

Parents are asking for immediate support for the teachers by providing more teachers’ aides. In addition, Grande noted that while enrollment numbers are impossible to predict, a long-term plan needs to be put in place to avoid such large class sizes in the future. He stressed that it was important for the board to hear from parents and to attend a meeting at SRS the night after the board meeting with principal Dr. Angela Tuck and Superintendent Dr. Lisa Palmer.

Among several other parents seated in the audience, Melissa Zeserson also addressed the board, citing studies which show the ill effects on learning once a class size reaches the high 20s and questioned why the district is allowing for a sub-optimal learning environment to exist. SRS parent Gretchen Makai also noted that the parents in the audience represent a small number of the parents who are concerned about this situation.

Board member Wendy Voet thanked the parents for taking the time to share their concerns with the board, noting that this level of involvement “is what makes our district great.”

New Alert System; Panther Pajama Run

Superintendent Palmer noted that the district will be moving from the Honeywell Instant Alert system to the School Messenger System on November 4. The rollout of this new system will begin on October 11 with a test message on October 22. Dr. Palmer also reminded the board about the upcoming Panther Pajama Run and Pancake breakfast on Saturday, November 12, to benefit the Foundation for Wallingford-Swarthmore schools. Last year the event raised $7,000.

Children’s author and illustrator Dav Pilkey visited Swarthmore -Rutledge and Wallingford Elementary schools last Friday to promote his new book Dog Man, supported by Children’s Book World in Haverford and Scholastic. Pilkey told students how he came up with the ideas for his characters like the iconic Captain Underpants, and he talked about his own struggles in school as a dyslexic student with ADHD. “His message of overcoming challenges and rejection to pursue one’s passion was inspirational, and the illustrations that accompanied his presentation kept everyone laughing,”said Roberta Shapiro, SRS Library and Media specialist. SRS students took Pilkey’s motto “Reading Gives You Superpowers” to heart, devouring his books and creating their own comic strips throughout the day.

Children’s author and illustrator Dav Pilkey visited Swarthmore -Rutledge and Wallingford Elementary schools last Friday to promote his new book Dog Man, supported by Children’s Book World in Haverford and Scholastic. Pilkey told students how he came up with the ideas for his characters like the iconic Captain Underpants, and he talked about his own struggles in school as a dyslexic student with ADHD. “His message of overcoming challenges and rejection to pursue one’s passion was inspirational, and the illustrations that accompanied his presentation kept everyone laughing,”said Roberta Shapiro, SRS Library and Media specialist. SRS students took Pilkey’s motto “Reading Gives You Superpowers” to heart, devouring his books and creating their own comic strips throughout the day.

Author Dav Pilkey draws Captain Underpants for an enthusiastic crowd at SRS.

Author Dav Pilkey draws Captain Underpants for an enthusiastic crowd at SRS.

The Witching Hour Approaches at SPL: For Kids & Grownups

By Devon Laudenslager

Calling all witches and wizards! Join us on Saturday, October 8, for a library fundraiser where we transform the building into Hogwarts and kids become wizardry students. Timed tickets are on sale at the Swarthmore Public Library, 121 Park Avenue.

The Hogwarts Experience, for children in grades K-5: Enter through Platform 9 3/4, get sorted into houses, take wizarding classes throughout the castle! Timed tickets required for 9:45 a.m. to 10:45 a.m., 11 a.m. to noon, 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., or 2:15 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.

Quidditch drills in Central Park amphitheater; crafts in Hagrid’s Hut on the lawn for families & children of all ages; and fun and photo ops are free and open to everyone from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

TriWizard Trivia, for children in grades 5 & up — answer trivia questions from all seven books, and perform challenges with your housemates to win the House Cup! Timed tickets required; choose 4 p.m. or 5:15 p.m.

For grownups, 21 and over, the Saturday night Yule Ball and Silent Auction features food, drinks, music, and a silent auction, as part of our Harry Potter Day library fundraiser. Once a year we transform our entire building into the magical Hogwarts Castle. Dance, drink, nosh, and chat from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. under the floating candles in our Great Hall, and peruse our Silent Auction items, on display throughout our enchanted building. Costumes or spiffy muggle-wear encouraged.

Tickets ($15) are required for all events; buy early since space is limited. Proceeds go towards building a Storybook Walk in Little Crum Creek Park. Call or stop by the Swarthmore Public Library to purchase your tickets; more info is at SwarthmorePublicLibrary.org/HarryPotter. Questions? Willing to volunteer? E-mail Devon Laudenslager at SwarthmoreHarryPotter@gmail.com or call (610) 543-3171.

Sending Out The Signal

Strath Haven HIgh School students (L to R) Johnathan Cresson of Swarthmore, Cameron Yarborough of Rose Valley, and Will Carey of Wallingford represented local fire companies at the SHHS activities assembly this month.

Strath Haven HIgh School students (L to R) Johnathan Cresson of Swarthmore, Cameron Yarborough of Rose Valley, and Will Carey of Wallingford represented local fire companies at the SHHS activities assembly this month.

Three local fire companies depend upon volunteers to operate effectively, and company leaders have lamented the diminishing involvement of younger members. Three Strath Haven High School students helped recruit the next generation of volunteers at the high school’s recent activities assembly.

Two students have begun the application process to join the Swarthmore Fire and Protective Association, said Swarthmore cadet member Johnathan Cresson, a 9th grader at SHHS, who has been accompanying his father Rich to the firehouse since age 3. “I’ve loved fire trucks as long as I can remember, so it’s only fitting I’d join.”

As a cadet (14-15 year-old) or junior (16-17) member, Cresson said, “You learn by observation,” in drills, training, fire prevention programs, at the firehouse and on emergency calls during certain hours. Juniors have additional responsibilities and can begin firefighter training, as SHHS senior Will Carey has through a Delaware County program. He is one of more than 10 young firefighters at the Garden City Fire Company. Cameron Yarborough, a sophomore at SHHS and a cadet at South Media Fire Company, will begin training this fall in Montgomery County’s Fire Academy’s junior firefighting program.

Boys and girls aged 14 to 18 are welcome to come to their local fire station on meeting nights (Swarthmore’s is Thursday at 7:30 p.m.) or to talk to any of these three young fire company members at school.

Letters to the Editor

‘The world is ours — together’

To the Editor:

The world is too much with us; late and soon
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers
Little we see in nature is ours…
— William Wordsworth

The world is ours and we are the world’s — together with all other life on this planet we are interdependent. We need each other if the earth and life itself are to survive and begin again to thrive. We are all prodigal sons and daughters because we no longer recognize each other; brothers and sisters, getting and spending, we have lost our power to recognize one another, to love and respect one another.

If I prick your finger, you will bleed no matter what color or religion or nationality you claim. If you prick mine, I will bleed. If I crash my knee, I will scream out in pain and so would you. If I find love, my heart swells with joy — so will yours. If you are hungry and I feed you, that will feel natural and so would the reverse.

If the air is filled with smoke, as carbon attacks the atmosphere, we will both choke and cough and the trees will do their best to clean that air until they too are overwhelmed.

If the water is polluted or gone from drought, we will thirst and so will the plants: our entire fellow living organisms will suffer together. If the ice at the North Pole melts and streams through the world, it will arrive back home eventually warmer still and add to the melting and because it flows through the whole of our world, we could recognize our kinship and interdependence just by being observant and responsive.

We all share a capacity to do harm, to learn to go to war and kill; but we all also have the capacity to love and care for one another. If we can discover and cultivate that capacity within ourselves, we could spread that love, person to person, and it will grow and thrive and our planet will survive. We must learn to grow and nurture our capacity for love and forego the greed that fuels our “getting and spending.” When we “lay waste our powers,” we diminish ourselves and the opportunity to share the bounty of a thriving earth.

Whatever you call yourself, whatever you worship, wherever you live, cannot there be peace between us all? What will it take to open our eyes and hearts and truly see ourselves in each other?

I harbor a delicate child inside my elderly self who still stands on the one-legged hope that we can and will save our world and ourselves.

Maurice G. Eldridge
Swarthmore

Pennsylvania is play — now play fair

To the Editor:

On Thursday, September 22, I attended a Donald Trump campaign event in Aston, ten minutes from my home. This was the second time in as many weeks that Trump had rallied his supporters in the city of Aston. Clearly, based on Trump’s recent visits, perennial swing-state Pennsylvania is in play this presidential election season. In particular, Philadelphia’s suburban communities are in play as they, and the city itself, constitutes 40 percent of the electorate in the Keystone State.

What arrested my attention, and saddened me at the rally, were all of the anti-Clinton and anti-Black Lives Matter T-shirts and buttons, including: Trump that b—- (read, Hillary), Deplorable (read, not Black) Lives Matter, and Terrorist Hunting Permit(ted) (read, kill Muslims and other “Arab” people). I wondered, how did Hillary Clinton become an anti-woman stand-in for all women? I heard one Trump supporter next to me remark, “I can’t imagine any man holding a sign for Hillary.” But when did supporting an accomplished woman for President make a man less of a man? A vote for Trump has now become a vote for real manhood. As well, is it now acceptable to deride the Black Lives Matter movement, and declare open hunting season against immigrants and others who fit the “terrorist” profile?

South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn says that Trump, unlike past Republicans, is no longer using “dog whistles” — coded bigoted messaging — but “wolf howls” — overt misogynist and racist language — to activate his base of angry supporters. That base was fired up and ready to do battle at the Trump rally I attended.

Eight years ago, Arizona Republican candidate John McCain was told in a town hall meeting by one of his supporters that Barack Obama was untrustworthy because he was “Arab.” McCain rebuffed his supporter, “No, he’s a decent man, a family man, we simply disagree.” I wish McCain had challenged the speaker’s Islamophobia, but at least he pushed back against her coded racist and birther denigration of Obama. But today — so the campaign shirts and buttons at the rally — Donald Trump actively encourages the most repugnant slogans and put-downs imaginable.

As in most political rallies, the rhetorical excesses characterized both sides of the debate. I was dismayed to see pro-Clinton supporters deride Trump, and, by implication, his supporters, as stupid and ignorant. The slogan I.Q. Matters: No Trump, also depressed me as it further fuels the cycle of rhetorical violence, but this time at the expense of people with intellectual disabilities. Finally, I witnessed the irony that most of the memorabilia vendors were African-American, even though Trump is getting zero percent of the black vote in recent Pennsylvania polls. This further deepened my pain at the rally. The vendors I spoke with said they had to make a living, and this is more than understandable. But I long for the day when low-income neighbors can find employment consistent with their core values — and the day when all of us, conservative and progressive alike, can engage one another in spirited, respectful discourse instead of hateful name-calling.

Mark Wallace
Swarthmore

Recovery must have a place

To the Editor:

R-2 zoning grants group residence as required by the Americans With Disability Act (“Sober Living House Hearing.” The Swarthmorean. 9/23). This includes recovering addicts. But when asked if active drug users are protected, the answer was “No.”

All drug users are considered “in recovery.” This designation suggests that their condition is a permanent part of their psychological makeup and always “active,” thereby exempting this protection. However, compassion suggests that they should be allowed continued treatment. It is to be expected that, like Brian Fetterman, some will be found dead by their own hand now and again. In most of these cases, but not all of them, these patients are not an immediate danger to their neighbors. It will be interesting to see, one step at a time, how this hearing moves along.

John Brodsky, M.D.
Swarthmore

Millard Robinson victory

To the Editor:

I resided in Swarthmore from 1953 to 1956. As a junior high school student, I was the scoreboard keeper at the old Rutgers Avenue field. I also did scores for Swarthmore College.

Millard Robinson was a fantastic coach. He had many undefeated seasons, and I remember the one in 1955.

In his tenure, he never had a losing season. He was a disciplinarian, the Lombardi type, but was well respected and admired by his fellow football players. He could get the most talent out of a player.

As time goes on, things change. It’s sad to see all the old high school rivals such as Darby, Yeadon, Lansdowne-Aldan, Sharon Hill, Collingdale, Glenolden, Ridley Park, Eddystone, Nether-Providence, Media, etc., all regionalized. On the Internet, I only recognize Radnor, Marple-Newtown, Springfield, Ridley, West Chester and Chester.

I surely miss the record hops, Bob Horn’s Bandstand, and Saturday afternoon Swarthmore High School football games. Go, Garnet!

Ed Hunt
Leominster, Mass.

Briefly Noted…

On November 4, Joe McGinniss Jr. will learn whether he has been selected from six authors for the Kirkus Prize for fiction. If he wins for his second novel, Carousel Court, he will garner its annual $50,000 prize, although being short-listed for the Kirkus award is an honor in and of itself. Among the other five authors vying for the prize are Colson Whitehead and Annie Proulx.

A reviewer in the San Francisco Chronicle called Joe’s novel “raucously inventive.” The Kirkus review described it as a “taut page-turner,” in which “[a] young couple’s plan to flip a house in Southern California goes awry and old wounds in their marriage reopen …”

Joe was born in Swarthmore, attended Swarthmore schools and is a graduate of Swarthmore College (’94), where he met his wife, Jeanine Ford. He is the son of Chris McGinniss, a current resident of the borough, and the late author Joe McGinniss, and is the brother of Suzanne Boyer of Media and Christine Marque of Paris, France. Joe, who lives in Washington, D.C., with Jeanine and their nine-year-old son Julien, is currently writing his third novel, which will be a view of the East Coast upper class through the eyes of an Eritrean immigrant female soldier.

Last Monday morning, the Swarthmorean received a call from Dick Nenno of Swarthmore. Dick wanted us to know about Swarthmorean Peter Bloom’s achievement this summer at the Swarthmore Swim Club. We got in touch with Peter, and this is his response:

“At the Swarthmore Swim Club this summer, Dick Nenno asked me what was going on in my life. I said I had just turned 80. He said why not swim 1,000 laps, get a T-shirt and ring the bell in celebration. You don’t refuse Dick, but it got out of hand. I swam the first 1,000 laps by July 19. My grandson, Jackson, helped me ring the bell. By August 11, I had 2,000 laps and by Labor Day I had swum 2,816 laps — an even 40 miles. As an added benefit, this year’s T-shirt is my wife’s [Marcia] favorite color. So thank you, Dick!

Congratulations to both Dick and Peter on their achievements this summer at the swim club.

Tyler Arboretum executive director Cricket Brien of Swarthmore (center) wields golden shears to cut the ribbon opening Tyler’s refurbished stone barn. She was joined by Tyler development coordinator Maddison Paule and Jeffrey Miller, whose catering firm manages events at the barn.

Tyler Arboretum executive director Cricket Brien of Swarthmore (center) wields golden shears to cut the ribbon opening Tyler’s refurbished stone barn. She was joined by Tyler development coordinator Maddison Paule and Jeffrey Miller, whose catering firm manages events at the barn.

Maestro James Freeman conducts last Sunday’s performance of Chamber Orchestra First Editions at Lang Concert Hall at Swarthmore College. Pianist Marcantonio Barone was featured as soloist on the finale of the program, Mozart’s Concerto in E-flat Major, K. 449. COFE, which comprises professional and gifted amateurs including local students, will present its next concert in Swarthmore in February, 2017. Photo by Pete Prown

Maestro James Freeman conducts last Sunday’s performance of Chamber Orchestra First Editions at Lang Concert Hall at Swarthmore College. Pianist Marcantonio Barone was featured as soloist on the finale of the program, Mozart’s Concerto in E-flat Major, K. 449. COFE, which comprises professional and gifted amateurs including local students, will present its next concert in Swarthmore in February, 2017. Photo by Pete Prown

Delco Debates

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By Bob Small

Delco Debates presented its initial Hyde Park Speakers Corner event on Saturday, September 17, at Little Crum Creek Park in Swarthmore. Speakers gathered in a shady grove in the park by the large stone fireplace.

The Speakers Corner in London’s Hyde Park began in 1872 and continues to this day. Many other countries have since created a Speakers Corner, where anyone can speak.

This free event attracted a number of volunteer speakers including: Roger Balson, Bill Denison, Rich Gardner, Ed Mcadams, Tom McBride, Wil Scull and Bob Small. Bob Small gave a short introduction followed by Roger Balson explaining the parameters of the discussion.

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About a dozen short talks were given on a range of topics, including 9/11 as discussed in Europhysicsnews.org; the need for activism; Smedley Butler; constitutional amendments; environmental degradation; free and equal elections; gerrymandering; and some quick and easy questions to ask local and national congressional candidates.

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Afterward, we discussed future activities, which may include a discussion on constitutional amendments on the November ballot. Delco Debates is a group dedicated to providing a space for all viewpoints, including alternative and independent candidates. If you would like to be notified of future candidate forums, issue forums, Speaker Corners, etc., you can reach us a delcodebates@gmail.com.

Urgent Help Needed for Flood Victims

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By Andrea LeBlanc

Between August 8 and August 14, Louisiana was battered by roughly 6.9 trillion gallons of rain. The flooding that resulted damaged at least 146,000 homes and left 13 people dead. Even as thousands of families faced the reality of the loss of their homes, possessions and livelihoods, the Olympics and presidential election coverage moved the greatest natural disaster since Hurricane Sandy off the national stage. And the school year just started.

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While the national consciousness may have moved on, Susan Smythe, 55, of Swarthmore has been paying close attention to helping other Americans. She is one of five women running a Facebook page that connects families in need with people who want to help them. “We’ve created a direct way for American citizens to help their own in a time of need,” says Smythe. While this work has already helped nearly 200 families, the list of people who need help continues to grow.

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One month after the deluge, many of those who thought they could recover at least some of their belongings are now realizing that nothing is salvageable. Families who were waiting to see how Federal Emergency Management Agency could help them are now finding that the average FEMA assistance award of $8,000 will not help them get on their feet, let alone move forward with their lives. Some of them are turning to the “Adopt A Louisiana Family” Facebook page, which now has a waiting list of several hundred families hoping for help from the rest of the country.

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In a little over its first week of existence, the page had over 5,000 likes, and connected more than 130 families in need with donors. And the donors are not just individuals and families, says Smythe. “We’ve had church groups and student groups adopt families, running special drives to collect what’s needed. There have also been companies who have adopted families. And, believe it or not, the entire town of Centerville, Maryland, has stepped up to donate to families on our list.”

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According to Smythe, over 200 Louisiana families have been helped to date. She describes how it works: “The Facebook page enables the people who want to help to find and adopt the people who need that help. We put them in direct contact with each other, and together they find solutions to the problems caused by the flooding.”

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According to Smythe, donors have sent school uniforms, clothing and kitchen equipment to Louisiana, as well as bedding and toothbrushes, gently used children’s movie DVDs and dog food and other pet supplies. “Over the last few weeks, I have been looking around at my own home, thinking just what ‘losing everything’ looks like.”

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Smythe knows just how much work a flood recovery effort takes. “Just after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, I went to Mississippi with my boss and a group of church people,” Smythe says. “Seven people spent a week rebuilding one elderly couple’s house… a trailer, really. We slept in tents and worked in hundred degree heat. It was a lot of work, and we left them in much better shape. But that was half-a-dozen people taking a week to help two people get on their feet. This is the worst natural disaster since Hurricane Sandy, and thousands and thousands of people still need help. We’re trying to help them replace necessities and assist many of them as they go back to work or look for work.”

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Smythe has other ties to the flood-ravaged area. Her daughter attends medical school at Tulane in New Orleans, also hit by flooding. Her good friend, Laurie Brown Kindred, one of the other women running the “Adopt A Louisiana Family” effort, was born and raised in the Louisiana bayous. They met while Brown was the general manager of Mum Puppettheatre in Philadelphia, where Smythe was the resident costume designer.

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Kindred, 33, also knows first-hand the immediate devastation and loss of flooding in Louisiana, as well as how long it takes to recover and regain normalcy. When Hurricane Katrina destroyed the homes of many of her family members, including her grandparents, she spent its aftermath in New York, where she now lives, filing FEMA and insurance claims for her family, since it was easier for her to get Internet/phone connection than it was for them. She also was on the ground in Louisiana, cleaning out homes affected by the flood.

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Even though her family escaped damage from this summer’s flooding, Kindred’s experience made her hyperaware of the enormous impact of the flood’s aftermath. “I read about the disaster and watched it unfold on Facebook since there was so little national coverage because of the Olympics and the election,” says Kindred. “I immediately wanted to help but wasn’t sure how. Then, I saw that my childhood friend, Adrienne Bolotte, in Baton Rouge, had just created a public Facebook group, ‘Adopt A Louisiana Family.’ I offered to help, and as the page took off, I recruited four other friends, including Susan, to assist us.”

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Donors have also sent money; though Smythe and her fellow organizers do not handle funds — donors send everything directly to their adopted families. “We simply receive information from a family in need,” explains Smythe. “We get their names, ages, clothing sizes, and hobbies. We also get the current location to send things to, and donors choose who they would like to adopt.”

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Says Smythe, “Please visit the page, and read about the needs of the hundreds of families who have signed up for help, to see what you, or your company, or your church, school or book group can contribute. Message us through Facebook with the name of the family you want to help, and your e-mail address. Or e-mail us directly at AdoptLAfam@gmail.com, with the subject line “WANT TO DONATE, and we’ll get you started. Please consider contributing to a Louisiana family. Any donation, no matter how small, will be greatly appreciated.”

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Andrea LeBlanc , left, and Adrienne Bolotte

Andrea LeBlanc is one the four women who created the Facebook page. Andrea and Adrienne Bolotte are friends in Louisianna; Andrienne and Laurie Brown Kindred are friends from grade school who reconnected through this tragedy; and as stated above, Laurie and Susan are good friends from their connection to Mum Puppettheatre.

Susan Smythe

Susan Smythe

Laurie Brown Kindred

Laurie Brown Kindred

Sober Living House Hearing: One Step At a Time

(Left to right) Nether Providence Zoning Officer Maureen Feyas and Solicitor Michael Maddren listen as plaintiff’s attorney Wendy McLean questions a witness during the zoning hearing Monday night.

(Left to right) Nether Providence Zoning Officer Maureen Feyas and Solicitor Michael Maddren listen as plaintiff’s attorney Wendy McLean questions a witness during the zoning hearing Monday night.

After nearly a year’s delay through continuances, the public hearing began last Monday night about 8 p.m. An hour later, it was back on hold, continued until the Nether Providence Township’s Zoning Hearing Board next meets on October 17. Still, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Of course, many steps have led to this point, as attorneys prepared the cases for Nether Providence Township and for appellant Dung H. “Gabe” Lau, owner of the property at 224 N. Providence Road, where a “sober living” group residence has been in operation since at least 2015. The township cited Mr. Lau in September, 2015, under section 300-8 of its Code, noting that running a professional office and operating a drug treatment center in the house are not consistent with the R-2 zoning of the property for single-family occupancy.

In November 2015, a resident died in a third floor bathroom at 224, after injecting a fatal mixture of heroin and fentanyl. This brought to wider public attention the presence of a group home for recovering addicts in the midst of a neighborhood zoned residential, and Wallingford residents have since argued the issue of the sober living home’s continued operation. At Monday’s hearing, Media attorney Vincent Mancini questioned the witnesses on behalf of Bradley and Martha Lambertsen, neighbors of the 224 property.

Township solicitor Michael Maddren of Media called two witnesses on Monday night: Nether Providence police officer Patrick Fisher and township manager Gary Cummings. Officer Fisher testified regarding his response to a 911 call to the home in September, 2015, saying that he arrived to find paramedics attempting without success to revive Brian Fetterman. The officer noted the presence of a number of adult males, whom homeowner Lau said were his guests.

Gary Cummings reviewed the township’s history with the home and Mr. Lau, who purchased the 9-bedroom Victorian house in 2014 with the proposed use as a single-family home. In September 2014, Lau notified the township that he intended to rent the home. Then-township zoning officer Mary Hickman advised him that only a single family occupancy was allowed, and shortly afterward, Lau withdrew his rental use application.

When Cummings later met Lau at the home to deliver a code violation notice, Lau said that the house was being rented. During a later visit with other township representatives, Cummings said, Lau disclosed that the property was being used as a sober living home, with six “guests” in residence, and space for four more. According to the contract Lau shared with Cummings then, the guests at the 224 N. Providence Road house (identified as Providence Recovery House) agreed to pay in advance for weeks or months at the house and committed to treatment at 1223 N. Providence Road in Media. This is the address of Providence Living Treatment Center, a clinic apparently owned by Lau.

In cross-examination, Mr. Lau’s attorney, Wendy McLean, asked Cummings about other group homes in the township — how they are permitted and defined. Cummings said that while the zoning ordinance does not define “family” or “group home,” the other group homes in the township typically have 6 or fewer residents who live there for extended periods. The township may grant accommodations to permit these group residences in neighborhoods with single-family R-2 zoning, as a practice required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to thwart discrimination against persons with disabilities, a rubric which includes recovering addicts. When asked by solicitor Maddren whether active drug users would be considered protected by the ADA, Cummings responded, ”No.”

Maddren noted that “six or seven” zoning accommodation requests are now or have recently been heard in Delaware County, including the Fair Housing Board hearing in Swarthmore this month for 200 S. Chester Road.

Mr. Lau’s attorney, Wendy McLean, said the homeowner requested an accommodation for a sober living residence after issuance of the citation. She noted that extensive case law addresses issues concerning accommodations of zoning standards to permit group living uses. In cases like this where federal law (such as the ADA and the Fair Housing Act) may be invoked, appeal of a local zoning ruling can be made direct to federal court.

Zoning Hearing Board chairman Jeffrey Sobel said, “We all recognize the frustration” that township residents may have with the lengthy hearing process. Board member Christian Davis assured the crowd that public comment will be heard at a future hearing. The next installment is scheduled for Monday night, October 17, 7:30 p.m., at the Nether Providence Township building, 214 Sykes Lane in Wallingford. The sober living facility continues to operate.

Five Things to Know about the Fine Art and Crafts Festival

This Saturday, September 24 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

1. You can’t miss it — New location in Swarthmore Town Center is right on Park Avenue, running alongside Central Park and complementing the Farmers Market, which is open from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

2. Several muses will be represented — More than 50 regional and local artists and artisans display their work in many disciplines, while bands and solo artists fill the air with music throughout the day.

3. You’ll learn as you look — Artists and artisans will demonstarate their creative processes and techniques throughout the day… and most exhibitors are on hand and eager to talk with you about their work.

4. More reasonable than galleries — You’ll deal with the artists themselves, so pricing can be much lower than in galleries and stores.

5. More fun than galleries, especially for kids — Beyond music, art demos and snacks, children can explore making their own art in many forms, including tye-dye.

6. Bonus thing! Stop by the Swarthmorean booth at the Fine Arts and Crafts Fest, talk with the staff, and check out our new fall line of T-shirts.