Mayor Kearney: Borough in ‘Very Good Shape,’ But Hurting, Too

Swarthmore Borough Council
By Katie Crawford

At Borough Council’s legislative session on Monday, Finance committee chair Michael Carey reported that Swarthmore revenue was up roughly $200,000 in 2016 (over 2015), driven mostly by the surge of construction, increasing home sales, and an increase in parking revenue. Expenditures were up as well, but Carey noted that most of the increase was for one-time costs, including $92,000 in loan prepayments and the movement of $50,000 to the capital reserve. He summarized that financially speaking, “the borough is in very good shape.”

Mayor Tim Kearney echoed this assessment in his State of the Borough address, noting that the borough will not be raising taxes this year. Among significant 2016 events, Kearney noted the opening of the Inn at Swarthmore, which draws together all types of Swarthmoreans whom he described as “responsible drinkers,” given the low number of reported incidents. Kearney again praised all involved in the creation of Central Park Swarthmore, and pointed to events Town Center will make possible, including a planned Thursday night music series featuring Swarthmore musicians.

Another highlight from the year was the introduction of the Swarthmore One Card, which facilitated Swarthmore College students’ eating and shopping at borough establishments, to the tune of $326,000 in sales.

Loss and Division

Kearney spoke of the tragic loss of three young Swarthmore men in 2016. Schoolteacher Robbie Payne, kayaker Jamie Page, and college student Noah Arnold all were, “doing what we as a community would want them to do,” when their lives ended. Kearney stressed that, “Grieving for them and empathy for the people they left behind are important aspects of community.”

In noting the divisiveness of the past election season, and the ensuing rhetoric, Kearney stressed that alongside everyone’s First Amendment rights to free speech, is people’s right to “freedom from fear.” He encouraged all community members to continue to denounce “hate speech, hate crimes, harassment, racial bias, anti-semitism, Islamophobia, anti-immigrant activity, and harmful bias and discrimination in all forms.”

For 2017, Kearney looks forward to working more on the Aging-in-Place recommendations as well as continuing to make Swarthmore more pedestrian-friendly. He anticipates the borough exploring more difficult zoning issues this year as well as a “spirited” discussion regarding a possible liquor referendum. In closing, the mayor highlighted the vitality of the Swarthmore community, a place he is proud to call home.

Public comment during the session once again focused on aggressive tree and shrub removal by the National Realty Corporation on properties it owns on the 500 block of Riverview Road in Swarthmore. Tommy Beninger thanked council for its efforts over the years aimed at preserving the residential quality of this particular neighborhood. He highlighted the recent tree removal, and recounted his efforts including an October 21, 2016 call for police to stop removal of trees on NRC property, which had served as a visual barrier, as specified in a 1985 zoning ordinance.

Beninger stressed the importance of council addressing the “totality” of the 1985 ordinance; council president David Grove reminded the audience that council was, “very mindful of the facts.” Sean O’Donnell, also of Riverview Road, echoed Beninger’s comments, noting that his concerns extend to Swarthmore in general, and that, “if left to status quo, the situation will continue to erode.”

HEADStrong Order Appealed

On January 4, in response to council’s December grant of an accommodation to HEADStrong Foundation under the Fair Housing Act for the property at 200 S. Chester Rd., “persons who feel themselves aggrieved” by this decision appealed the order to the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County. Swarthmore Borough Council and the HEADStrong Foundation are appellees. Borough Council will be represented by solicitor Bob Scott. It is unknown whether the appeal will be heard by the Common Pleas court, or referred to Federal district court.

Referendum Pending?

Some board members of Town Center Inc. are among a group of Swarthmore residents seeking to gather sufficient signatures to introduce a liquor referendum onto the May primary election ballot. The referendum will specifically ask if “liquor by the glass should be permitted in the borough.” Council President Grove noted that although Borough Council funds Town Center, council’s opinion was not sought in this matter, nor will council have any part in the creation, wording, or circulation of the petition.

Grove stressed that Swarthmoreans need to understand that if this referendum is successfully passed, that “this is an action that, once taken, cannot be undone, and that Swarthmoreans would have no say in who would receive the liquor licenses, which could be transferred from any other place in Delaware County.” Council member Ross Schmucki had previously attended a meeting, organized by Town Center, of roughly 15 very enthusiastic community members who believe strongly that the passage of this referendum will benefit downtown Swarthmore.

In other council news, Ashley Grider and Matt McCabe were appointed as new members of the EAC, and Chris DeBruyn and Denise Disney were reappointed as members of the Planning Commission. Cindy McCloud, who formerly served as an alternate was appointed as an official member of the Zoning Hearing board.

WSSD Board Hears That ABC Spells Success

All seven current ABC-Strath Haven students attended Monday’s school board meeting, pausing for a photo op before returning to their studies at the ABC House in Swarthmore, where they live and work with resident directors Lysa and Andy Rieger. From left to right; (front) Corey, Abby, Ruth, Nia; (rear) Lysa, Kahlil, Nacala, Xavier, and Andy.

All seven current ABC-Strath Haven students attended Monday’s school board meeting, pausing for a photo op before returning to their studies at the ABC House in Swarthmore, where they live and work with resident directors Lysa and Andy Rieger. From left to right; (front) Corey, Abby, Ruth, Nia; (rear) Lysa, Kahlil, Nacala, Xavier, and Andy.

Wallingford-Swarthmore School Board
By Chris Reynolds

Monday’s meeting of the Wallingford-Swarthmore School Board focused on A Better Chance-Strath Haven as it begins its fifth decade of nurturing scholars. ABC board members John Whitelaw, Carol Hill, and Kristen Dunning reviewed some of the metrics and highlights of the program’s first 40 years. ABC students, 118 in total, have graduated from Strath Haven and its predecessor Swarthmore High School, among 14,000 nationally. Seven scholars are now enrolled at Strath Haven and living in the ABC House at 731 Harvard Avenue.

Students typically come from poorer school districts in large urban areas to enroll in private and public schools, which provide free education for four high school years. A network of institutions and individuals in WSSD supports other needs of the students, including housing, tutoring, mentoring and family interaction. ABC’s mission, Dunning said, is to find students who will most benefit from expanded opportunities. Nationally, the program has grown to include about 2,000 students enrolled each year at 300 schools, more than 98% of whom go on to four year college programs.

Kervin Pillot, a SHHS 2002 graduate who came from the South Bronx to ABC, commented on the meaning of ABC in his life as a student, and in his adulthood. After attending Cornell, he worked in law and finance before finding his way into academia, and is now assistant dean and director of admissions for the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania.

He credits his “family” in the Strath Haven community and the structure and support ABC provided for his success. “My interest in education stemmed from this;” he said, “from seeing how students can succeed when given an opportunity they wouldn’t have had, and a community rallying around them.” He congratulated ABC Strath Haven on its “phenomenal” 40 years. “I hope it continues on until a program like this is no longer needed,” a time in which opportunities are more equally available to students regardless of their economic and social circumstances.

WSSD board president Richard Sonntag addressed the ABC staff, volunteers and students following the focus topic presentation, saying, “We’re not the only community school in this country that does this, but there are not many … I want to thank all of you for all that you do to contributed to the program, especially the students, for the hard work you do, and for enriching our lives with your presence here.”

Notes on Absence Policy

Prior to the board vote approving first readings of certain updated and newly stated policies, Dr. Lisa Palmer, WSSD superintendent, and Strath Haven High School principal Dr. MaryJo Yannacone provided some background and answered specific questions from the board on Pennsylvania’s mandated attendance policies. The state’s Department of Education allows up to 10 days of medical, religious or other “lawful” absence (explained by a doctor’s or parent’s note within three days) per school year. Any absence thereafter can only be excused by a doctor’s note. Dr. Yannacone says, “We are in the process of investigation with PDE, because that policy poses a challenge” in cases where a student has a recurring condition or needs regular treatment.

Dr. Yannacone reassured members that the effect of WSSD’s attendance policies is not be to punish or impede the advancement or graduation status of students with legitimate medical or personal absences totaling more than 10 days during the year. “We follow the state code with regard to the reporting of lateness and absence, however we have flexibility within our own policies with regard to work makeup.” She later noted that the attendance system now in use at Strath Haven High School calculates student attendance down to the minute, which puts Haven firmly in compliance with state mandated procedures.

Student representative Valerie Henderson reported on activities and accomplishments at the district’s five schools, including Wallingford Elementary School’s winter concert with the Orff Ensemble, and its Martin Luther King Day presentation Friday; Swarthmore-Rutledge School’s Spirit Night fundraiser at Oasis Family Fun Center in December to benefit SRS’s Home & School Association programs; SRS teachers’ collection of books and school supplies for the Bok-Martin School in Philadelphia; and students’ sandwich making service project for a local food bank.

Nether Providence Elementary School will hold its winter concert next Wednesday, January 18, at 7 p.m., and NPE students will join Strath Haven Middle School 7th graders in the 9th annual MLK day of services this Friday. SHMS’s theme for the day is “Live Like a Hero.” Strath Haven High School students are in the midst of Keystone testing, and preparing for the end of the fall semester January 20. Spring semester begins Tuesday, January 24.

What Will You Do to Commemorate Dr. King?

The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday, January 16, will be marked by the closure of Wallingford-Swarthmore schools and the Swarthmore Public Library (the Furness Library in Wallingford will be open during regular hours).

So what are you and your family doing to make the holiday meaningful? Here are a few local options for service, play, learning and joy on your MLK Monday:

Chester Children's Chorus

Chester Children’s Chorus

Children’s Choruses Perform Joint

Concert The Chester Children’s Chorus and St. David’s Episcopal Church Youth Choir will cap the MLK holiday on Monday, January 16, with a free joint concert at 7 p.m. in St. David’s Chapel, located at 763 South Valley Forge Road, Wayne.

Classical, sacred, and popular selections of music will be performed. Special guest and founder of The Hooters, Eric Bazilian, will perform his hit “One of Us” with the choirs. For more information on both choruses visit chesterchildrenschorus.org and stdavidschurch.org.

Celebrating Fellowship and Dr. King this Sunday

On Sunday, January 15, the Media Fellowship House, the Media Area NAACP, and Media area houses of worship invite the public to the 28th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. birthday celebration on Sunday, January 15, at 2:45 p.m.

Join with your community to remember Dr. King and the men and women who struggled right along with him.

The event will take place at the First United Methodist Church of Media, State and Lemon Streets. Patrick Houston, a senior at Swarthmore College who introduced President Obama at a September rally in Philadelphia, will be the featured speaker. There will be a special reception following the celebration.

16th Annual ‘Hoops From the Heart’ Event

Four basketball clinics will be held from 9 a.m. to noon, to raise money and food donations for the Community Action Agency of Delaware County, Inc.

The clinics at Cabrini College, Haverford College, Neumann University, and Widener University, are open to boys and girls in grades 1 through 8, and cover all aspects of the game.

The cost ranges from $20-$30 (including a T-shirt), and each athlete is asked to donate a nonperishable food item to the Life Center of Eastern Delaware County.

For more information, contact Debbie Brodeur at CAADC at (484) 802-7708. To register, online forms are available at each school’s website.

Cradles to Crayons’ Collection Drive

Join Cradles to Crayons at the Swarthmore Community Center in its largest product collection of the year as a part of Greater Philadelphia’s MLK Day of Service, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The community center event is for collection of clothing, underwear and outerwear, school supplies, shoes, baby gear, and just about anything new or gently used for children up to age 12 living in homeless or low-income situations.

The Swarthmore Community Center is at 715 Harvard Avenue. For more information, e-mail Margot O’Riordan at moriordan@regancomm.com.

Frances Sheehan Comes Home to Delaware County

Frances Sheehan

Frances Sheehan

After 30 years of commuting from her Swarthmore home to Chester County, Frances M. Sheehan is coming home to Delaware County to head up the new Crozer Keystone Community Foundation. She comes to the Crozer Keystone foundation after 15 years at the helm of the Brandywine Health Foundation, a nonprofit associated with Brandywine Hospital, and prior to that, with Planned Parenthood of Chester County.

CKCF was created as part of the 2016 sale of nonprofit Crozer Keystone Health System to for-profit Prospect Medical Holdings. After CKHS’s obligations were paid, the remainder went into the independent foundation, which will continue Crozer Keystone’s community health programs. CKCF will also develop its own grantmaking and fundraising initiatives toward improving the health of DelCo residents.

The Swarthmorean talked last month with Fran at Hobbs Coffee in Swarthmore. She did not need the caffeine in order to radiate energy and enthusiasm about her new position and CKCF’s mission.

The Swarthmorean: How will your work at CKCF differ from your previous situation at Brandywine’s foundation?
Frances Sheehan: I was the first CEO at the philanthropic arm of Brandywine Hospital. We started with two staff, and grew to 10. We distributed $15 million in grants to groups that helped expand access and delivery of health care. Here, I’m starting off with 58 staff, including the employees of the community health programs that the hospital system was running: the healthy start program, the nurse family partnership — both of which are aimed at getting women into prenatal care, getting families into health insurance, children into pediatric care — which are evidence-based programs that have been shown to be effective. Our headquarters is in Media, but we have staff in Chester, Springfield and Upper Darby.

We also handle the WIC [Women, Infants and Children] federal program; we receive the funds and employ the nutritionists, visiting nurses, and community health and outreach workers. The foundation enables the continued operation of countywide health programs. We’ll also be fundraising for additional dollars, and grantmaking. As an independent public charity, we are not only able to bring in additional funds to the community, it is our responsibility. So we have inherited a certain asset base from the sale, but there is so much need, so much opportunity.

TS: What sort of opportunity?
FS: We see ourselves partnering with other foundations that may have similar interests. For instance, we’ve already had a donor come forward and make a nice gift specifically restricted to addressing mental health issues. So we will be in conversations with the Scattergood Foundation, which is active in that special area. We are serving all of Delaware County, where there are disproportionate percentages of poorer children, senior citizens, and immigrants. We will look at where the needs are, but also where the opportunities are for us to really move the needle. People don’t realize that in another year, Medicare is moving into managed care. Health foundations can play a convening role among all those senior-serving agencies, to help them make connections that can improve services down the road.

TS: Is there any advocacy role for foundations?
FS: Brandywine and now Crozer Keystone foundations are part of the Pennsylvania Health Funders Collaborative, headed by [Swarthmorean] Ann Torregrossa. We’ve really benefited from her public policy experience and knowledge. For instance, during the Corbett administration, we partnered with the Pennsylvania Economy League for a study that showed that it was to the economic benefit of the state to expand Medicaid. We were not successful at convincing the Corbett administration of that, but it laid the groundwork, and when Governor Wolf came in, the state immediately expanded it.

TS: How will the CKCF support existing community health initiatives?
FS: We will go through a community needs assessment and strategic planning process. At BHF, our strategic plan focused on a series of issues that were of importance to us: getting people enrolled in health insurance, providing health care to those who are uninsured or on medical assistance, primary care, addressing chronic diseases, maternal health.

As the years went by, we expanded our role — for instance, helping young people be successful, because all the statistics show that high school graduates live longer and healthier. And sometimes we have the opportunity to bring additional dollars to the table [for larger development projects]. Foundations like this can have a tremendous impact on their communities.

TS: How big is the CKCF?
FS: That’s a little up in the air right now. There is a final audit that will show what the asset base will be. This is going to be the largest foundation serving Delaware County, and that’s really exciting. And we’ll expect to grow through private donations and bequests, as time goes on.

What to do? What to know!

Game On! For SPC Revelers

Swarthmore Presbyterian Church members and friend are invited to save the date of Friday, February 24, for “Game On!,” the church’s biannual fundraiser. Guests will play casino-style games in order to win tickets for raffle baskets in this event, which turns the Old Mill in Rose Valley into a swanky “casino.”

Beginning at 6:30 p.m., enjoy drinks and a 3-course dinner with other high rollers. Music and silent auctions create a festive mood for play and conversation among friends and neighbors. In-home babysitting by church youth is available for a nominal fee.

Information and tickets ($85 apiece) are available at swarthmorepres.org.

Weaving Workshop at Swarthmore Public Library

Discover the joy of weaving narrow bands on a back strap loom with Deborah Sax on Thursday, January 19, from 10 a.m. to noon.

The narrow bands can be used as bookmarks, drawstrings, and even shoe strings. Students will learn how to make a loom, how to thread and create tension so that they can weave on their looms individually or with friends, and much more.

This program is free and open to the public, but only 16 students can enroll. To register, please call (610) 543-0436 or e-mail swarthmore@delcolibraries.org.

Floating Drawing no. 11

Floating Drawing no. 11

Alexis Petroff Opens
‘Floating Drawings’ With Lecture

On Thursday, January 19, the List Gallery opens “Floating Drawings,” an exhibition of drawings and mixed media works by American artist Alexis Petroff.

Petroff, the 2017 Marjorie Heilman Visiting Artist at Swarthmore College, will talk about his work in a lecture at Lang Performing Arts Center at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday. A reception will follow at the gallery from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

The exhibition (which runs through March 12), lecture, and reception are open to all, free of charge. For information, e-mail gallery director Andrea Packard at apackar1@swarthmore.edu.

MLK Jr. Remembered
at The Gathering Place Wednesday

The Gathering Place invites the community for a special celebration of the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. at its lunch meeting on Wednesday, January 18.

The event will begin at noon at the Swarthmore United Methodist Church, 129 Park Avenue.

Join the group for soup and bread from Occasionally Yours (make a small donation to defray costs) or bring your own lunch. Dessert and beverages will be provided. For questions, call (610) 543-7810.

Reading With Dogs at HKF

PAWS for Reading lets kids connect with dogs through reading or taking a picture walk through a book together. Each student, age 5 and up, has an individual 15-minute interaction with one of the calm and friendly PAWS dogs.

Now is the time to register for the sessions, which take place on certain Sundays and Tuesdays at the Helen Kate Furness Free Library in Wallingford, starting January 22 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Other Sunday sessions will be held February 19 and March 19. Tuesday sessions are available from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., on February 7, March 7, and April 4.

To register, contact Lori at the Furness Library, 100 N. Providence Road, via e-mail at fscsd@delcolibraries.org. or call (610) 566-9331.

Ken Druse on ‘The New Shade Garden’ at Scott

Ken Druse, who has been called “the guru of natural gardening”, will be presenting a lecture at the Scott Arboretum.

Ken Druse, who has been called “the guru of natural gardening”, will be presenting a lecture at the Scott Arboretum.

The Scott Arboretum welcomes award-winning photographer and author Ken Druse on Sunday, January 22, at 2 p.m. for the Joanne Walkovic Memorial Lecture, cosponsored with the Hardy Plant Society/Mid-Atlantic Chapter.

Druse will be speaking on the challenges to shade gardening that have arisen due to climate change, and will detail new ways of looking at all aspects of the gardening process, from designing the garden to choosing trees to plant.

The event is free and open to the public and will take place at Chang Hou Hall. For more information, call (610) 328-8025 or visit scottarboretum.org.

Inheritance the Renaissance of a Vision at CAC

Art by Matiko Mamaladze

Art by Matiko Mamaladze

Community Arts Center instructor Matiko Mamaladze, an artist from Tbilisi, Georgia, who now lives in Media, presents Inheritance the Renaissance of a Vision, a new exhibition including watercolors, oils, pen and ink sketches by Ioram Mamaladze displayed alongside his granddaughter Matiko’s figurative work of unique subjects.

The exhibition will have its opening reception and artist meet and greet this Saturday, January 14, 2017 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at M.A.C. Gallery, 609-B W. State Street, Media. The exhibition will run through February 12. Info is at mediaartscouncil.org.

Hitchhike to Hedgerow

Park two of Douglas Adams’s spacy sci-fi comedy has landed on stage at the Hedgerow Theatre in in Rose Valley. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Part 2 is a modern classic, originally a multipart radio play on BBC in the 1970s, and since then the basis for a movie, novels, and countless stage presentations.

The Hedgerow approach is to take the play back to its origins, with actors from the repertory theatre company joining familiar regional actors in a witty, high-energy rendition of this clever and iconic exploration of the absurd, the brilliant, and the banal.

The production opens this Friday, January 13, at 7:30 p.m. and continues on Saturdays (4 p.m. and 8 p.m.) and Sundays (2 p.m.) through January 29. Tickets and information are at hedgerowtheatre.org and (610) 565-4211.

Technology Day for Seniors

Come to the Helen Kate Furness Library, 100 N Providence Road, Wallingford, if you are having trouble with getting your newly acquired technology to work, to receive help from volunteers from Vanguard on Monday, January 16, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

In previous years, Vanguard has helped over 150 participants answer their technology questions. Sign up for an appointment, or just drop by. The event is free and open to all. Contact Jennifer Stock at (610) 566-9331 or Kathy at Surrey Services for Seniors at (610) 566-0505.

Blood Donation Opportunities in January

The American Red Cross seeks your help in addressing a winter blood shortage by making a donation at one of the following collection events in the area:
Friday, January 16, 2 p.m.-7 p.m.: The Blue Church, 940 Baltimore Pike, Springfield.
Monday, January 19, 2 p.m.-7 p.m.: Our Lady of Perpetual Help, 2130 Franklin Avenue, Morton.
Tuesday, January 20, 7 a.m.-5 p.m.: Riddle Memorial Hospital, 1068 W. Baltimore Pike.

Resolution 2017: Discover the Newest Rail-Trail in Delaware County

By Virginia Thompson

The new year got off to a great start for my husband and me with a morning walk on the newly completed Chester Creek Rail-Trail Phase 1, a 2.8-mile long paved walk paralleling the creek on the right-of-way of the former Chester Creek Branch line of the Pennsylvania Railroad. We were not alone, as the trail was quite busy and the parking lots full to overflowing.

Winding through bucolic scenery, past the Kings Mill banquet facility, abutting part of the trail around Linvilla Orchards, next to some active and former manufacturing firms, and above a wide pasture of dog statues (which remind birds not to land), the trail is a 20-year labor of love that has finally been realized.

Chester Creek from the new Rail-Trail in Delaware County. Photo by Virginia Thompson

Chester Creek from the new Rail-Trail in Delaware County. Photo by Virginia Thompson

Who knew that Aston and Middletown townships still had rural woodland in their midst? The Friends of the Chester Creek Branch did! This nonprofit organization founded by the late Mike Fusco, worked long and hard to get their vision implemented.

Phase 1 of the trail goes from Chester Creek Road to Lenni Road. Phase 2, for which engineering funding was recently secured, will go from Chester Creek Road to near Bridgewater Road. When complete, the trail will run from the former SEPTA Wawa train station to Upland.

Many organizations were involved in completing Phase 1: The two townships provided support for the trail concept and ultimately for the engineering and construction. Middletown Township approved the land development plan. SEPTA leased the railroad right-of-way to Delaware County, a task that proved long and challenging but will now serve as a model lease for other southeastern Pennsylvania rail-trails that require such an agreement. Delaware County Council also provided support, and PennDOT managed the engineering work.

Along with the diligence of the Friends organization, the capabilities of the Delaware County Planning Department were essential to the project’s completion. Its staff, including my husband Tom Shaffer, managed most of the project, working closely with the townships and SEPTA, helping with the feasibility study and engineering, and gathering funding for the engineering and construction of the trail. Maintenance will be provided by the county parks department and the Friends organization.

I know how strongly the Planning Department advocated for the trail, and I witnessed the tremendous joy and pride its staff took in the trail’s opening in December. An official ribbon-cutting will be held in the spring.

The disappointment among all the partners is that Mike Fusco, who died suddenly in 2014, never saw the completion of any part of the trail.

Check out the website for the trail at chestercreektrail.org. Better yet, go for a stroll or a ride on the trail and discover formerly unknown spaces in our midst. We also might discover that trails connecting neighborhoods can contribute to improved relationships with others, and better understanding among people of different opinions and circumstances.

Welcoming the Weary

Carol Lastowka visited last weekend with the family of Hassan (right).

Carol Lastowka visited last weekend with the family of Hassan (right).

Fewer than 20,000 of the estimated 4.8 million refugees from Syria have come to America. But the pace has picked up, and gradually, Syrian refugee families are finding their way to safety and recovery in many corners of America.

One of these corners is Northeast Philadelphia, where a small enclave of Syrians is growing in number and confidence amidst a larger Arab-American community. Public schools in the Northeast are set up to accommodate nonnative children, and family members or faith communities may provide financial and other support. But there are a thousand elements to making life work in America, and the cracks and crevices can trip up any recent immigrants and can be particularly vexing to families that have been uprooted from a violent land.

Helping several of these families integrate into society and handle a myriad of challenges are volunteers like Swarthmorean Carol Lastowka. Through the aptly named American Friend program of HIAS-PA (the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society of Pa.), Lastowka is in daily contact and visits weekly with two Syrian families who lived in Homs before that city was razed by government forces.

Lastowka teaches family members English, liaises between parents and schools and doctors, helps kids with homework and adults with paperwork and finances, “and probably a dozen other things.” But she is only one person.

“Because their needs are so intense, I appealed to my network through Facebook and Nextdoor,” Lastowka said. “The results have been incredible. Many, many people in our community have become indirectly involved with these two families.” In addition to tutoring and homework help sessions being arranged by a Strath Haven student, Carol’s friends and neighbors have donated household items and cash, funded a microbusiness started by one of the women, and helped one of the men set up a carpentry business.

“Thanks to our open-hearted community, these families feel supported and cared for,” Lastowka said, noting that HIAS is eager to assist others who care to get involved. Visit http://hiaspa.org/get-involved/volunteer.

Carol with Syrian Nezar's family.

Carol with Syrian Nezar’s family.

Briefly Noted

1-13 campus bookstore

At the Swarthmore College and Community Store, a buy-one, give-one sale continues through the weekend. For each school supply item bought and donated there, the store will contribute an identical item, all to benefit local after-school tutoring for needy children. Swarthmore College students will collect the supplies, and distribute them Monday as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. Helping with the drive from the College are (left to right) Joyce Tompkins, religious and spiritual life adviser, students Abha Lal and Cameron Wiley, and Dion Lewis, director of the Black Cultural Center.

Personals

These local students were named to the fall semester Dean’s List at their respective colleges:
Nicholas Dudek of Wallingford and Timothy McCullough of Rose Valley at York College of Pennsylvania.
Jamie Kenney of Wallingford at Bucknell University.
Caleb Baukman of Wallingford and Rachel Zuppo of Rutledge at Kutztown University.

1-13 mother of providence

Mother of Providence Regional Catholic School recently received two grants from the Connelly Foundation’s PACT (Promoting Achievement through Classroom Technology) program. The school will be receiving 30 new Chromebooks and a 3D printer, which will be used to expand the school’s STEM program, including its award-winning SeaPerch robotics program. Pictured holding the new computers are students (l. to r.): Nicholas Buxton (4th gr.), Sienna Walls (4th gr.), Maribel Haas (5th gr.), Madison Mitchell (5th gr.), and Aiden Babicki (4th gr.).

Gabriel Lehmen of Mother of Providence Regional Catholic School, pictured here with (l. to r.) principal Theresa Waters, Josephine Mandeville of the Connelly Foundation, and Rev. Edward Hallinan, pastor of St. John Chrysostom Parish, has been awarded a Neumann Scholarship to attend a Philadelphia Archdiocesan high school of his choice by the Connelly Foundation.

Gabriel Lehmen of Mother of Providence Regional Catholic School, pictured here with (l. to r.) principal Theresa Waters, Josephine Mandeville of the Connelly Foundation, and Rev. Edward Hallinan, pastor of St. John Chrysostom Parish, has been awarded a Neumann Scholarship to attend a Philadelphia Archdiocesan high school of his choice by the Connelly Foundation.

 

Letters to the Editor

Fight for a Clean Energy Future: Oppose Pruitt

To the Editor:

Fossil fuels poison our air, water, and land, sickening and causing the premature deaths of humans and other animals, and escalating the current and dire consequences of climate change, including droughts, storms, sea level rise, floods and ocean acidification. Things will get even worse if we do not act to put in place an aggressive and ambitious Clean Power Plan that helps to eliminate by 2050 all use of fossil fuels and to increase to 100% our economy’s reliance on clean and renewable energy sources and energy efficiency.

I have lived in Delaware County all my life, and in the City of Chester since 1989. In 1992 Chester became home to the nation’s largest trash-burning plant. This incinerator, under the control of Covanta since 2005, has the fewest pollution controls installed among any of the six incinerators in PA, or in Covanta’s collection of 39 incinerators. Covanta didn’t put on its Chester incinerator the pollution controls they’ve used elsewhere to remove nitrogen oxides (NOx) that aggravate and cause asthma as well as other respiratory problems. Chester’s rate of child hospitalizations due to asthma is more than three times the state average, in large part because Covanta is one of the worst NOx polluters in eastern Pennsylvania, and also one of the worst polluters in the region for mercury, lead, dioxins and other toxins that contribute to cancers, birth defects, learning disabilities and more.

In fact, 90% of all toxic releases in Delaware County come from Chester area sources, at a terrible cost. Chester has the highest infant mortality rate in the state (more than double that of Delaware County); the highest percentage of low-weight births (almost double that of Delaware County); and 60% of its children have unacceptably high levels of lead in their blood. Chester’s mortality and lung cancer mortality rates are 60% higher than the rest of the county.

With a strong push from ordinary citizens and the elected officials we send to Harrisburg and Washington, D.C., a clean energy future and a Clean Power Plan at the state and federal levels can reduce the harm being done to Chester city residents, other citizens and living things in PA and the U.S.

This will require the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to support the vital mission to protect our environment and keep Americans safe and healthy. However, Scott Pruitt, the nominee for EPA Administrator, has actually filed lawsuits challenging enforcement of the agency’s rules and protections. He has denied the science behind climate change, even though 97% of scientists agree that global warming is happening and that human activity is the primary cause.

I applaud Senator Casey’s statement that he believes Mr. Pruitt is against environmental protection, and I hope this means he will vote “no” on the confirmation of Mr. Pruitt as the next EPA Administrator. Senator Toomey should vote the same, showing that he sides with science, the ability of the EPA to do its job, and Pennsylvanians who want cleaner air, water and land.

Jocolyn Bowser-Bostick, chair
Delaware County Green Party

Little impact expected from HEADstrong House

To the Editor:

As the brother of a 56-year-old mentally handicapped sister I have witnessed a large number of opposition campaigns to community-based housing for the less fortunate.

They have all begun the same way, a call to action to oppose an initiative that will change the character of our neighborhood and reduce our property values. Opposition to the HEADstrong presence in our town is following a similar script.

Once the house is operational we will discover that the occupants of the house will have little presence in our community. They are recovering and will spend most of their time inside or on the porch.

The comings and goings of caregivers will be more noticeable and I have witnessed cases where caregivers have not respected the quiet nature of the community. Loud car radios are the most common complaint. These caregivers are economically disadvantaged and easily replaced. If they want to keep their job they need to be courteous. If they don’t, there is always someone else to replace them.

I have seen cases where community care properties are poorly maintained. These problems occur when the properties are rented, not owned. The fact that HEADstrong is purchasing the property is promising. They will have an economic incentive to maintain the building and the grounds.

I do see one downside to using this property for transient housing. We are not going to form the long-term neighborly relationships with the HEADstrong residents that so many of us in Swarthmore value.

To that, I can only say that in my 20+ years in Swarthmore I have never had social involvement with anyone that has resided at 200 South Chester Rd. Perhaps you have. When all is said and done, the presence of the HEADstrong House in our community, just like the presence of my sister’s group home in north Wilmington, will have little, if any, noticeable impact.

Charlie Pell
Swarthmore

Other worlds

To the Editor:

Barbara Whitaker-Shimko writes: “When you turn into Swarthmore you are in a different world” (“New Views from Riverview,” 1/6).

To escape the “feel” of the world in the first half of the 20th century, my family moved, in 1945, from The Bronx to the woods of Westchester County, N.Y. But then I watched natural beauty crushed during the next quarter-century by commercial development.

To escape this fate I moved my family to this world in 1968. Now, Riverview residents who will plant trees on their own property to preserve the feel of their world cannot wait for arboreal maturity and will be advised to build a wall between Swarthmore and Springfield. Perhaps Trump will pay for it; as he has isolationist tendencies. Or perhaps he will erect a casino instead.

John Brodsky
Swarthmore

Flippancy

To the Editor:

As Trump awaits his inauguration he continues to tweet coarse, unimaginative and derogatory comments about his many opponents. Timothy Egan in the New York Times (1/7/17) presented an imaginative depiction of the mountebank in waiting. “Trump, the pumpkin-haired rooster taking credit for the dawn.” An accurate description which may appeal to many of this newspaper’s readers.

Ezra S. Krendel
Swarthmore

New Views from Riverview

Swarthmore Borough Council
By Katie Crawford

The encroachment of the commercial character of Springfield Square South into the backyards of residential houses on Riverview Road dominated most of the first Borough Council meeting of 2017. Bill Menke of 6 Ogden Avenue spoke on behalf of many neighbors he described as “very concerned.” He mentioned in particular 539 Riverview Road residents Christine Donato and Sandy Ferlanie, who woke up one morning to find all of the barrier trees on the property adjacent to theirs removed, creating a direct view onto Baltimore Pike and Springfield Square from their backyard.

Springfield Square South is owned and managed by the National Realty Corporation, a real estate development firm based in Springfield and run by the de Botton family, who also own 545 and 541 Riverview. Menke confirmed that the removal of all of the vegetation and buffer plantings resulted in full exposure of Baltimore Pike. Marie Koethe, a resident of 451 Riverview Road, echoed Menke’s concerns, particularly regarding the removal of mature trees. Koethe spoke of the frustration of neighbors who feel powerless to stop further tree removal and implored council to act on their behalf.

Peter Bloom of 416 Riverview Road asked council what the timeline would be for hearing their response and plan of action given the “supreme anxiety of neighbors.” Council president David Grove responded that the borough solicitor Bob Scott would be in written communication with the de Botton family within two weeks to make a series of points.

Barbara Whitaker-Shimko of 445 Riverview also addressed council, noting that, “When you turn into Swarthmore you are in a different world,” and that the “encroachment of Springfield Square South would take this away.”

In closing, Menke noted that the property at 545 Riverview Road owned by the de Botton family is now listed on Zillow as 545 Baltimore Pike with a Springfield address. Past efforts by the de Botton family to have this property rezoned as commercial have failed. According to council solicitor Bob Scott the de Botton family is unable to appeal this decision, thus protecting the property from commercial development. Council President Grove reiterated that, regardless of Zillow search results, the property is in Swarthmore.

Council member Mary Walk and solicitor Bob Scott had met with Riverview residents at an earlier date as well to discuss their concerns.

Ewald Appointed Assistant Solicitor

In other borough news, Jane Billings was reappointed as borough manager, Pennoni and Associates were reappointed as the borough engineers. Bob Scott was reappointed a Borough Solicitor, but given his wife’s new job at Swarthmore College he will recuse himself in all matters dealing with the college. To that end, Carl Ewald was appointed assistant solicitor.

Nancy Carullo was reappointed as borough treasurer. Her former post as borough tax collector still needs to be filled. Peg Christensen was reappointed to the “vacancy” board. She will be called on in the event that there is a tie in council. Susan Smythe was reappointed as the Swarthmore representative for the Central Delaware County Authority.

In other news, the construction of a “gabion” wall which will serve to strengthen the creek embankment where the sidewalk will go on Cresson Lane should begin in the next couple of months.

Council president David Grove encouraged all community members to consider joining one of the committees associated with the work of council, stressing that participation is encouraged regardless of race, gender, orientation, religious background OR political affiliation despite the current council’s entirely democratic roster. There are currently openings on the Environmental Advisory Committee, the Tree Committee, the Human Relations Committee, and the Planning Committee. Interested parties should contact any council member.

Mayor Tim Kearney traveled to Harrisburg to attend the swearing-in of Leanne Krueger-Braneky. Kearney expressed gratitude to have someone of her caliber representing Swarthmore, noting his consistent amazement at her ability to navigate the complex political landscape at the state house.