by Bob Fles and Laura Lucas, Community Fund Drive Co-Chairs

Our dear neighbors: You have just five weeks to make a donation to the Chestnut Hill Community Fund Drive to help fund important programming in our neighborhood. We hope that we can count on your support.

While it’s true there are tons of groups that could use your talents and energy at this time of year, most are in need of your financial support to carry out their 2014 plans. Some, like the free Pastorius Park Concerts, have already seen a significant past funding source disappear; so if you, your family and your neighbors love the concerts and music, you may want to write a check to ensure a full concert season.

This month marks the beginning of reviewing the grant requests from area community groups. It will culminate with our recommendations for funding allocations in six weeks.

We’ll let you in on a secret – it’s our favorite part of the Fund Drive Committee duties but also one of the most difficult. Here we get a sneak peek at what groups have planned for the Chestnut Hill area through their appeals for funding. We also get to meet the passionate leaders behind these plans and build a partnership with them.

Our difficulty is that donations to the fund drive have slipped in the last two years despite the increased transparency on the areas of focus for our grant support and additions to our fundraising efforts. At the same time, the number of leaders reaching out to us for funding for their programs has significantly increased.

Last week, our review committee met with the Chestnut Hill Community Association on a number of programs for which it is seeking funding. CHCA Community Manager Celeste Hardester and Pastorius Park Concerts Co-Chair Julie Byrne let us know that one of the sources of funding for the concerts, the Barra Foundation, has changed its grant criteria and, as such, the concerts will have $2,500 less in funding.

The organizers may have to consider if they need to reduce the number of concerts to make up this shortfall. However, an uptick in fund drive donations in the final weeks of the drive could help us cover that shortfall. (Keep in mind that the free concert season budget is typically $15,000 to $20,000, and the Chestnut Hill Hospital donation covers $10,000 of that. The remainder has been made up in the past from the Barra Foundation, the public’s donations to the Chestnut Hill Community Fund and fishbowl donations at the concerts.)

We have also met with Center on the Hill, Time 4 Time, Chestnut Hill Meals on Wheels, Northwestern Stables and Teenagers Inc.

In the coming weeks in February, we will meet with Project Learn, Northwest Victim Services, Chestnut Hill Historical Society, Tempesta di Mare, The Stagecrafters, Mt. Airy Learning Tree, Mt. Airy Art Garage, Northwest Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network, Friends of J.S. Jenks, Wissahickon Staking Club, Keystone Hospice, The Crossing, Chestnut Hill Center for Enrichment, Allens Lane Art Center, Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting, Chestnut Hill Book Festival, Our Mother of Consolation Parish School, Friends of Wyndmoor Station, Friends of the Wissahickon and Chestnut Hill Youth Sports.

If you have an affiliation with any of these groups or take part in any of the outstanding programs and events on the Hill, we hope that you consider making an additional contribution directly to the Chestnut Hill Community Fund Drive so we can continue to support great programming in our community. The Fund Drive continues through March 17.

To make a donation to the Chestnut Hill Community Fund, visit chestnuthill.org or Town Hall at 8434 Germantown Avenue.