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October 22, 2009

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The Chestnut Hill Local
8434 Germantown Ave.
Phila. PA 19118
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Main Street on the Avenue

Last week, we ran a front-page story on the results of a lengthy session of meetings by members of both the Chestnut Hill Business Association and the Chestnut Hill Community Association. The group – dubbed the Retail Vacancy Committee – produced an “interim” report that recommended a Main Street program for Chestnut Hill

Main Street programs are state-funded projects that set up non-profits to allocate funding for the improvement of vital neighborhood corridors. The money from the Department of Economic and Community Development, can go toward a number of things, from storefront façade restoration to organization and marketing efforts.

The program is more common than most people realize. Nearby Ambler and Glenside are Pennsylvania “Main Street Communities.” The city of Philadelphia also has a Main Street Manager. So does Roxborough.

But does Chestnut Hill really need help in organizing? Does it really need additional funding?

The Retail Vacancy Committee began early this summer, on the heels of a discussion out of the CHCA that the community faced a significant problem in the form of empty storefronts on Germantown Avenue. At that time the effects of the recession were being felt particularly hard. Store vacancies on the Avenue were greater than many could remember. Quite a few well known shops had shut their doors just last spring.

Since then, news on the Avenue has certainly been mixed. There have been positive developments. The Good Food Market opened in a site that had been empty for several years; the Palladio opened behind Sovereign Bank, and new shops have popped up at Germantown and Willow Grove avenues: Roots, Inc. and Millennium Salon.

But there has been bad news, too. Acadia Realty Trust did not announce that it is selling its stakes in the community – Borders Book Store and the row of shops on the 8400 block of Germantown Ave., now home to Jos. A Banks, Talbots and a Halloween costume shop. But the business community is buzzing about the imminent sale of those properties and the potential for what might displace an anchor store like Borders.

When someone I know heard that Walgreens might take the Borders site, he said, “It’s the end of Western Civilization.”

So, yes, the Hill probably needs a Main Street program. It definitely needs Hill organizations working together toward a common purpose, even though that partnership has caused many residents to wonder just whose side the CHCA is on anyway. That balancing act – representing the interests of its resident constituency, which will inevitably oppose development the business community favors – will be tricky, if it is even possible.

So, yeah, even though Main Street programs have recently been cut more than 30 percent – Main Street communications director, Norah Griffiths-Johnson told me most funding for façade improvements has been eliminated though she expected money would be available for administration costs – Chestnut Hill could use a Main Street Manager. And it could use someone sooner than later.

Pete Mazzaccaro

 

Commentary: Chestnut Hill Community Fund enjoying a year of progress

Like its beautiful homes and gardens, large and small, the urban village of Chestnut Hill takes lots of tender loving care.  Over the last four decades, the community association, with the financial resources of the Chestnut Hill Community Fund, has supported the volunteer initiatives and organizations that make Chestnut Hill an interesting, beautiful and welcoming community.

Since our last report to the community in April, there is lots of good news to report.  The investment returns of the Fund’s endowment are greatly improved, gaining 16.11 percent between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30.  A generous donor has offered a substantial matching grant to encourage more coordination between the CHCF grants and the CHCA and other organizations various green space projects.  The Main Street Fair’s return to Chestnut Hill Hospital netted over $10,000 for the Fund.  The CHCA and CHCF are moving forward together on many fronts, notwithstanding the recession. 

Even though the fund has a long history, many in the community do not understand what the fund is or does.  We appreciate this opportunity to share our information and to thank the many donors who have generously supported the fund’s mission year in and year out. 

What is the Chestnut Hill Community Fund?

The fund was established in 1971 as charitable trust of the Community Association. The trust defines the purpose of the fund: to assist in the improvement of the quality of life, primarily within the area commonly known as Chestnut Hill, located in the northwest section of the City of Philadelphia and in the adjacent areas of Montgomery and Philadelphia counties.  Donors to the Fund, a 501(c)(3) trust, receive tax deductions for their contributions; donors to the Community Association do not because it is a taxable nonprofit corporation.

The fund supports Chestnut Hill community activities that relate to education, religion, art, culture, preservation of wildlife, protection of ecology, natural resource conservation and other charitable activities.  It raises funds through its Annual Fund Drive, other solicitations and events.

What is the Annual Fund Drive?

Last year, through the generosity of 569 individuals, families and businesses, the Annual Fund Drive provided grants totaling $90,000 to the community association and 22 organizations to help assure that we keep our community public spaces, parks, and train station grounds well lit, nicely maintained and in bloom, our Fathers’ Club batting cages in good condition, our teenagers engaged constructively, our senior citizens mentally and culturally stimulated, and our community concerts free and well organized. 

These funds, compounded by hundreds of hours of labor from community volunteers, keep our precious Lake Wobegon, strong, good looking and above average!

Does the fund do anything other than the Annual Fund Drive?

The fund also receives bequests, gifts and grants unrelated to the Annual Fund Drive that are typically restricted for specific uses.  For example, a very generous member of our community made a pledge several years ago to fund the salary of the CHCA/CHCF’s administrative assistant for five years.  As a result, we are fortunate to have Noreen Spota, our friendly and knowledgeable resource at Town Hall for all the community association’s and fund’s activities. 

As noted above, this Fall, another long-time supporter of the fund offered $37,500 to match dollar for dollar (and two dollars to each dollar for new fund donors) of monies raised by the fund to support a new coordinated Green Space Initiative being organized by the community association board and several of the groups that currently take care of Germantown Avenue, its pocket parks, our train stations, etc.  The $10,000 raised by the Main Street Fair will be matched by this generous pledge.  There will be more information coming soon about this new Initiative.  To receive the rest of the matched funds, we need to raise the funds by Dec. 31.

In the early 1980s, the fund conducted a campaign to raise the money to buy Town Hall, located at 8534-36 Germantown Avenue.  The fund owns Town Hall, where the offices of the Association, the fund and the Local are housed on the second floor.  Fabrics on the Hill rents the first floor from the fund.  Over the last two years, the fund has undertaken several substantial maintenance projects at Town Hall paid for with rental income. 

Does the fund have an endowment?

Yes.  The trustees also invest and manage the fund’s endowment assets.  Mark Nottingham at Merrill Lynch is the investment advisor. The endowment fund, invested in a modestly aggressive allocation of equity and bond investments, has a year-to-date return of 16.11 percent and a fair market value of $586,890 as of Sept. 30, 2009.

Who runs the fund?

There are currently six trustees elected by the Community Association board:  Stan Moat, secretary, Bill McGuckin, treasurer, Susan Bray, M.D., Fred Walker, Fran Lane and me. 

We thank all of our generous CHCF donors and encourage all of the community to support the CHCF in its upcoming solicitations.

If you would like more detailed information about the fund, the most recent audited Financial Statement is posted on the CHCA Web site: www.chestnuthill.org.  The FYE March, 2009 Financial Statement and 990 tax return will be posted soon.  Also, the trustees will give their semi-annual report to the community association board of directors at its open meeting on Oct. 22.

 

The value of chores can’t be underestimated


As my husband and I quietly pow-wow on the eve of our son’s seventh birthday, the boy runs around the house lobbying at the 11th hour for a Nintendo DS, Star Wars Legos and new plastic weaponry. As each birthday passes, our son’s weekly allowance increases to half his age, and we add more jobs to his daily list of chores.

To regrettably quote Spiderman’s Uncle Ben, “with great power comes great responsibility.” And so we huddle, trying to figure out what additional tasks would be appropriate for someone with his awesome power.

I’m sure that my son has grown weary of me saying that one of my primary functions as a parent is to make sure that he learns how to function as an adult. His eyes roll back and his head listlessly drops to one side while I extol the advantages of working together as a family in order to live a reasonably clean and harmonious existence.

He does not want to hear about what I had to do as a kid or how he has it easier than the children in sweatshops who made his clothes. He just wants to know why he has to do it.

This started me thinking about the necessity of chores. Besides just saving money on outside domestic help and blindly following my parents’ lead, what purpose do they serve? According to Alice Rossi, a professor emerita of sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, “Housework has unique value in instilling a habit of serving others.”

“Doing household chores as a child was a major, independent predictor of whether a person chose to do volunteer or other community work as an adult,” she noted. “Thus, for parents who value service, housework is an important teaching tool.”

It was also noted that instructing boys about housework would make them more desirable mates in the future, as most women polled thought that an equal distribution of domestic duties was imperative for a happy marriage.

A study by Professor Sandra Hofferth of the University of Maryland found that children only spend about 24 minutes a day doing household chores, a figure that is down 25 percent since 1981. That’s probably no surprise to anyone – in fact, if our family is any indicator, it’s probably less.

Kids seem to be so busy these days with extracurricular activities that enforcing household obligations falls by the wayside. Parents are also less of a role model in this regard, employing more outside help for cleaning, cooking, yard work, etc. Consequently, many life skills are no longer being taught.

This might seem a stretch for a sustainability column, but I believe that the sustainability of the family is dependent on the participation of all its members – this being the first step in learning how to function as a member of society. These familial contributions ensure not only the family’s survival but also its civility.

The care and nurturing we promote early on trains children to become part of something bigger than themselves and to realize that their contribution is meaningful and necessary to the overall success of their family.

While it’s easier to “start the way you want to continue,” the single most poignant phrase I learned out of the many parenting guides I read is that there is still an opportunity to teach older children the value of chores. One of the recommended ways is to have a family chore chart. List the parent’s duties along with the child’s, and I assure you there will be less hassle about the small amount that they have to do compared to you.

I will sometimes offer to trade places with my son and set the table while he cooks breakfast, washes the dishes, feeds the dog and packs his lunch. This tact generally settles most disputes. But as he gets older, we must revisit this topic often, sometimes daily.

These are some tips from www.familycorner.com to keep in mind when planning your family’s chore chart. Most importantly, choose age-appropriate chores. While parents generally underestimate what their children can do, preschoolers are capable of doing a couple of simple tasks each day – older children, three or four.

Many of the links below, as well as at www.familycorner.com, will list tasks by age. Training is the next step. When I say to my son, “Go clean your room”, it means different things to both of us. Now I show him what goes where and how to begin when you can’t see the floor through the toys. Kids do not inherently know how to wash dishes or vacuum. You must teach them. Also, it helps to make chores very specific, such as “load the dishwasher” or “sweep the kitchen floor,” not just “clean up.”

If you’d like to print out some customized chore charts, try www.goalforit.com, or for age-appropriate chore charts, www.successfulfamilychores.com. This Web site includes lots of tips and strategies for compliance as well. If you’re into all things Internet, try www.nannyscircle.com,?which motivates younger children with “virtual” chores. This will cost you $9.95 a month for two kids and goes up from there.

Also?check?out www.kablinga.com, which lets you set up an interactive chart with reward points. It also allows a low level of interaction between your child and their friends. My sister loves this site but says it is mainly for younger children. Her 11-year-old was unimpressed, while her 8-year-old is looking for more imaginative tasks. The drawback to a virtual chore chart is that your kids will be spending more time online. We use the one on the fridge. Easy. No Frills.

Adherence to a chore chart should be tied to a feeling of importance and satisfaction for a job well done, not to an allowance, which is meant to teach good money management. Save rewards for actions above and beyond the call of duty.

One of those rewards can be the upcoming Halloween Hikes at the Schuylkill Center on Oct. 23 and 24 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., or Pumpkin Carving at Laurel Hill Gardens on Oct. 31 at 11 a.m. Reach me at ecologic.chlocal@gmail.com.

 



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