WMAN pivots to stay active and plan for next year

By Walt Maguire
Posted 12/10/20

West Mt. Airy Neighbors (WMAN) had plans for 2020. While this year has been different, adjustments have kept members busy.

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WMAN pivots to stay active and plan for next year

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West Mt. Airy Neighbors (WMAN) had plans for 2020. Since 1953, the association has been active in community life, with fundraising events, zoning meetings and a full schedule of activities and workshops.

Their two biggest fundraisers of the year, Eat Your Heart Out and Mt. Airy Day, had to be cancelled because of the large crowds. The plans are still uncertain for next Spring.

Alex Aberle, 28, has been president of WMAN since June 2020. Prior to that, he’d been on the board for a year. “It’s disheartening, and it also creates a funding gap,” Aberle said.

They compensated with a Holiday Greens Sale.  “It was a very successful fundraiser and we’ll do it again next year,” he said.

 There’s also a new monthly virtual yoga class, usually taught by a member of the community on a pay-what-you-want-donation basis.

While this year has been different, adjustments have kept members busy. There have been the regular workshops on community safety and bulletins on crime and Covid-19. Their schedule of community zoning meetings moved online. There’s an active mailing list, keeping members informed. WMAN teamed with other organizations to form the Mt. Airy Schools Coalition, highlighting the efforts underway at Anna Blakiston Day School and the Eleanor C. Emlen, Charles W. Henry, Henry H. Houston, John Story Jenks, and Anna L. Lingelbach Schools.

This Fall, their planned series of workshops on race and diversity in Mt. Airy changed to embrace this year’s broader issues on race.

“Our Quality of Life committee had already been working on a discussion series,” he said. “The racial diversity we have in the neighborhood has been declining steadily. That’s alarming to a lot of people because part of what makes Mt. Airy so special is its diversity. So, in response to that, the committee had come up with the idea of having a series of conversations on the subject.”

As the year went on, the deaths of Black men and women and subsequent protests lead to a shift from a specifically Mt. Airy focus to a broader discussion of race relations. There have been three sessions this Fall, covering “Race and Franchise: Voting as a Key to Overcoming Racial Barriers”; “Mt. Airy’s Rebirth,” a background to the current state of things; and “Race and the Education of our Children.” Panelists have included Congressman Dwight Evans and Abigail Perkiss, author of “Making Good Neighbors: Civil Rights, Liberalism, and Integration in Postwar Philadelphia.”

“I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished this year,” Aberle said. “I’m really encouraged by our progress and our momentum. I’m very excited for next year, and what’s coming up.”

Some of the innovations, such as the Greens Sale, will carry on next year, but there’s hope the community will find ways to come together by this time next year.

“We’ve spent a lot of the fall planning out 2021 – what does that look like, and what are we going to be able to do safely in-person?” Aberle said. “It’s a little tough to plan, but we have some really cool stuff on the calendar for next year.”

Aberle and his wife Violette Levy moved to Mt. Airy in 2017 when they purchased the Upsala estate, 6430 Germantown Ave. In addition to his work with WMAN, Aberle, a Realtor, also assisted the Friends of Lingelbach raise nearly $60,000 to finish the Lingebach School’s playground renovations. He’s on the board at Cliveden, and involved with the Young Friends of Wyck, an association supporting the Wyck House historic site at 6026 Germantown Avenue. Even though Wyck is temporarily closed, they still managed to organize a virtual fundraiser in early November.

“2020 was tough,” Aberle said.

Learn more at wman.net.

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