From the Independent • Mt. Airy News Stories

November 5, 2009 • Mt. Airy Independent - Nov. 5.pdf

In This Issue

MALT Decides to Purchase Building

Conservancy Files Amended Petition for 50 Buildings

‘Focus on Local Art’ Supports Mt. Airy Businesses, Artists

Locations and artists appearing at the various sites in Mt. Airy include:

Holiday Show Opens at ALAC

Business Center Celebrates 10 Years

Journal Spilling: Mixed Media Techniques for Free Expression on Sunday,

Multicultural Bookstore Opens

2009 Bagged Leaf Collection

Funtastic Friday at Cedar Park Church

Discussion at GJC on German Soldier Who Saved Jews

Solemn Novena Services at Miraculous Medal

‘Festival of Choirs’ at Summit Presbyterian

Community Greening Award

Weatherization Workshop

Civil War Heroes Remembered on Nov. 8

Share Views at Community Café

Weekend Art Market Organizing

Dine at Trolley Car, Support Activist

Modeling Open House

MALT Decides to Purchase Building


Staff Writer

After 28 years of “neighbors teaching neighbors” the Mt. Airy Learning Tree (MALT) has decided to put down permanent roots. In September it launched a year-long capital campaign to buy the current home of its offices at 6601 Greene Street, where it has been for the last ten years.

MALT’s executive director for most of that period has been Jonna Naylor. She likened the big decision to the experience of watching children grow up. You know it’s going to happen someday but somehow you’re always a little surprised when it does.

“Kids grow up, they get married, they buy a house,” she joked.

Much of MALT’s focus over its life has been about connecting people with similar interests through its courses, so on some level making plans for such a big financial move might seem to go against the ever-sustainable low fee-driven ethic of the organization. When discussions to buy 6601 Greene first came up several months ago, board members were cautious about the idea.

“There was a lot of skepticism,” said Bob Rossman, the board member who initiated the discussion. “We definitely had to convince people that it was a good thing.”

Rossman had an additional incentive. His wife is MALT founder Barbara Bloom. Bloom formed the organization in 1981 as a response to the ballooning costs of universities. The aim wasn’t to educate toward any degree but to draw on the expertise of the community to stimulate adult education and intellectual development in the whole of Mt. Airy.

“I thought Mt. Airy was ideal both because of the diversity here - it was a wonderful place to find interesting teachers and learners,” Bloom said. “And because it’s kind of geographically isolated… there was a need for it.”

As a result, thriftiness was a MALT value from the beginning and a tradition set in of going where space was cheapest, both for the offices and the course locations. The down side was that the offices bounced around Mt. Airy for years, occasionally leaving MALT enthusiasts confused when they had to find the physical space. 

Bloom joked that the organization spent much of its early life in basements. But just as MALT offices were at their most mobile the organization itself was working hard to become ubiquitous. Soon after its founding, MALT started sending its catalog to every household in Mt. Airy as a kind of mass-marketing effort that distinguished it from most community education efforts of the time, according to Bloom. Still, things took a while to sink in. 

“I think it was two years before I got my first call saying ‘how come I haven’t gotten my catalogue?’ I was thrilled,” said Bloom.

The outreach became so thorough that, in partnership with East and West Mt. Airy Neighbors, MALT helped to launch the Mt. Airy Times newspaper, Bloom said, as a vehicle for the catalog.

By now, Naylor thinks residents have gotten used to MALT and most think of it as a natural part of the Northwest.

“People expect to see the catalog even if they don’t intend to take a class,” she said. “It’s like this crazy little taste of the neighborhood – an update of whose doing what.”

And after a ten-year stay at the corner building at Greene and Hortter Streets, Naylor, Bloom, and the MALT board view it as the organization’s face in the community. So when the opportunity to buy the building came up, there may have been careful discussion but the idea of securing its place in what Naylor calls “the West Mt. Airy commercial district” won out over another possible move.

“The main thing was that nobody wanted to put the program at risk,” Rossman said. “This was a big step for MALT, and we really spent a lot of time making sure we could structure it in a way that would not put MALT at risk.”

The residential rental unit in the upper floor of the building provides a measure of security for carrying the mortgage, but even so, buying 6601 Greene will mean raising a big chuck of the $230,000 final purchase price before next September, Naylor said. And that means fundraising and a donations campaign - something MALT wants the community to know is meant to be a one-time thing. There are no plans to raise fees to cover expenses, either, she added.

Though the economy may be down Naylor thinks the timing is pretty good for MALT. Not only has the organization grown steadily since 1995, nearly doubling its number of classes from 150 per year to close to 300, but the amount of money paid out in teaching fees has expanded massively as well, from $27,000 in 1995 to $110,000 last year while course fees only increased by 11 percent over that time.

On top of that, the organization serves more than 5,000 students each year and it has not seen a dip through the recession, Naylor said. And there is another convincing indicator of MALT’s sturdy connection to the community: time after time, teaching a class at MALT, or taking one, has led people to greater things, according to Naylor.

“The Learning Tree has become like an economic engine in the community,” she said. “It really is driving a lot of little canoes up the river one at a time.”

Take Certified Holistic Health Counselor Linda Taylor, who has run Taylor’s Wholesome Foods Workshops since 2002 and been a regular teacher at MALT for nearly as long.

“When I started my business, I basically opened it up and then started doing classes at the Mt. Airy Learning Tree,” Taylor said. And through those classes she was able to do a number of things at once: determine the kind of appetite local residents had for food and health instruction, make connections with potential clients for individual counseling, and refine her teaching for the additional classes she offers through her business.

In fact, on Sunday November 1, Taylor appeared as a featured guest on Comcast’s Focus on Fitness program, and she made that connection through MALT.

So if the question is whether the Little Community Education Program That Could can actually raise enough money to buy a building without disrupting all of its good work, Naylor thinks most people will feel the same way she does.

“I think it’s totally doable,” she said. “I’m not embarrassed about asking for money for MALT. I feel blessed to have MALT in my life and I think a lot of other people in the community feel the same way.”

Coming up and extending through September, 2010 will be a series of house parties and other events aimed at raising funds for the purchase. For more information about MALT call 215-843-6333 or visit

Conservancy Files Amended Petition for 50 Buildings


Staff Writer

Despite new court regulations calling for one petition per property, on October 26, the community development group Germantown Conservancy filed a truncated version of its bid to take over hundreds of stagnated properties in Germantown and Mt. Airy through the state’s new Abandoned and Blighted Property Conservatorship Act. Although this version has been scaled down from an original omnibus petition covering more than 300 properties, Peter Wirs, Conservancy co-founder and acting chief executive officer, insisted there was no change in the group’s intent.

“There are still 319 properties,” he said. “We listed only 50 at the moment and we will save the rest for a later date.”

The filing marks the latest in an ongoing battle between the Conservancy and the Common Pleas Court of Philadelphia over just how the new law should be used.

The law allows the court to appoint a conservator, similar to a trustee in a bankruptcy filing, for properties that have become blighted or are abandoned. That conservator can take control of the property and exercise a court-approved plan for remodeling or demolition and sale, with the proceeds going to cover the costs and some profit. An important key to the law’s power is that it wipes out all previous liens on the property, clearing it for easier renovation and sale.

But because there is no case law establishing president, and the law itself is relatively vague according to many, the Conservancy and the Court differ greatly on just what kinds of things are allowed.

For the Conservancy, whose membership includes local residents, churches, neighborhood groups and businesses including construction firms, the law represents a tool for attacking blight in an aggressive way – by gaining control over large swaths of ailing properties along or close to Germantown Avenue and transforming them, under court supervision, to the betterment of the neighborhood.

Omnibus petitions?

The main sticking point with the Court appears to be the question of whether the law allows for omnibus petitions – say, 319 properties at a time. The Conservancy filled its large petition twice in September before the Court issued its regulations for filing and service of petitions. It was rejected without judgment both times, according to Wirs.

The Conservancy then appealed to the Commonwealth Court with a request for judgment on its petition September 29 and the matter was settled in a conference call October 1. The next day the Common Pleas Court issued its regulations for filing and service, which among other things require one petition per property. The Conservancy filed its smaller omnibus petition last Monday, October 26, despite the single-property filing regulation.

“Urban blight’s downward spiral cannot be mitigated piecemeal,” the Conservancy’s Board of Trustees Resolution authorizing it to file an omnibus petition stated. “The Conservancy fails to discharge its fiduciary duty to the Court if it invests monies into rehabilitating one house but not the other on the block, since a buyer will not buy the rehabilitated house if [a] blighted house remains.”

Advisory group recommendations

Prior to issuing its rules the Common Pleas Court formed an unofficial group of advisors to help guide it on how to implement the law. Among the group members were representatives from fields including legal practice, title insurance, building construction, government and funding agencies. A major concern of the working group was how to implement the law in a way that provides ample notice to owners and lien holders so their rights wouldn’t be stripped unfairly, according Judy Berkman, the managing attorney at Regional Housing Legal Services and a member of the advisory collaborative.

Perhaps the most experienced conservatorship lawyer in the state, Edward Brennan, the solicitor for the Borough of St. Clair in Schuylkill County, has had a look at the new regulations and he thinks they make sense.

“The key is giving all the other lien holders notice,” he said of using the law, and he saw provisions for that within the regulations.

Brennan is working on about ten property conservatorship petitions at the moment and he has completed one – the first and, so far, the only one in Pennsylvania.

How it can work

St. Clair is a small working class town in coal country. It’s had some problems with abandoned property over the years but the tools available for fighting it - fines through L&I, eminent domain or equity actions through the courts - haven’t always worked out, according to Brennan.

Prior to the conservatorship law, which went into effect in March, Brennan’s strongest weapon was to sue homeowners in equity actions asking the Court to require them to clean up their blighted properties or be held in contempt of court. But this penalty and the L&I fines have clear limits.

“The trouble with both of those actions is if you get someone who wants to do something but they have no money, it gets you nowhere,” he said.

And then came the case of one particular house in St. Clair.

“We call it the Kimmel Property,” said Borough Secretary Roland Price. “It was a problem. We received complaints here at the municipal building.”

The family was a victim of the sub-prime mortgage crisis, according to Brennan. They took out a loan that was twice the value of the home and when they couldn’t make the payments, they left town leaving the building to accumulate liens and fall into greater and greater disrepair, he said.

About six months ago the borough began its conservatorship petition. The process, according to Brennan, involves a thorough title search and notification of all the lien holders that the petition is being filed. The law allows the owners or the lien holders to assume responsibility for the property above the conservator at any time as long as they agree to make repairs to the property. Showing the Court that there was ample notice to these parties and still no response was the key to St. Clair becoming the conservator of the Kimmel Property, Brennan said.

Once that was done the court-approved plan for the building included selling it to a neighbor for one dollar with a clean title and a stipulation that they would be responsible for proper demolition. According to Price the new owners are completing that demolition now.

For properties like this, other options include eminent domain or seizure for back taxes. But according to Brennan, eminent domain can be a long process and doesn’t always clear a title of previous liens. Plus, it requires a municipality or school district to purchase the property for a reasonable cost. Taking over a building for back taxes also can leave outstanding liens and it may put the building in city hands without a clear exit strategy, as countless languishing publicly-owned Philadelphia buildings can attest.

Conservatorship seems to work out differently, primarily through the economic incentive of vanquishing the liens.

“The big thing is it lets you do something to the property quickly,” Brennan said.

One of his next conservatorship projects will include selling a blighted property at a low price to a developer who is already lined up, with the stipulation of a timely renovation, Brennan said.

Local efforts

While the omnibus petition filed by the Germantown Conservancy indicates an impressive array of experienced partners including the community-oriented redevelopment firm The Reinvestment Fund and the large construction company Domus Inc., it does not hold the level of detail in individual turnaround plans that Brennan had for the Kimmel Property.

For many of the properties on the Conservancy’s list, such as the group of ailing industrial buildings surrounding the Wayne Junction Train Station, Wirs said the Conservancy would follow redevelopment plans already laid out, like the Transit Oriented Plan produced for that area by the City Planning Commission. He said further legal addendums are forthcoming that will give details to the Conservancy’s petition, but a major discrepancy between it and the Court’s rules remains that single property per petition requirement.

The conservatorship law has gotten other local attention as well. The Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corporation (OARC) is preparing three petitions for long-blighted properties in the West Oak Lane section of the city, and City Council passed a resolution in April, sponsored by Ninth District Councilwoman Marian Tasco, which calls on the Mayor to create a Philadelphia Conservatorship Program.

According to Derek Green, Tasco’s chief legislative aid, who penned the resolution, Council still needs to work out the details of what that program would look like, but he thought it could include ways that existing city offices might help service conservatorship petitions.

‘Focus on Local Art’ Supports Mt. Airy Businesses, Artists

Artist Gail Kotel hangs one of her works at Earth Bread + Brewery.

In an effort to remind everyone to buy local and to kick-off November’s First Friday, the Mt. Airy Business Association is delighted to present  “Mt. Airy Focus on Local Art,” a community-wide juried art exhibition featuring dozens of local artists.  Art will be displayed in the shops, cafes, and public spaces of Mt. Airy.  This two-day event will kick off Friday, November 6, with each venue hosting a reception from 6-9 p.m., and  continues Saturday, November 7, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.  To find out more about the works being displayed and the venues, go to

Every November, the Mt. Airy Business Association reminds business owners, consumers, and residents of Philadelphia about the importance of buying local.  For every $100 spent at a locally-owned business, $45 goes back into our economy and our tax base.  Of the same $100 spent at a chain store, only $14 will come back ( Our independent local businesses add unique character to our community.  Most of the shop and restaurant owners in Mt. Airy are also residents of Mt. Airy and that shows through their contributions toward making Mt. Airy a better place for all.

In conjunction with “Focus on Local Art,” multiple Mt. Airy sites will be holding their own events.  The Philadelphia Mural Arts Program and Earth Bread + Brewery will be having a dedication ceremony on Saturday, November 7 at 1 p.m. to dedicate the new mural that is displayed on the side of Earth. The RockStar Gallery will be celebrating their first birthday, highlighting artists who exhibited there throughout the entire year.  Mt. Airy Contemporary Artists Space will debut on Friday, November 6 “On the Fringe of Nature,” an exhibition of the works of Amy Chan, Siobhan McBride, and John Slaby.  Mt. Airy Custom Furniture will be hosting a furniture show at the Sedgwick Theater.  And finally, the Allens Lane Art Center is hosting an opening reception for their Decorative Arts Holiday Show.  Local restaurants The Wine Thief, Geechee Girl Rice Café, Umbria Restaurant, Earth Bread and Brewery and the Trolley Car Diner will be highlighting local ingredients all weekend long.  Stop by one of the many participating shops along Germantown Avenue to pick up a complete program of the two-day event, or visit

The Mt. Airy Business Association represents close to 100 Mt. Airy-based businesses.  Our mission is to connect, educate and promote Mt. Airy businesses to the wider community.

Visit for more.

Locations and artists appearing at the various sites in Mt. Airy include:

  1. BulletAmoeba (former), 7174 Germantown Avenue: Jean Plough.

  2. BulletArtista Gallery, 7151 Germantown Avenue: Melvin Chappell, Stephanie Stauffer.

  3. BulletAvenue Art and Framing, 6837 Germantown Avenue: Eric Pabellon.

  4. BulletBank of America (next to), 7167 Germantown Avenue: Allison Ostertag, Peter Appelbaum.

  5. BulletBlackbone Gallery, 7117 Germantown Avenue: Greg Goodwin, Michelle Lucas.

  6. BulletChef Ken’s Café, 7135 Germantown Avenue: Susan and John Graham.

  7. BulletCulture Hair Salon, 7201 Germantown Avenue: Dora Ficher, Carol Ann Graham.

  8. BulletDirty Girl Brigade, 7125 Germantown Avenue: Sarah Kolker.

  9. BulletEarth Bread + Brewery, 7136 Germantown Avenue: Gail Kotel, Jennifer Monahan.

  10. BulletEdward Jones, 7151 Germantown Avenue: Arthur Ostroff.

  11. BulletGeechee Girl Rice Café,  6825 Germantown Avenue: Marcia Jones.

  12. BulletHigh Point Café, 602 Carpenter Lane: Mark Mattson.

  13. BulletInFusion, 7133 Germantown Avenue: Lynette Shelley.

  14. BulletJean Jacques Gallery, 7118 Germantown Avenue: Mike Simonian, Athena Tasiopoulos.

  15. BulletThe Little Urban Spa, 7203 Germantown Avenue: Dan Husted.

  16. BulletMt. Airy Contemporary Artists Space, 25 West Mt. Airy Avenue: John Slaby, Siobhan McBride, Amy Chan.

  17. BulletMt. Airy Custom Furniture, 7054  Germantown Avenue: Debora Weber, Debra Campbell Goodyear.

  18. BulletNorth By Northwest, (open for this event) 7165 Germantown Avenue; Dan Oliva, Eleanor Day, Chris Binder, Seth Darnall, Steve Clark.

  19. BulletOne Salon, 7119 Germantown Avenue: Julia Lehman McTigue.

  20. BulletRockstar Gallery, 20 East Mt. Airy Avenue: Kate Victoria. 

  21. BulletRothe Florists, 7148 Germantown Avenue: Pat Smith.

  22. BulletSedgwick Center, 7141 Germantown Avenue: Debs Bleicher, Maureen Pitcher.

  23. BulletTrolley Car Diner, 7619 Germantown Avenue: Elaine Bass.

  24. BulletUmbria, 7131 Germantown Avenue: Signe Sundberg Hall.

  25. BulletUrban Athlete, 7112 Germantown Avenue: Sherman Oberson.

  26. BulletThe Wine Thief, 7152 Germantown Avenue: Diane Dillenderfer.

Holiday Show Opens at ALAC

The opening reception for the Decorative Arts Holiday Show to be held in the Carolyn Fiedler-Alber Gallery at Allens Lane Art Center, Allens Lane and McCallum Street, will be held Friday, November 6, 6-9 p.m. The show will run through December 23. Gallery hours are Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. or by appointment.

Fantastic, unique and affordable fine craft, jewelry, and wearable art items will be available. It’s a great opportunity to do your holiday shopping in a wonderful setting. Many of the artists will be at the opening reception.

Over a dozen artists from the Philadelphia area are included in the show that features ceramics, hand-made fabric items, unique craft items, fine artwork, several styles of jewelry and handmade papers among many other items.  Several of the artists who exhibited last year invited their artist-friends to join them this year so you’re sure to find something you like.

For more information visit

Business Center Celebrates 10 Years

The Business Center for Entrepreneurship and Social Enterprise will be celebrating its ten-year anniversary Friday, Nov.20, 6 p.m. at Temptations Banquet Facility, 200 West Chelten Avenue.  The theme is “Dancing with the Stars of the Northwest.” This event and milestone will be provided with a resolution at City Hall, Room 400, on Nov. 19, 10 a.m., by Councilwomen Donna Reed Miller and Marion Tasco.

“Our Theme is ‘Dancing with the Stars of the Northwest,’ where we will honor those who have been instrumental in helping the Business Center reach the ten-year milestone. We will also discuss future plans to impact the Northwest business corridors.  Also, if you are a past client or student come out and reconnect with us or individuals that were in your class,” Pamela Rich-Wheeler, co-founder and executive director, said.

Highlights of the evening will be students and clients providing testimonies of the support that Business Center provided to their small business, plus plenty of food, dancing, auction items (i.e., an autographed baseball bat by Jimmy Rollins, tea party for two, and more) classmates and clients reconnecting, networking and fun for everyone. 

A partial list of confirmed honorees and invited officials attending include Bilal Qayyum, The Father’s Day Rally; Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller; Cindy Bass of Rep. Chaka Fattah’s office; Derek Green of Councilwoman Marion Tasco’s Office; Kevin Dow and Andy Frishkoff, Commerce Department; Kelly Finch, PNC Bank; Jack Kitchen, OARC; Aubrey Kenney, Sovereign Bank; Bill Smith, Citizens Bank (he also plans to be in the dance competition that evening with his wife Vanessa, currently an executive at Philadanco) and Robert Archie, School Reform Commission.

The Business Center is the only “virtual” business incubator in the Northwest. Its mission is to equip entrepreneurs with the necessary tools to start, sustain, and expand a successful enterprise. It aids in the development of professional management and entrepreneurial skills and provides consulting, workshops, and technical resources through a combination of in-house expertise and a network of community organizations.

To attend the Ten Year anniversary celebration or give a donation to The Business Center, mail your tax-refundable gift to The Business Center, 7500 Germantown Avenue, Elders Hall, Suite 113, Philadelphia, Pa. 19119, or  donate on line at

For information contact Leslie Donnell at 215-247-2473 ext 3 or visit

Interested in bringing your personal journals alive with mixed media, a variety of art techniques, and more? Join author and artist Diana Trout for her discussion of her new book Journal Spilling: Mixed Media Techniques for Free Expression on Sunday, November 8, from 2-4 p.m. in the Big Blue Marble Bookstore café, 551 Carpenter Lane.

Journal Spilling is about incorporating journaling and art making into daily life. In addition to step-by-step instruction for getting started in 25 media techniques you will be guided through exercises to help with writing. The exercises are broken down into accessible parts that can be undertaken in small bits of time and are open-ended, encouraging various paths for journaling. The author will also present a collage activity from the book during the reading, and anyone who buys the book that day goes home with a small kit of collage supplies. For information call 215-844-1870.

(Left) Volunteers from Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church tackled a major cleanup and clean-out at Cliveden Park House, Johnson and Musgrave streets, on October 17.

As part of its “Mission Blitz,” Enon members volunteered at 46 different sites that day.

(Right) Friends of Cliveden Park President Bert Lancaster, 81, in werewolf costume, proves that you don’t have to be young in years to enjoy Halloween.

Every year Lancaster dresses up to give kids a spooky thrill at the park’s annual Halloween celebration. 

Multicultural Bookstore Opens

To coincide with National Bookstore Day, the Color Book Gallery will hold its grand opening celebration November 6-7.

The Color Book Gallery is the area’s newest and only multicultural children’s bookstore located in historic Germantown at 6353 Germantown Avenue. The store offers a wide selection of books, stories from around the world, educational toys and games, cultural and bilingual items and cultural and language-based activities. Also visit the store’s Sugarbabe’s Boutique and Gift Shop upstairs which features children’s resale clothing and gifts.

On Friday, November 6, and every first Friday, it’s family game night at the Color Book Gallery until 8 p.m., with classic table games for all ages and family fun. On Saturday, November 7, from noon - 6 p.m., enjoy storytelling, an author book-signing at 1 p.m. featuring A.J. Jones of History Coloring Books, activities and a free book giveaway each hour.

Individuals interested in volunteering to share their cultures through storytelling, music, activity and foreign language with our children are welcome at the Color Book Gallery. Visit the Gallery or for more information, call 215-525-5851, e-mail to, or visit

2009 Bagged Leaf Collection by the city of Philadelphia will begin Monday, Nov. 9 and will be completed Friday, Dec. 18. There are a number of changes in the collection process for the 2009 leaf season. They include: There will be curbside collection only. Do not pile unbagged leaves at the curb. No plastic bags will be collected. Leaves will only be collected in biodegradable paper bags. Bags should be placed curbside on your trash collection day. Areas that formerly received mechanical collection will have curbside bagged collections only. Bagged leaves will be accepted at all three Citizen Drop-off Centers. The Northwest center is located at Domino Lane and Umbria Street, Roxborough.

On Friday, October 30, St. Michael’s Lutheran Church, 6671 Germantown Avenue, hosted a costume party for children from neighborhood schools and their parents.  The party started at 6 p.m. with hot dogs and other goodies.  Activities included, bobbing for donuts (yes donuts, not apples!), face painting, musical chairs, decorating pumpkins, and a costume parade.  Volunteers from the congregation lead activities and provided food, candy, prizes, and fun. Pictured, Vicar Debbie Stein participates in musical chairs with the children. Over 50 children showed up for the party and around 20 parents. “We are truly blessed to have such a wonderful turn-out for this event and we hope to have many more,” said Pastor Andrea Ingram.  St. Michael’s is planning more monthly events for families. For information regarding events call 215-848-0199.

Funtastic Friday at Cedar Park Church

The next observance of “Funtastic Friday” will be held on November 20, 7 p.m., at Cedar Park Presbyterian Church, 7740 Limekiln Pike.  Brought back by popular demand is an evening of fun and merriment for the entire community,  games, activities, music, line-dancing, contests, karaoke and other fun events for the entire family to enjoy.  There is no admission fee and refreshments will be served. This program is designed to foster goodwill, good times and a great fellowship in a warm and welcoming environment. For additional info, call the church office at 215 549-9775.

Discussion at GJC on German Soldier Who Saved Jews

Joerg Fiebelkorn, a retired German military officer, will address an interfaith gathering on Wednesday, November 11, 7 – 9 p.m., at the Germantown Jewish Centre, 400 West Ellet Street. In commemoration of Krystallnacht, he will discuss “The Search for Major Plagge: A German Soldier’s Moral Courage During the Holocaust.” Participants will consider how each of us live within systems that can go awry – and how we can take moral responsibility within them.

In 1999, Michael Good, a Jewish physician in Connecticut, began researching a mysterious “Major Plagge,” the German officer who headed up a slave labor camp in Vilna, Poland (now Vilnius, Lithuania), where Michael’s mother was confined as a teenager during WWII. She credits Major Plagge – who slipped into obscurity after the war – with saving her family’s lives.

Fiebelkorn saw Good’s query on the Internet, and stepped forth to help. He found material in the German archives about Plagge, translated it into English, and sent it to Good. Good subsequently published a book, The Search for Major Plagge: The Nazi Who Saved Jews (2005, 2006), based on extensive research, including Fiebelkorn’s material and interviews with Vilna Jews.

Fiebelkorn then translated Good’s book into German, and it has been published in Germany under the title Die Suche. Karl Plagge, der Wehrmachtsoffizier, der Juden Rettete. Major Karl Plagge has been recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.

This program will relate the story of the Jews of the labor camp in Vilna and their unexpected deliverance from death due to the moral courage of Karl Plagge, who headed the camp. Fiebelkorn present a German perspective: What choices confronted draftees such as Plagge and the recruits who served under him? What did they know about the genocide, what could they possibly do to help decrease the killing? What methods did Plagge use to influence his own officers as well as to manipulate the Nazi bureaucracy to further his subversive goals?

Following Fiebelkorn’s presentation, there will be an opportunity for dialogue with the audience. The program will close with light refreshments and an opportunity to purchase the book, The Search for Major Plagge, at a discount.

The program is sponsored and hosted by Germantown Jewish Centre and co-sponsored by The Center for Jewish Ethics, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College; First United Methodist Church of Germantown; Mishkan Shalom; P’nai Or Jewish Renewal Congregation of Philadelphia; and in cooperation with The Neighborhood Interfaith Movement (NIM).

There is no charge for this program. Those wishing to attend are asked to reserve their place by calling Elana Shaw, GJC program director, at 215-844-1507, ext. 19, or e-mailing to

Solemn Novena Services at Miraculous Medal

Over 10,000 people are expected to come through the doors and pray for those they love and care for during the Solemn Novena services going on at the Miraculous Medal Shrine at 500 East Chelten Avenue.

Starting November 16 the Miraculous Medal Shrine in Germantown will be celebrating our 81st  9-Day Solemn Novena. There will be six to nine services daily culminating on November 24 and followed with Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Feast Day Mass being celebrated by the Most Reverend G. Gregory Gay, C.M., Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission (the Vincentians) on November 25.

In honor of the troubling times, each day prayer will be offered for a different group: Monday, November 16 – priests, seminarians and religious men and women; Tuesday, November 17  –  public servants, including  police, firefighters, and EMTs; Wednesday, November 18 –  veterans and military personnel; Thursday, November 19 – Catholic school and CCD/ PREP teachers; Friday, November 20 –  seniors (“Anointing of the Sick” each service); Saturday, November 21  – Catholic medical professionals; Sunday, November 22  – Novena Family, all who attend Monday Novenas, past and present; Monday, November 23  – Catholic lawyers and business professionals; Tuesday, November 24  – Catholic societies, including Knights of Columbus, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and many more.

The full history of the Miraculous Medal and Miraculous Medal Shrine can be found online at

For information on the Solemn Novena 9 Days of Services or how to have your intention placed on Mary’s Altar, call the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal at 215-848-1010, or email

‘Festival of Choirs’ at Summit Presbyterian

A “Festival of Choirs” will be held Sunday, November 15, 3 p.m., at Summit Presbyterian Church, Greene and Westview streets.

As part of its 125 Anniversary Celebration Summit Church invites the community to a concert featuring three area choirs:  the Mishkan Shalom Community Choir directed by Janice Hamer;  the Chancel Choir of Reformation Lutheran Church, directed by Charlene Jenkins; and the Summit Choir and Handbell Ringers directed by Gayl Koster.   

The concert – 70 voices strong – features choral music from the Baroque period to the present, including works by Mendelssohn, Sibelius and Bleckner.  The Handbell Ringers will perform a work written by Mt. Airy resident Thomas Whitman to commemorate Summit’s anniversary. 

No tickets are needed  A free-will offering will be taken for a fund to restore the church building used by dozens of community groups.

All are welcome to a post-concert reception with homemade tea sandwiches, cookies and punch. Call 215-438-2825 for more information.

The Managing Director’s Office of Emergency Management is offering a free Emergency Preparedness Workshop open to the public in Northwest Philadelphia on Monday, November 16 at 7 p.m., 14th Police District Advisory Council, 14th Police District, 43 West Haines Street .

“During the workshops you will learn how to shelter-in-place, become familiar with your neighborhood evacuation routes, know what emergency supplies and copies of important documents you should have ready, and find out how to stay informed during an emergency,” said Deputy Managing Director for Emergency Management MaryAnn E. Tierney.

These workshops are in-line with a series of Emergency Preparedness Workshops being held throughout the city in each police district during 2009. For information about a workshop in your police district, visit the OEM website at or call 3-1-1.

Community Greening Award

The Community Greening Award celebrates public green spaces in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. The annual award is a joint project of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, a nonprofit that promotes and protects Pennsylvania’s natural and community environments. It recognizes those who have made a difference by planting and maintaining quality green spaces that are open to the public.

Among the 2009 awardees is the Chestnut Hill Historical Society and Friends of the Wissahickon Headquarters Native Demonstration Garden.

For more information about the Community Greening Award, please contact Flossie Narducci at or 215-988-8897.

Weatherization Workshop

Is your home drafty? Is your heating bill out of control?

Welcome to a weatherization workshop at Center in the Park, 5818 Germantown Avenue, on Friday, November 13 at 1 p.m.

Trainers will demonstrate installation of weatherization materials, discuss rising energy costs, and provide information for conservation and assistance programs and ways to get tax credits for improvements. Weatherization materials will be provided free to all eligible participants.

For information call 215-849-5100.

Civil War Heroes Remembered on Nov. 8

On Sunday, November 8 at 12:30 p.m. there will be a  Veteran’s Day tribute to the Nice brothers at Saint Michael’s Lutheran Church, 6671 Germantown Avenue. During the Civil War Philadelphia gave many lives in the Union cause. None of the tales is more touching than that of the Nice brothers, who are interred at St. Michael’s graveyard. Come and pay tribute on this most venerable day to these two brave boys and to all veterans who have served our country nobly. There will be a wreath laying and tribute by the Nice brothers’ relatives. For information call 610-630-0912. The ceremony is sponsored by the W.S. Hancock Society,

Share Views at Community Café

The first ever Northwest Philadelphia Community Café will take place on Sunday, November 15, 2:30-5 p.m. at the Sedgwick Theater, 7137 Germantown Avenue. The Café will create an opportunity for people to get together in a relaxed setting to talk about issues that matter in our Northwest community. If you want to find out what’s going on, share information, or get involved, then please join us at the Northwest Philadelphia Community Café.

The Café program will be informal. First, help yourself to a cup of coffee or tea, chat with neighbors, and browse through literature about what’s going on in our fabulous neighborhood. Workshops will then run simultaneously giving you the opportunity to participate in two discussions during the afternoon. A resource person will give a short presentation on an issue of interest to our community and facilitate a discussion.

Workshop topics will include:

Recycling, with Maurice Sampson, chair of Recycle Now; safety, with Heather Pierce, Carpenter Woods Town Watch; city services and the budget, with Stan Shapiro, Coalition for Essential Services; weatherization, with Chris Robinson, Energy Coordinating Agency of Philadelphia; health care, with Dave Bell, Neighborhood Networks; composting and freecycling, with Meenal Raval, Philly Freecycle and Lee Meinicke, Philly Compost.

The Community Café is co-sponsored by Northwest Philadelphia MARCHinG for Change and Neighborhood Networks. The event is open to the public and is free but donations will be accepted for the coffee, tea and dessert to be provided. For more information, contact, 215-247-9169.

Weekend Art Market Organizing

The newly formed Mt. Airy Art Garage, in partnership with Weavers Way Coop, is creating a new vision – to launch a weekend art market of fine arts and handcrafts at 542 West Carpenter Lane.

This group, which had its initial meeting November 1 at Weavers Way Administrative Offices (pictured), looks to present a variety of custom work by a diverse grouping of individual artists from the Northwest and neighboring communities.

Their long-term goal is to establish an ongoing art space with music and food where neighbors can spend time with families and friends. They will also create a cooperative artistic partnership that will result in both studio space and galleries.

Their next meeting will be on November 8, 1 p.m., at Weavers Way Administrative Offices, 555 West Carpenter Lane. They invite artists from Germantown, Mt. Airy, Chestnut Hill, and neighboring communities to attend and bring samples of their work. For more information, email or call 215-247-5309.

Dine at Trolley Car, Support Activist

Friends of Christine Oliger will hold a Helping Hands Week at Trolley Car Diner,, from Monday, November 9, through Sunday, November 15.

Christine, a well-known peace activist, has been diagnosed with ALS (also called “Lou Gehrig’s disease”). Friends of Christine will help with her medical expenses by participating in this Helping Hands Week at the Trolley Car Diner, 7619 Germantown Avenue in Mount Airy, from Monday, November 9, through Friday, November 13 (7 a.m.- 9 p.m.) and Saturday, November 14, and Sunday, November 15, (3-9 p.m.). In order to participate, you will need a special coupon, which is available at

As part of its Helping Hands Week, the Trolley Car Diner will donate 15 percent of your spending on food, drinks and desert to the Christine Oliger Trust, if you show the coupon at time of payment. Show your support for Christine by bringing your friends and family for a delicious and fun dining experience at Trolley Car Diner, a child-friendly restaurant.

If you are not able to join in this Helping Hands Week, you may send a contribution to the “Christine Oliger Trust,” c/o Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting, 100 East Mermaid Lane, Philadelphia, PA 19118. For more information or a Helping Hands Coupon, please contact and 215-843-4256.

Modeling Open House

TLC Charm Modeling (TLC) is holding an open house and new student registration from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, November 7, at the Moving Arts Studio, 6819 Greene Street. TLC’s Etiquette and Modeling Program instills an appreciation for the social graces as well as an understanding of the modeling/fashion industry in young ladies ages 5-17.  The program, founded by Teresa L. Campbell, is presented in three 12-week sessions: beginner, intermediate and advanced.

TLC, under Campbell’s  guidance, promotes a nurturing environment in which young ladies can apply old-fashioned values to life’s daily challenges.

During TLC’s Etiquette sessions, students are taught social etiquette, confidence building and positive image development in an interactive, hands-on atmosphere.  TLC recently took its students for a lunch cruise on the Spirit of Philadelphia to practice and reinforce their dining etiquette lessons.

TLC’s Modeling Program has two tracks depending upon the student’s interests.  Every student receives the same level of intensive training in runway, commercial and print modeling; however, students wishing to pursue modeling as a career are given the opportunity to join TLC Models, TLC’s modeling troop.  TLC Models is available for fashion shows and fundraisers and most recently participated in a show at the African American Museum in Philadelphia.

TLC’s Modeling Program sets itself apart from competitors with an emphasis on weekly photo challenges directed by professional photographer Andrea McClenon of Andrea Rose Photography,

The program is currently offered at Sayers Memorial United Methodist Church, 6101 Catherine Street, Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  One of TLC’s immediate goals is to bring its program to other communities. The expansion to the Moving Arts Studio is the next step in achieving this goal. For information call Campbell at 215-850-0451, e-mail to or visit

Center in the Park joins with the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America to provide free, confidential memory screenings, conducted by qualified healthcare professionals, on National Memory Screening Day, Tuesday, Nov. 17, from 10 a.m. until 12:30 p.m at CIP, 5818 Germantown Avenue, in Vernon Park. Attend and receive educational material about memory concerns.  Learn about ongoing programs at CIP designed to strengthen memory skills.

The event is free but registration is required. Call Delores Palmer at 215-849-5100, ext. 305.

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Horsin’ Around in the Wissahickon:  Shown are members of the newly formed Wissahickon Horse Lovers Organization (WHOA) from left Andrea Shumsky, Sue Landers, Kristen Bowman-Kavanaugh and Danielle Mucciolo.  Bee Morgan is not shown in photo. The group’s next monthly meeting is Sunday, November 15 at 10:30 a.m. at Northwestern Equestrian Facility, Germantown and Northwestern avenues, where a farrier will discuss hoof care.  RSVPs are strongly encouraged by e-mailing The meeting is free and open to horse lovers.

Photo by Denise White-Christianson.