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March 2011
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May 2011

April 2011

Building homes - love in action

love in action

On a recent Saturday, Linley Kirkwood, community outreach coordinator for Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery County and a Chestnut Hill resident, led a “Love in Action Tour” for prospective volunteers in North Hills. (Upper Dublin, Montgomery County, PA)

Habitat, which builds and rehabilitates homes around the world in partnership with the families who need them, also has active affiliates in Philadelphia and other neighboring counties.

This tour started in the home of a vacationing wheel-chair bound homeowner whose house was the first ADA-certified project for the Montgomery chapter. After an introduction and the showing of a short, moving video about the work Habitat does, Kirkwood dispelled some common myths about Habitat:  former President Jimmy Carter did not found Habitat but he was an early and, still is, ardent supporter. Habitat does not give away houses; homeowners make a down payment, contribute sweat equity and pay a mortgage made reasonable by the contribution of labor, land and material.

Despite being one of the wealthiest areas in Pennsylvania, Montgomery County, the local housing authority, according to Habitat, figures there are more than 5700 substandard homes. Leaking roofs, faulty plumbing or electricity,  and pest infestation plague the inhabitants. Habitat estimates that about one third of  county residents pay dearly for housing  - nearly one third of their income.

Kirkwood related examples of how the padlocks on the doors of bedrooms inside houses or apartment buildings that appeared to meet standards belied the fact that each room was home to a whole migrant worker family.

Several participants at the orientation already had Habitat experience. Kapil Kulakkunnath, a young electrical engineer, worked on a project in Brazil last July.  A retired gentleman was just days back from volunteer work in Portugal, his third international venture.

Kirkwood showed a short work safety video then led the group outdoors  to see the handsome-looking homes farther up the street built by Habitat through the efforts of faith groups. The tour ended at a “hole in the ground” from where a building foundation was emerging.  For a week in May, 54 women who want to learn construction skills will descend, but not all at once, for a motivational and high energy “Women Build” program to put up the framing.

From the enthusiasm of the tour participants, it seems likely that in the weeks to follow some of us may well be found lending a hand converting what began as a hole in the ground into a new home for a family in need.

Watch video here.

Sending Books to Prisoners


Brenda Cook of Wynnefield Heights and other women from the Sharon Baptist Church ministry package books destined for prisoners at Books Through Bars in West Philadelphia. The 20 year-old all volunteer organization responds to inmates' requests for all kinds of books- detective novels, history, home improvement, computer science."We send quality reading material to prisoners and encourage creative dialogue on the criminal justice system, thereby educating those living inside and outside of prison walls." from

Watch video here

Speed dating model also matches investors and caregivers with nannies


Founder John Samson, left, and his partner Dan Gill run, a company with national reach, that hosts events for people with similar interests, from romantic to social and business as well. Samson says speed dating was popular in New York City and Europe when he moved to Philadephia a few years ago and saw an opportunity to start a business here. The ten to fifteen guests who sign up for an event meet one on one with each other for 6 minutes before rotating to another guest. What started as a service for lonely hearts now uses a similar concept, speed networking, to bring together investors looking to network with one another and even caregivers looking for nannies. Interviewed near Dan's office outside the old Solaris on Germantown Avenue in Chestnut Hill.  Watch video here.

What's Wrong with This Picture?

signs by tomorrow jim pearce

SIGNS BY TOMORROW, a national outfit, does it all. ...huge light box banners, custom braille signs, carved signs,trade show displays, channel letters and so on. Here is the proof of the nifty sign I ordered from Jim Pearce, owner of the Flourtown store. It's an 18 by 24 inch coroplast sign and it's costing me $53 (ouch) and I think they'll have it ready by tomorrow. Watch video interview here.

whats wrong with this picture

Statue of Liberty (Tax Services) dances ballet


Allison Allen knows how to make her own the dreary job luring in customers, costumed as the statue of Liberty outside the Liberty Tax Service on Ridge Avenue in Roxborough. She puts to use a decade of dance lessons, executing springy sneaker-propelled leaps and graceful turns for passersby. Liberty statute Jim Johnson was interviewed last year at this time. Watch video here.


Soil Kitchen tilts at windmills

Soil Kitchen tilts at windmills

Dan and his father, Chilean born Francisco Allende, read alternatingly in English and Spanish from Miguel Cervantes' "Don Quixote" in front of the legendary knight errant's statute at 2nd and Girard. Quixote was the inspiration for the "Soilkitchen" public art project coinciding with the Environmental Protection Agency's national brownfields conference in Philadelphia in April. At the street level gathering and exhibition space on the south side of Girard, Soil Kitchen lab assistants test samples of soil collected from around the city to assess the health of the soil for farming while volunteers dish out free soup. In the photo foreground, project artist Amy Franceschini takes a pause from taking photos to listen to the reading. Watch video here and visit

Pink flamingos a wedding tradition for Flemings


Robert Fleming and his wife returned from vacation 15 years ago to find a flock of pink flamingos planted in their front yard by, as it turned out, good friends who had been watering plants in their absence. The flamingos have become a tradition at their daughters' weddings. In the winter, they migrate south to Hialeah Park, Fleming jokes. In the background, Amanda Shoulson paints an adirondack chair in preparation for an engagement party for the Flemings' third daughter Annie; the flamingos will fly in for wedding next January. Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia. Watch video here.

WHHY and the federal funding cut to NPR - CEO Bill Marrazzo

Bill Marrazzo, CEO of WHYY TV and Radio

WHHY President and CEO Bill Marrazzo doesn't diminish the importance of the federal grants to public radio but points out that federal dollars consitute only a small portion of the station's radio stream. WHYY relies  primarily  on the support of thousands of indidvual radio listeners, TV viewers and website visitors and also on sponsorships by corporations and foundations. Watch video interview here.