On a walk around Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts we stopped at the site where Thoreau had built his cabin. I asked another tourist if she might not read aloud the quote from Thoreau carved on a sign. "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." Watch video here.
Jo Quasney is a survivor of Hurricane Katrina. Of French Creole heritage, Quasney is a native of New Orleans who was living alone in her house in the eighth ward when the hurricane struck on August 29, 2005. Quasney bred birds and had no way of transporting or finding shelter for the birds when New Orleans residents were advised to evacuate so she stuck it out. Her neighborhood began to flood after she heard an explosion that she attributes to a Halliburton company oil barge breaking through a levee. (For a discussion on the cause of the breech, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ING_4727)
Learn how the Olsens find dilapidated homes, gut them and turn them into beautiful, rehabbed homes. Watch video here.
Eric Jonathan Sheptock was placed in foster care until the age of 5 after being battered in the head by his natural parents as an infant. At five, he was adopted by a Polish father and Italian mother into a family that eventually grew to 38 children, some biological, some adopted.
He has been in and out of homelessness for the last 17 years, and based out of a Washington DC shelter advocates for the homeless full time.
Sheptock was staying with a family in Chestnut Hill this past weekend while working on the campaign for Sheriff of Philadelphia homeless advocate Cheri Honkala.
Honkala, whose campaign motto is "Keeping Families in their Homes" promises that, as sheriff, she will not evict anyone - at least not until the economy gets better.
In the video to be seen by clicking here, Sheptock talks about why he would find it difficult as a homeless advocate who has an adversarial relationship with the government, to work for the government himself but how Honkala would manage to do it if elected Philadelphia Sherif.
In the video to be seen by clicking here, Sheptock talks about his life, his struggles and the struggles of the homeless.
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.
Bruce Levin, whose grandfather’s company, “Perfect Rubber Seat Cushion,” began manufacturing cushions in Tacony in 1935, continues the family tradition with his retail shop in Chestnut Hill, “The Perfect Stitch,” and makes house calls to give estimates on re-upholstery jobs. Watch video here.
Evelyn Houck, a blond haired, blue eyed, AAA flatbed truck driver and mechanic whose home base is in Southwest Philadelphia made a call late Christmas Eve afternoon to a customer in Chestnut Hill. Houck jumpstarted the car to the delight of the customer who needed to pick her dog up at the pet store where it had been left, apparently, for a Christmas “do”. Houck expected things would get busy very shortly when some shoppers making last minute purchases at the Cheltenham Mall would return to their cars to sadly discover that they didn’t have their keys or had a flat tire or couldn’t start their car for one reason or another. This is the third consecutive Christmas Eve Houck has worked. She enjoys rescuing stranded drivers. Watch video here.
YOU’RE WORKING CHRISTMAS EVE. Unfortunately, yes I am but you know what? At least I’m out here helping the people get on their way – [pointing to customer] saving your dog… You know everybody’s at the mall doing their Christmas shopping. So probably around 6 o’clock, that’s when the mad rush starts- getting home from the mall to their house – car didn’t start, car keys in the car locket out, flat tire, overheat, you know, all that fun stuff…I’m the only one in my shop now that’s a female doing this job but there are a couple other tow operators that work for different companies that are in this business, too. AND HOW DO YOU GET THE HONOR OF HAVING THE FLAT BED? I love it. It gets the job done. Let me tell ya, this baby gets the job done. Cars with broken axels, ball joints, tie rod ends. Trying to get those babies up there is a hassle but ya know what? I get them up and I get them down. Rollovers, flip-overs, all those, yes, I do everything…. Some people don’t understand when they have a car, some dealerships don’t even show them where the spare tire is and they’re usually underneath the vehicle. You have to pop open the back, get underneath, and you have to see for yourself that there’s a spare. AND YOU HAD ONE TODAY? Yes, I did, and she was very happy that I didn’t have to tow her. WAS SHE SURPRISED? Oh yes, she was very surprised that I jumped out of the truck… The big muscular guy – I get out of my tow truck and he just says one word “Gimme the jack.” It takes him twenty minutes to kindly walk back over and say, “Can you give me a hand?” I gave him a hand, showed him how to do it and now he went on his way. And now he’s probably going to call back triple A and ask for a guy now.”
Prudential, Fox and Roach realtor Pam Thistle shows houses to prospective buyers Dabravka and Moritz Ritter who are attracted to the Hill's Avenue, shops, trains and not "too suburban" feel.
YOU’RE LOOKING FOR HOUSES IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD AND WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW?
Moritz Ritter: We live in center city and we are looking for 3, 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, quiet street…
Dabravka Ritter:..close to the transportation.
Pam Thistle: … because they have no car, nice walkable location
AND WHY ARE YOU LOOKING IN OUR NICE NEIGHBORHOOD?
MR: Oh, we like it up here! We’re looking for something that doesn’t have too suburban a feel [laughter]DR: Germantown Avenue’s a plus, the shops and the trains
HAVE YOU SEEN ANYTHING TODAY THAT YOU LIKE?
MR: Yes some things we’ll think about.PT: Just starting out, getting a feel for the neighborhood. DR: First trip.
Dabravaka and Moritz Ritter with Prudential, Fox and Roach realtor Pam Thistle.