Come downtown & build community

It’s Friday afternoon, do you know where your friends are?

They might be at the monthly Postively!Pottstown Happy Hour! It starts in just one hour and runs til 7 pm. It’s at the PDIDA office at 139 E. High Street. $5 gets you refreshments, a free chance to win a $20 gift certificate to Funky Lil’ Kitchen and the opportunity to network with more than 60 people already signed up! Walk-ins welcome!

At 7 pm there’s a Neighborhood Watch meeting at the PAL building at 146 King Street. All are welcome there to meet neighbors and figure out ways to make Pottstown a safer place. Hope to see you there!

p.s. As I type, I can see a tree getting decorated over on Smith Plaza. Hometown Holidays are coming up – Dec. 3, 10, 17. More on that soon!

Law enforcement & citizens must become a team

Below is a copy of a post sent to The Mercury in response to the article on last night’s community meeting at Invictus Ministries at 79 N. Hanover. Of course, it’s my opinion, but I’m also trying to be objective in my observations. There’s a lot of work to be done – essential work that greatly impacts the town’s entire future.

“Thank you so much to Bishop Everett Debnam for hosting and leading this effort. I hope this wasn’t a once-and-done meeting. It is only the first step – letting everyone blow off steam. In my opinion, the meeting did not move into a constructive, problem-solving mode. Realistically, that was probably not possible on the first go-round; you usually can’t skip steps when repairing or re-building relationships.

What came across: 1) There are long-standing problems with how the public perceives their police. 2) Law enforcement officials do need more citizen participation/witnesses, but almost seemed to be blaming the citizens & putting it all back on them. This is not the last we’re going to hear on these matters. Okay. Everyone needs to try to do better.

For me, key pieces of new information were: Local and Philly gangs have been feuding over drug-turf in town… since 2006! This year police cut foot patrols in the core neighborhoods. Shootings have escalated in the core throughout 2010. The police are re-instating the patrols in January 2011.

Okay. There’s no going back. It is what it is… unless I got that wrong.

This has to be a multi-stage process. The D.A. did say that as well. This is just the beginning. Relationships have to be built. Like most relationship problems, this one is rooted in communication. There need to be constructive, visible steps taken to improve communications & get results. My starter wishlist:

1) Put the tip line phone numbers on the home page of the PD’s website, not buried on other pages.

2) Put information about the “witness training” program, which was mentioned at the meeting, on the PD home page.

3) Release some meaningful crime statistics to the public now and follow-up on those statistics every quarter.

4) Borough: charge ahead on code enforcement!

5) Citizens: Introduce yourself to the officers on the beat in your neighborhood! Go to the Town Watch meetings EVERY 3rd Friday. Meeting this Friday, PAL building, 146 E. King Street, 7 pm.)

6) Schedule a follow-up meeting – maybe in 2 months at Invictus? Commit to building the relationship between citizens and law enforcement. It requires “face-time.” The monthly happy hours I’m hosting as part of economic revitalization efforts are built on the same premise. You can’t get things done as a team if you don’t know and trust your teammates. (All are invited to those, by the way. See website & rsvp.)

7) I personally would like to get donations and a motion sensor lighting program underway. A small step, but it’s something.

Sue Repko

Inequitable distribution of housing vouchers in Montgomery County

The debate about how to best house the less fortunate has many facets and many layers. Below is my response posted earlier today to an opinion piece at The Mercury, written by Elizabeth G. Hersh, Executive Director of the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania. My comments were posted under the name “Number5.”

“This is a long-winded version of brussell’s last paragraph!

The whole point of the First Suburbs project is to bring attention to the fiscal & underlying policy inequities among various municipalities that exist side-by-side or within close proximity to each other in a region. While I agree with Ms. Hersh in many respects, I fear that her defense of the voucher program loses sight of this very basic premise.

There are many good purposes served by the Housing Choice Voucher Program. I am a staunch supporter of its compassionate intent and believe we must be vigilant against negative stereotyping of individuals. But, like many other public programs & policies, if the voucher program is implemented inequitably, much of its good can be undone or result in unintended consequences to communities.

If I am reading Ms. Hersh’s numbers correctly, 4% of all of Montgomery County’s rental units have tenants who are voucher holders, and 12-15% of all of Pottstown’s and Norristown’s rental units have tenants who are voucher holders. Therefore, Pottstown and Norristown have 3-4 times the CONCENTRATION of voucher holders than the county as a whole. The county’s low-income residents ARE concentrated in the county’s urban areas. That is not a “negative stereotype.” That is reality, and it is unacceptable public policy. Not only is it not good for a community’s fiscal health, it is not good for the low-income people themselves, particularly the children, who benefit from being educated among a socio-economic diversity of peers. In what ways do voucher holders truly have a CHOICE to live in a suburban community?

I would also be curious to know how the “nearly half” of elderly/disabled voucher holders are distributed geographically throughout the county. Are they in the urban and suburban areas in roughly equal concentrations?

The phrase, “yes, making sure that all communities bear an equal responsibility for helping our less fortunate neighbors” is added in the last paragraph almost as an afterthought, when that is actually one of the main premises of the First Suburbs project. I have nothing but respect for Ms. Hersh and other affordable housing advocates and providers for their commitment and passion, but summary statistics can be misleading. Critical analysis will help us find more equitable AND compassionate solutions.

Sue Repko
Positively!Pottstown ”

(First Suburbs link added here.)

PDIDA Calendar

If you don’t know what PDIDA is or what it stands for, read on.

The Pottstown Downtown Improvement District Authority is a special assessment district that provides benefits to businesses such as keeping the area safe and clean and helping with marketing.  The Main Street Manager, Leighton Wildrick, works under their umbrella.

PDIDA is pronounced Puh-Dee-Duh. And, yes, it’s kind of musical!

And now the main reason for this post: PDIDA recently began updating their online calendar and it looks awesome! Please check it out HERE.

Also, please note the Hometown Holiday Celebrations that are happening on Fridays in December – the 3rd, 10th and 17th. There will be TONS to do downtown and it will be lit up and decorated!

To support the businesses, arts & restaurants, I’m hoping we can get a crowd together for a “High Street Holiday Hop” for December 3rd. The basic idea is to start at The Brick House at 5 pm and then every 30 minutes or so, move as a group to another venue. We can listen to the choirs and carolers along the way and eat, drink and shop our way up and down High Street. I’ll let you know more as the date gets closer.

In the meantime, be sure to bookmark PDIDA’s calendar!

Open Invitation

Because the town that breaks bread together will find a way to revitalize together…

[Click 11/19/10 for vibrant, colorful invitation.]

(Get your positive vibe on here.)



When: Friday, November 19 from 5:01-7:00 p.m.

Where: PDIDA Office, 139 E. High St., Pottstown, PA 19464

Bring yourself, bring a friend!

Anyone interested in Pottstown’s revitalization is invited to

this casual, monthly gathering.

Bring business cards, brochures or flyers for 50 people.

We want to help you make connections!

Your $5 contribution helps pay the talented local vendors

who supply food & beverages.





Thanks to Leighton Wildrick & PDIDA for the generous use of their space


Chestnut Knoll Assisted Living for their donation of appetizers this month!

Free drawing for a $20 gift certificate to Funky Lil’ Kitchen!




Second article in series on childhood obesity

Note: This is the second article in a four-part series on Childhood Obesity presented by the Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation. Corresponding Webisodes are available for viewing on


By: Dr. Laurie Betts, Program Officer, Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation

Too often, parents make excuses why their child is overweight, or worse, not even realize that their weight is becoming a problem. “It’s baby fat, she’ll out grow it.” “He’s just a good eater.” “She is just big-boned.” “His dad is big too, it’s in the family.” Unfortunately, ignoring the warning signs that your child is gaining weight or is already obese can have significant effects on their current and future physical health and surprisingly, their psychological health, too.

A recent White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity Report to the President, Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity Within a Generation, released some startling information—childhood obesity has become an epidemic in America and it is now considered a national health crisis. The report goes on to say that the epidemic of childhood obesity is costing more than $3 billion a year in direct medical expenses and that is likely to rise if not stopped. According to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, approximately nine million American children over six years old are considered obese. In addition, one study found that obese six to eight year-olds were approximately ten times more likely to become obese adults than children with lower body mass indexes (BMI).

It is not considered normal for a child to be overweight. It is important that parents take the responsibility to feed their children healthy foods and monitor their intake in the early years, so that good eating habits stay with them for life. However, all too often, it is easier to let children self-monitor what they are eating due to their or your schedule. The reality is that parents need to be just as concerned about what their children eat as they are about teaching them not to get into cars with strangers.

Risk Factors for Childhood Obesity
There are a number of factors that can contribute to a child being overweight; in fact, the tendency can actually start before birth. If the mother uses tobacco, gains excessive weight or has diabetes, her child has an increased risk of being obese during the preschool years. If the child has a higher birth weight, has rapid weight gain in the first year of life or develops body fat in the preschool years, he or she has an increased risk of being obese by age seven.

Other risk factors include:
Diet – regularly eating high-calorie foods such as baked goods, fast food, fried food, vending machine snacks, sugary drinks, candy and desserts can easily cause a child to gain weight. All these foods lack significant nutritional value and are high in sugar, fat and calories.

Lack of exercise – children tend to spend more time in front of the TV, the computer and video games and less time outside playing sports, walking and riding bikes. Children who do not exercise much are likely to gain weight because they are not burning enough calories.

Family history – if the child comes from a family of overweight people or if one or both parents are obese, he or she is more likely to put on excess weight, especially if the parents do not eat well and high-calorie food is always available and exercise is not encouraged.

Psychological factors – children can overeat due to stressful school or home life situations. They also can turn to food to cope with any strong emotions or problems, or to fight boredom.

Family factors – parents buy the groceries, and if they are buying high-calorie or convenience foods, this is probably contributing to a child’s weight problem. Parents should limit the child’s exposure to these types of foods.

Socioeconomic factors – children from low-income backgrounds are unfortunately at higher risk. It takes both time and resources to make healthy eating and exercise a family priority.

Warning Signs
In addition to the risk factors for childhood obesity, there are definite warning signs a parent can watch for that could indicate your child is already overweight or on the path to becoming obese.

1. Weight gain – this is definitely a sign that your child is probably not eating correctly, especially if your child is a teenager. Teens are usually in a growth phase, and they should be absorbing energy from their food, not putting on unnecessary pounds and getting obese.

2. Inactivity – if your child starts to become overweight, he or she will most likely become less active and lethargic. Children need to be active in order to develop properly. The amount of physical education they get in school is not enough. Exercising as a family can help assure your child is getting enough physical activity.

3. Depression – this is a very serious condition, and if you are concerned your child may be depressed, always seek professional help. Depressed children often overeat, seeking solace in food. This can lead to obesity and eating disorders.

4. Improper Eating – if children are not eating the healthy meals you’ve prepared, there is a good chance they have been snacking on junk food during the day or after school.

5. Meal Skipping – this could lead to binging or digestive problems. It is important to discourage children from skipping a meal because it will not help them lose weight, but it could actually lead to weight gain.

6. Food Obsession – when your child starts to turn to food instead of friends and family for support or comfort, this can be an unhealthy association and lead to obesity, as well as other problems.

7. Continual Snacking – this is a bad habit that will follow children into adulthood. Have healthy snacks on hand for after-school treats. It will help alleviate hunger pangs, but offer nutritional value.

Short- and Long-Term Health Effects
Ultimately, being overweight as a child puts the child at increased risk for having problems, both in the short term and the long term, with the child’s physical, social and emotional well-being.

Physical complications include:
– Type 2 diabetes
– High blood pressure and high cholesterol
– Asthma and other breathing problems
– Sleep apnea, a condition in which your child may snore, have abnormal breathing, or stop breathing while asleep
– Early puberty or menstruation due to hormone imbalances of being overweight at an early age
– Gallstones
– Liver problems

Social and emotional complications include:
– Suffering from low self-esteem and bullying
– Behavior and learning problems
– Depression

What Are We doing?
The Report to the President is hopeful that we are prepared to fight this epidemic through knowledge of the causes and risk factors for obesity. In addition, the report outlines what we can do as a country, as individual communities and as families to stop the epidemic.

In February 2010, Michelle Obama launched her Let’s Move initiative to the nation. It is designed to get healthier foods in schools, give parents support to make healthier choices for their children, and get families to be active together. For more information on this program, go to

The Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation continues to make strides in changing the health habits of area residents. The Foundation funds programs and services through grants to area organizations and schools that focus on teaching children and their families to live healthier lives.

About the Series – Childhood Obesity
This four-part article series was developed by the Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation. Corresponding Webisodes featuring local experts can be found on The first article discusses how childhood obesity has become a national epidemic. The third article will discuss what schools are doing across the nation, the state of Pennsylvania and in Greater Pottstown to combat childhood obesity. The final article will focus on what parents and children can do to start to change their habits, lose weight and live healthier lives.

About the Foundation
The Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation’s mission is to enhance the health and wellness of area residents, providing education, funding and programs that motivate people to adopt healthy lifestyles. Visit for more information about the Foundation. Discover Pottstown area’s new online community at to learn and share great information on how to lead a healthier life!

Dirge for Two Veterans by Walt Whitman

Dirge for Two Veterans
(from Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman)

The last sunbeam
Lightly falls from the finish’d Sabbath,
On the pavement here—and there beyond, it is looking,
Down a new-made double grave.


Lo! the moon ascending!
Up from the east, the silvery round moon;
Beautiful over the house tops, ghastly phantom moon;
Immense and silent moon.


I see a sad procession,
And I hear the sound of coming full-key’d bugles;
All the channels of the city streets they’re flooding,
As with voices and with tears.


I hear the great drums pounding,
And the small drums steady whirring;
And every blow of the great convulsive drums,
Strikes me through and through.


For the son is brought with the father;
In the foremost ranks of the fierce assault they fell;
Two veterans, son and father, dropt together,
And the double grave awaits them.


Now nearer blow the bugles,
And the drums strike more convulsive;
And the day-light o’er the pavement quite has faded,
And the strong dead-march enwraps me.


In the eastern sky up-buoying,
The sorrowful vast phantom moves illumin’d;
(’Tis some mother’s large, transparent face,
In heaven brighter growing.)


O strong dead-march, you please me!
O moon immense, with your silvery face you soothe me!
O my soldiers twain! O my veterans, passing to burial!
What I have I also give you.


The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music;
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
My heart gives you love.

Walt Whitman was an American poet, who has been called the “Poet of Democracy” and “America’s Shakespeare.” He lived from 1819-1892. Throughout his lifetime, he wrote several editions of the poetry collection Leaves of Grass. It is personal as well as political, reflecting the growth of the nation.

I admire Whitman not only for his poetry, but for his empathetic nature and the way he acted on his convictions. During the Civil War, when he heard that his brother was injured, he went to Washington, D.C. to look for him. When he saw the number of suffering and wounded, he stayed on, serving as a volunteer nurse, making over 600 visits to military hospitals to care for them. To learn more about him, click here. Sometimes you have to put down the pen, or push away from the keyboard, and get out in the world and do what needs to be done.

To hear “Taps,” click here.

Take your pick: Variety of music on tap this weekend

There are multiple musical events happening in Pottstown this weekend. I’m going to let you know about all of them, and then you can decide what you’re in the mood for!

(1) At 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, the Senior Theater Performance Troupe at the Tri-County Performing Arts Center will put on their Veterans Day Tribute. They will celebrate all veterans with a USO-style show filled with popular songs from the Civil War through World War II. Tickets are $12 for adults; just $10 for students and seniors; and $8 for children 12 and under. Go here for tickets and more info. Tri-PAC is located at 245 High Street, Pottstown, PA 19464.

(2) If you want to continue enjoying great music while honoring veterans AND support the Pottstown High School Boosters, you will want to get your tickets ASAP for the Veterans Day Extravaganza this Saturday, Nov. 13 at the Stanley I. Davenport Center for Performing Arts at Pottstown High School, 750 N. Washington Street. Doors open at 5:00 p.m. and the show starts at 6:00 p.m.

Organizer, music enthusiast and dedicated booster Tom Coyle has put together an amazing line-up of classic doo-wop and oldies performers, guaranteed to bring back fond memories. The list at press time includes: Jimmy Beaumont & the Skyliners (“Pennies from Heaven”), the Duprees (“You Belong to Me”), Shirley Alston Reeves & the Shirelles (“Soldier Boy”), and Larry Chance & The Earls (“Remember Then”). The show will be hosted by radio personality KING ARTHUR of and WNJC1360.

Tickets are $45 and will benefit the PHS Boosters. Keep the fun going at an after-concert DJ dance at the Elks Lodge, 61 High Street Pottstown, PA 19464 (Cover: $5.00). Contact Tom Coyle directly for tickets at 610-306-9361 (NOT the school.)

(3) And, finally, if you want to hear one of the most accomplished and magical choirs in the country, you should head over to Emmanuel Lutheran Church at 150 N. Hanover Street on Saturday evening, where the Westminster Choir from Princeton, NJ will be conducted by Joe Miller. Special guests include the Hilltones and Hilltrebles, a capella groups from the Hill School.

The Music at Emmanuel series is now in its 27th season and brings extraordinary musical talent to downtown Pottstown, usually for free. The Minister of Music at Emmanuel Lutheran is Andrew Meade, who received his master’s degree from Westminster. He has been at Emmanuel since September 2009.

“With a group of really well-trained singers led by an incredibly talented conductor, the energy and vibrancy of sound will be unlike anything most people will have heard before,” he said.

I couldn’t agree more. For a sample of the angelic sound of this choir, check out this performance of Peter Christian Lutkin’s choral benediction The Lord Bless You and Keep You. It was recorded this past May, just before graduation, in the Princeton University chapel.

The Emmanuel Lutheran sanctuary, beautiful and with great acoustics, seats 450 people. Tickets for Westminster Choir are $10 at the door. Students with a valid ID get in free. The concert this Saturday begins at 7:30 pm. A reception to meet the artists follows every concert.

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