The New Year brings another Polar Bear Plunge

New Year’s Day in Pottstown means one thing: it’s time for the 5th Annual Polar Bear Plunge! Come on out to Riverfront Park at 140 College Drive to watch, or join in by plunging into the Schuylkill River at 10:30 am. All participants must sign a waiver.

There will be plenty of other activities to keep the sane folks entertained, from a Christmas Tree Toss to the Fruitcake Roll, a bonfire, a card game, hot dogs, sauerkraut, hot chocolate and coffee. Everything starts heating up at 9 am, but that’s just a figure of speech; the weather report is calling for an overcast day with flurries possible. Read all about it here in this Mercury article by Frank Otto.

Two years ago I took the plunge, but I have been a wimp ever since. Still, I expect to be there tomorrow morning to cheer on the brave Polar Bears of the Pottstown area. Will you be taking the Plunge?

Author to speak TONIGHT at Schuylkill River Heritage Area headquarters

This comes to us from the Schuylkill River Heritage Area… a fascinating story about the cleanup of the river – the first of its kind in the nation, in the mid-20th century. Looking forward to this!


Author to Speak on New Book about a Little Known Chapter in the Schuylkill River’s Environmental History

Book signing planned for 6:30-8:30 p.m. on December 1


In the mid-20th century the Schuylkill was one of the nation’s dirtiest rivers. Throughout the Industrial Revolution, its waters served as a dumping site for factory pollutants, raw sewage and, perhaps most damaging of all, coal waste, known as culm.  By 1945 an estimated 38 million tons of culm had accumulated in its channel.

The Schuylkill was on the brink of becoming a wasteland until, in 1945, the state of Pennsylvania agreed to undertake the Schuylkill River Project. It was the first major government-funded environmental cleanup, and it dredged millions of tons of coal culm from the river. That story, the events that led up to it, and the impact that it had, are the subject of a new book, A River Again, by Chari Towne.

Towne will speak at a book signing tonight, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 6:30- 8:30 p.m. at the Schuylkill River Heritage Area offices, located at 140 College Drive, in Pottstown. The Heritage Area’s River of Revolutions Interpretive Center will also be open during the event. Doors open at 6:30, lecture begins at 7:00 followed by book signing.  Light refreshments will be served. There is no cost for this event, but please let us know you’re coming by calling 484-945-0200, or email

 Towne is a former Olympic rower who trained on the Schuylkill, and today works as the Schuylkill Watershed Specialist for the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and a Master of Science degree in Natural Resource Planning. The book was funded in part by a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources administered through the Schuylkill River Heritage Area. Other funders include The Jerlyn Foundation and The William Penn Foundation.

 Researching and writing A River Again took her about four years, but her interest in penning a book about the river’s cleanup goes back much farther.

 “For more than 10 years I wanted to write this story, because it was something I realized most people didn’t know a lot about, or had misconceptions about,” said Towne.

 Nevertheless, researching the book proved difficult. Many of the project records had been destroyed, and first person narratives from project workers were not easy to come by. Despite that, Towne managed to unearth enough documentation and former Schuylkill River Project workers to craft her 200-plus page book.

 A River Again tells the story of how a series of environmentally harmful practices throughout the Industrial Revolution so defiled the river that its value as a source of drinking water was severely threatened. It introduces the politicians and environmental leaders who pushed for legislation to eliminate pollution and fought for funding to clean it.

 The book includes photos of the dredging project and the sediment-filled river, further illustrating the enormity of the problem and the vast effort required to remove the coal culm.

 Towne hopes readers come away with a greater respect for the Schuylkill and a thirst to learn more about its fascinating environmental history.

 “People think the Schuylkill is so polluted today. It’s hard for them to put in context just how far the river has come. I’d like to see them regain that perspective,” Towne said.

 The hardcover books will be available for $21.95 at the book signing, and can also be purchased directly from the Delaware Riverkeeper Network at It is also available as a free publication on that website, and can be downloaded from the “Resources” tab by clicking on “Free publications.”

 The Schuylkill River Heritage Area has a limited supply of A River Again.  No copies will be available from the Heritage Area prior to the book signing.

 The Schuylkill River National and State Heritage Area, managed by the  non-profit Schuylkill River Greenway Association, uses conservation, education, recreation, historic preservation and tourism as tools for community revitalization and economic development. Visit to learn more.

Don’t Let Internet Threats Undermine Your Small Business

This comes to us from the Pottstown chapter of SCORE. Having just received two spam-type emails from two separate friends’ email accounts that had been hacked, this seemed timely.

Many people often overlook Internet security until word of a new virus or email “worm” hits the headlines.  Even then, it’s easy to assume that existing firewalls and virus software are enough to safeguard computers and precious data.

The fact is that as the Internet has grown in sophistication, so too have the threats to the security of the people who use it.   One technology firm that screens emails for spam and viruses on behalf of small business customers estimates that 3.6 percent of messages contain a virus.  Even if you strive to be alert for suspicious emails, a distraction or familiar-sounding sender is all it takes for one to slip through.

As a business owner, you must be prepared to protect your IT hardware, software, and data resources. The first step is to educate everyone at your business about the dangers and set policies for using the Internet and opening email attachments. For example, don’t let employees use file sharing Web sites and prohibit downloading applications from unknown sites.

All your computers, networks, and email servers should have antivirus software and other security features. Use a firewall to block incoming traffic that is not needed for your business. And, update all operating systems, software, and security measures on a regular basis. Older versions are more vulnerable to attack. If you discover a PC is infected, take it off your network so that fixes can be installed. offers a full range of anti-virus, anti-spam and computer problem solving solutions for small business. The Small Business Center portion of the firm’s Web site has dozens of articles on computer security and maintenance, such as downloadable publications on protecting Windows operating environments, managing risk, and other timely security topics.

Another helpful information source for computer security is, which provides news, discussion forums, tips for evaluating system security needs, and a buyer’s guide for various security products.  The Security section of Microsoft’s Small Business Center at also provides information to help familiarize yourself with various Internet threats and how to ensure your small business IT resources are fully protected.

To learn more about technology issues facing your small business, contact SCORE “Counselors to America’s Small Business.” SCORE is a nonprofit organization of more than 10,500 volunteer business counselors who provide free, confidential business counseling and training workshops to small business owners. Call 610-327-2673 for the Pottstown SCORE office, or go online at

Frogtowne offers work of local artists & extended holiday shopping hours

Not too far from St. Peter’s Village, Frogtowne Artisan Creations just celebrated its first anniversary. This new venture is managed by Colin Macy, a 2009 graduate of the Oregon College of Art & Craft. Colin is not only a furniture maker, but a businessman promoting and selling the work of other local artists in a wide open store/gallery located at 1190 Ridge Road in North Coventry. There are lots of choices for holiday gifts and extended hours to help you find a unique gift for everyone on your list.
Regular Store Hours are:

  • Thursdays 4pm – 8pm
  • Fridays 11am – 7pm
  • Saturdays 10am – 6pm
  • Sunday 10am – 6pm

This week they are also open Tuesday and Wednesday, 4pm – 8pm

Virtually all the artists whose work appears in the Frogtowne gallery are from Chester and Montgomery counties. Shown here are handmade soaps created from all-natural products by Susan McCafferty of Canterbury Naturals. Also shown is a bench by Colin Macy and a wood sculpture by Michael Gilligan of Kimberton.

I just loved browsing through the vintage black and white photos produce by The Vintage Image Shop of Pottstown. Owners Erik and Jennifer Maximenko find old images in the public domain, many with recognizable, famous people, and they restore, print and mat them; some are framed. If I ever ran my own art gallery, it would probably be strictly a photographic gallery. If you’re in a nostalgic mood, or want some vintage images to decorate your home or office, check them out.

These are just some of the nearly 40 artists whose work is displayed and available for purchase at Frogtowne. There are also paintings by Joseph Hoover of Pughtown, pottery by Ruth Hayes of Harmonyville, jewelry by Heather Lampron of Oley, and furniture by Colin’s dad, Brad Macy. Frogtowne is, in fact, something of a family affair. Colin first learned the art of woodcraft from his father, who in turn had learned from his mother. Read this beautiful blog post by Brad’s brother Chris to get a sense of how a love of wood and its possibilities was passed from generation to generation. And then make Frogtowne a stop on your shopping rounds this week. You’re sure to find something that will surprise and delight someone close to you.

Frogtown Artisan Creations
1990 Ridge Road
Pottstown, Pa 19465
(484) 985 – 9835

Van Gogh Secret Studio at ArtFusion lets younger children shop for family & friends

The Secret Studio returns for a third year at ArtFusion 19464.

 Looking for a way to make holiday gift shopping easier for your children? Then be sure to check out VanGogh’s Secret Studio, a fun opportunity for kids 12 and under to shop for special gifts for family and friends. The studio is fully stocked with goodies for everyone on their lists, from relatives to teachers and coaches.

All items are handcrafted and range in price from $1 to $5. The Workshop will be open Saturday, December 15 from 10am to 3pm and Sunday, December 16 from 12-3pm at the ArtFusion building, 254 E. High St.

ArtFusion recommends children come with a list and a budget. Parents can download a simple form from the ArtFusion website: The ArtFusion elves will help the children select gifts and stay within their budget. Shoppers will even get their gifts wrapped for free! Parents must remain in the gallery while their children shop. The Studio is a fundraiser for the non-profit ArtFusion 19464.

ArtFusion 19464 is a 501(c)3 non-profit community art center located at 254 E. High St. in downtown Pottstown. The school offers day, evening and weekend classes to all ages. The goal of these classes is to help students develop their creative skills through self-expression and independence. ArtFusion’s gallery hosts rotating shows featuring local artists. The gallery also sells handcrafted, one-of-a-kind gift items. The gallery is open Tuesday through Friday from 10am-5pm and Saturday 10am-3pm. The gallery is closed Sunday and Monday.


Pottstown Annual Hometown Holiday Celebration on tap tonight & Saturday


FRIDAYs, DECEMBER 14 & 21, 2012

Contact: The Sitter’s Clubhouse – by phone 610.326.7600 – by email

4 TO 8PM

Every hour starting at 4:30 and last story at 7:30pm
ST. Contact: The Sitter’s Clubhouse – by phone 610.326.7600 – by email
DECEMBER 15TH ONLY – Van Gogh’s Secret Studio 10am-3pm at ArtFusion 19464, 254 E. High St.
Van Gogh’s Secret Studio returns for a third year! This fundraiser is a special shopping opportunity for
kids 12 and under. Young shoppers will be able to choose from a special selection of handcrafted gifts priced from $1-$5. Volunteers will be on hand to help children shop, and all purchases will be wrapped.
Get a FREE Trolley Ride through the downtown and also a stop at The Sly Fox Tasting Room! You MUST BE 21 or OLDER to enter Sly Fox.

Buy Local and Win BIG with the HOMETOWN HOLIDAY RAFFLE!


Have you purchased your Hometown Holiday Raffle Ticket yet?

Here is how it works . . . . . .

Purchase your raffle ticket for $25 from the Pottstown Visitors’ Center at 17 N. Hanover Street or Cole’s Tobacco at 215 E. High Street or Grumpy’s at 137 E. High Street.


1st PRIZE – $2,000

2nd PRIZE – $1,000

3rd PRIZES – Merchant gift cards

Shop at four different participating stores in the downtown – spending a minimum of $25 each – or $100 in one!

Return your completed Raffle Ticket to the Pottstown Visitors’ Center at 17 N. Hanover Street no later than 5PM on December 22nd in order to be part of the drawing.
Receipts must be stapled to your Raffle Card in order to qualify.

For the list of participating merchants, click here.

Raffle Tickets can be purchased at:

. . . Pottstown’s Visitor Center at 17 N Hanover Street, or

. . . Cole’s Tobacco at 215 High Street, or

. . . Grumpy’s at 137 High Street

For more information, click here or call 484-948-6061

Don’t be left out in the cold!!!! . . . Enter Now and Win!

YWCA literacy campaign continues with “Some Children’s Books I Want to Talk About”

Some Children’s Books I Want to Talk About

As the Pottstown YWCA’s literacy campaign winds to a close this Tuesday, I urge my readers and friends to show their support by visiting this link. There you will be asked to provide your email address in order for the YWCA to get $1 from an anonymous donor. Your email address will not be used by the Y or anyone! While you’re at the link, please check the box that says you heard about this campaign from Positively Pottstown. The last day to show your support is this Tuesday, December 11th, so please do it now! I thank you, the YWCA thanks you, and all the folks who benefit from their literacy education, from infants through seniors, will thank you, too. Now, let’s take a moment to talk about some wonderful, must-have children’s books…

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With the holiday season upon us – which means it’s time to buy books – perhaps you are wondering what to get for a child of your own, or your first grandchild, or all those nieces and nephews, or even the newborn of one of your co-workers. Today I’m in the mood to reminisce about some of the classics that my family simply loved during the early years. We started reading to our sons pretty much immediately – well, probably as soon as they could hold their heads up at a couple months old and the fog from the netherworld of childbirth itself had started to clear.

Early on, we used to keep all the books – mostly board books, the ones made of sturdy cardboard with just a picture on each page – in a basket. Our oldest son is famous in our family for getting himself settled on the couch in the family room, clutching his teddy, pointing to the basket and commanding his uncle, who had come to babysit, to “Read!” They’d proceed to go through the entire basket. And then they’d do it again. This basket included Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt, which is a “touch and feel” book because it’s got surfaces that an infant and toddler can touch to learn about how soft a bunny is or how scratchy daddy’s beard is.

The power of Pat the Bunny lies in how the story, such as it is, puts words to how these things feel. Like so many early childhood books, Pat the Bunny exposes children to the concept that everything around us has been named, and these names can be experienced by the sound of a parent’s voice, a picture that goes along with it, and those symbols and lines and shapes that are next to the picture – what we hope they will one day recognize as words, the very words their parent or grandparent or sibling has been saying all along. Board books and “touch and feel” books can be the foundation for literacy for the littlest people. Pat the Bunny was first published in 1940 and has sold more than 6 million copies. There’s now a whole series of Pat the Bunny books.

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Another beloved classic is Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. It’s the perfect bedtime story. The whole message and tone of it, and the accompanying pictures, are intended to settle everyone down, as the bunny narrator slowly says goodnight to the moon and everything in the room. It’s one of the sweetest stories ever told. It was written in 1949 and it, too, is still going strong.

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Speaking of the moon, you might want to consider a copy of Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, for ages 5+. It’s about a girl and her dad, who go out on a snowy night to see if they can spot an owl. This is another great bedtime book because it’s quiet and poetic. (How could you spot an owl otherwise?) Here’s an unforgettable quote: “Somewhere behind us a train whistle blew, long and low, like a sad, sad song.” Okay, this is making me cry… I once heard the aforementioned son whispering those words to himself in the tub when he was just a toddler, and I knew then that he was taking everything in; a child’s mind is a kind of sponge.

Moving on in years, another sweet series by Arnold Lobel involves two best friends named Frog and Toad, who have adventures and share things and show what friendship is all about. There is a gentleness to both their natures that is a healthy antidote to the “real” world. Be sure to start out with Frog and Toad Are Friends. The books are billed as early readers, but this is also a great series to read aloud to younger children who are able to sit still a little longer and are ready for a longer story.

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Well, I could go on and on and on. There are so many fantastic books out there and, I’m sure, some fantastic children in your life who you’d love to share them with. This holiday season, consider checking out your local book store, talking to the sales people, putting together a little library, and bringing the joy and wonder of stories and language to a child near you.

And please, please plug your email address in at this link to ensure the Pottstown YWCA’s literacy program gets one more dollar from their anonymous donor and many more folks in our region will get the chance to learn to read and write. Thank you.

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