by Paula M. Riley

Fifteen years ago, Jane Becker and her late husband, Dick, wanted to keep working with children. They had recently retired from their jobs as teachers in the Philadelphia school district. Active volunteers in Chestnut Hill, the pair decided that working with teenagers would fill a need for the community and keep them with working with the youngsters they loved.

The late Richard Becker (left) will be honored at this week's Taste of Chestnut Hill fundraiser for Teenagers Inc. The late Andy Keen (right) was also a regular volunteer at Teens Inc. events, including the annual Ghost Walk at which this photo was taken.

The couple knew there once was an active teen group in the area. They researched the Chestnut Hill Local archives and discovered this was true. When they reestablished Teenagers Inc. in 1996, they added new elements to the group. Instead of just providing recreational activities, teens could now participate in community service, leadership and receive tutoring.

With a grant from the Chestnut Hill Community Association and funds from private donors, Teenagers Inc. hired Marianne Dwyer as their part-time executive director and began offering social, recreational, leadership training and service activities for teens.
They hosted hot dog roasts, Earth Day cleanups and teen tutoring in the Women’s Exchange building. As they offered more programming, they needed more funds. In 2004, Jane Becker came up with the idea of hosting “A Taste of Chestnut Hill” as a fundraiser featuring foods from area restaurants, bakeries and farmers’ markets.

This year, “A Taste of Chestnut Hill” is on Sunday, Nov. 20, at Chestnut Hill Springside Academy on Cherokee Street from 5:30 to 8 p.m. NBC reporter Deanna Durante will host the event, which includes a special 15th anniversary celebration and tribute to Jane and Dick Becker.

Organized and presented by teenagers, in cooperation with their young adult and adult board members, the event includes an array of delicious appetizers, main entrees, desserts, a silent auction, and a 50/50 raffle. Its highlight will be the slideshow, created by teens and the young adult board, chronicling 15 years of Teenagers Inc. events and activities.

On Sunday, teens will serve as hosts and servers at “A Taste of Chestnut Hill,” where guests can sample items from more than 40  local eateries. Menu favorites include veggie lasagna from Cafette, Chicken Milanese from Roller’s Flying Fish, spring rolls and dumplings from Cin Cin, spreads and cheese from Jonathan’s Best, ribs from Darcy’s in the Flourtown Farm Market, pies and rolls from Poppy’s Seed Bakery, pulled pork from J & M Meats, stir-fried rice from King’s Garden and much more.

New participants this year include Chestnut 7, Mica, and The Cedars House. Other new donors are Strada Pasta (donating seasonal lasagna) and Thai Kuu, bringing Kanum Jeep-steamed shrimp dumplings, Thai crispy gold bags and Satay chicken on bamboo skewers.

Throughout the evening, guests are encouraged to bid on an interesting variety of silent auction specialty items, including gift certificates from area businesses and homemade presents. Premier items are four VIP Club box tickets to a Flyers game (with food and parking) and a pair of tickets for two different Villanova men’s basketball games at the Wells Fargo Center. Services for auction donated by teen and alum members of Teenagers Inc. include private yoga sessions, handcrafted jewelry, children’s T-shirts and artwork.

“We are thrilled to have a donor matching our auction bids this year,” Dwyer said. “We hope the attendees will up their bids so we can maximize this opportunity.”
As she describes the event, Dwyer can’t stop talking about the Beckers.

“They have dedicated so much to the kids for so many years,” she said. “Both Jane and Dick always had so much enthusiasm and energy.”

Dwyer laughs as she recalls the numerous dances, rock fests, hot dog roasts and night walks the couple hosted in their 70s.

“I think they just amazing,” she added. “I hope I’m like them in my 70s.”

Dwyer attributes the Teen Center (on Bethlehem Pike) to the Beckers. They worked closely with Richard Snowden from Bowman Properties to secure a location for teenagers to enjoy social and recreational events and tutoring. Since 2000, the Teen Center has been a rent-free haven for hundreds of young people in junior and high school.

Teenagers Inc. fosters a community spirit with area teens and provides opportunities for students to socialize in safe and enjoyable environments. The nonprofit also coordinates volunteer opportunities for teens to donate their time and energy both in Chestnut Hill and beyond.

Teenagers Inc. volunteers will be providing free babysitting for the duration of the event. Children will enjoy pizza, craft activities, movies and even an appearance by Sesame Street characters.

The cost is $30 for persons 12 years and older, and $8 for children ($35/$10 at the door). Reservations can be made at Town Hall, 8434 Germantown Ave., or by contacting Marianne Dwyer at  215-242-4976 . Learn more about Teenagers Inc. at www.teensincphilly.org or on Facebook.