by Paula M. Riley and Pete Mazzaccaro
During the course of the past decade, there have been few Chestnut Hill Community Association fund-raisers where Jane Piotrowski wasn’t at the helm. She has dedicated her skills as an organizer, fund-raiser and interior designer to raise awareness and thousands of dollars for CHCA’s many programs and activities.
She was president of the Chestnut Hill Community Association, vice president of its Social Division, vice president of its Operations Division, and association secretary Jane was co-chair of multiple Black & White Galas, Abzoolutely, Holiday House Tours and the Main Street Fair. She has also served as chair of the Membership Committee, Streetscape Committee, Awards Committee, Nominating Committee, and was a member of the Finance Committee, Executive Committee, Book Festival and, Blood Drive committees, and contributed to countless others.
Growing up in Flourtown, Chestnut Hill was always a special place for Piotrowski. After attending Mount St. Joseph’s Academy, Springfield High School and then college in Miami, it was the neighborhood she wanted to live in.
Her first apartment in the neighborhood, she remembered, rented for $50 a month –a rent she paid with her first job in Jewelry repair on Jeweler’s Row in Center City. She also supplemented her income with part-time jobs at Mes Enfant and the now-defunct Reese’s Pharmacy.
It’s a neighborhood that she continued to return to after living for brief periods in Center City, Mt. Airy and Doylestown.
“I kept moving back to the same apartment,” she said in an interview with the Local. “All my growing up memories are here. It was such a great place from the day I got here. When I first lived here in the 70s, you didn’t even have to lock your doors. You get to know people really quickly, and I think it’s still that way.”
By the end of the month, though, Piotrowski will be moving away to Scituate, a coastal town in Massachusetts in the greater Boston area.
That departure was the cause for a going-away party on Friday, Nov. 15, where friends and neighbors gathered to show their appreciation for her efforts and to say goodbye to her and her husband, Steve.
As the group enjoyed drinks and dinner in the Bombay Room of the Chestnut Hill Hotel, a projector displayed photos of Jane at Black & White galas, Pastorius Park concerts and CHCA community meetings. Other images showed the party invitations she designed, programs for events she chaired and her many donations to local events, including decorations for Holiday House Tours, centerpieces for dinners and floral arrangements for galas.
All of that work, Piotrowski said, was really what any good citizen should look to do.
“Not many communities have what we have here,” she said. “If you own a property here, it’s important to be a part of that. It’s taking ownership.
Though much of her work was important, and included an era of repairing an organization that kept poor financial records and at times was thrust into moments of crisis as a result, the Black and White Gala preparations where the thing she believes she’ll recall the most fondly from the10 years she’d been directly involved with the CHCA.
“I loved the Gala,” she said. “I love getting involved with the design and putting a face on something. I was always good at the parties. I think when we went through the bad times, that was my saving grace. It was enjoyable. I liked the events and pulling new people in.”
The Nov. 15 event featured tributes by those who worked besides her, logging hundreds of hours on planning committees as well as those who she collaborated with during her tenure as president of CHCA.
Stewart Graham, chief of staff to City Councilman David Oh, presented Piotrowski with a citation from Philadelphia City Council. It reads, “Jane Piotrowski is an extraordinarily talented person who has used her professional organizational, marketing, creative abilities to greatly benefit her community and her city as a volunteer whose remarkable generosity and commitment have been without limitation.”
Brien Tilley, CHCA president, praised all of Piotrowski’s volunteer work and attributed the healthy position of the CHCA to her.
“It is sad to see Jane go, but we will all be fine because of all her effort and passion for this community,” he said.
Marianne Dwyer, the former director of Teenagers Inc. worked closely with Piotrowski in multiple CHCA events, fund-raisers and coordinating Teenagers Inc. volunteer assistance.
“Jane’s greatest contributions which are many – as numerous as the stars in the sky – are her commitment to community living by being a diligent and caring volunteer,” Dwyer said.
Kate O’Neill, deputy director of the Chestnut Hill Business Association, believes that Piotrowski has helped make Chestnut Hill a better place to live, work and shop by volunteering her “considerable artistic talents and her community building skills.”
Many of the comments about Jane referred to her energy, spirit, great laugh and sense of humor.
“What I’ll personally miss the most about Jane is her sense of humor,” said Noreen Spota, administrative coordinator for the CHCA. “We shared countless laughs together. More importantly, Jane taught me, through her example, what it means to serve one’s community: that rare combination of devoting one’s time, energy, talents and treasure toward the greater goal of making Chestnut Hill one of the best communities anywhere.”
In signing a memory book for Jane, Tilley promised, “You should feel so good about what you’ve done – we will continue your good works and make you proud.”
Piotrowski said she was optimistic that the CHCA was in good hands.
“I do think it’s in good shape now,” she said. “I wanted to step back a little bit. My job was to learn from people ahead of me – learn, do it and pass it on. It’s hard to pass it on. I think I helped to pick things up.”
Asked what she will miss most, Piotrowski didn’t hesitate.
“The energy,” she said. “This neighborhood has a great energy.”
Of course, a good source of that energy will seen be moving to Massachusetts.