by Pete Mazzaccaro
The Chestnut Hill Community Association held its annual meeting on Thursday night, April 23. It was an evening of reports on the state of the association and for recognizing four Hill residents for their work to improve the neighborhood.
Unlike years past in which the meal was catered, CHCA board members donated food, wine and beer, which was served to guests by members of Teenagers Inc.
The meeting was “emceed” by CHCA president Will Detweiler, who, in addition to offering his own report on the CHCA, introduced award presenters and the evening’s special guest, 8th District Councilwoman Cindy Bass.
Bass was the first to offer remarks to dinner guests and began describing her role representing a large district of 150,000 residents that stretches from Chestnut Hill to neighborhoods along Broad Street like Nicetown and Tioga. All, she said, had unique needs.
“Every part of this district needs something,” she said. “Some say, ‘In Chestnut Hill they have everything’. That’s obviously not true. Every neighborhood needs something different, and Chestnut Hill is no exception to that.”
Bass praised Chestnut Hill’s commitment to civic involvement as well.
I often use Chestnut Hill as an example,” she said. “We want people to have the passion and be willing to fight and be excited about their neighborhoods the way they are in Chestnut Hill.”
After Bass’ remarks, all four community award winners were introduced.
Former CHCA president Brien Tilley accepted the Chestnut Hill Award, revealing that his mother had passed away that morning.
“It’s a real big honor,” he said of the award. “My mother passed away this morning. And it’s because of her that I’m here. She’d want me to be here. During the last few years, I closed these dinners, encouraging people to volunteer. I would say that’s a credit to my mother. She volunteered her whole life. The last few weeks while she was in hospice, the people who came through the door were people she volunteered with.
“I was really lucky to volunteer for an organization as dynamic as this one.”
Brenda Malinics, of Brenda’s Cat Rescue accepted the Meritorious Service Award. She was recognized for the more than 20 years she has spent running a nonprofit organization for homeless cats. She used the moment to thank the many Hillers who have supported her organization and said there was plenty of need for more.”
“We need volunteers,” she said. “ We need food donations and homes for ‘ferals,’ cats that prefer to be with other cats more than people. I could fill my car with cats every day if I had the time and space. This community has embraced us. I thank all the businesses that have helped us.”
CHCA Administrative Coordinator Noreen Spota was next to accept the Distinguished Service Award. Spota was recognized for volunteering at both CHCA events and for Green In Chestnut Hill, an organization for which she serves as treasurer.
“When Amy called me to tell me I had won the award, I was shocked … and appreciative,” she said. “I want to say that the other three folks who are winning awards tonight have been amazing inspirations to me. I’m thankful to be able to live and work here. It’s an amazing place.”
The last award of the evening – the Benefactors Award – was presented to Chestnut Hill Community Fund president Jean Hemphill.
A longtime volunteer and former board member of both the CHCA and Chestnut Hill Hospital, Hemphill was recognized for her work raising money as leader of the CHCF.
“Thinking about this award, I’m a little embarrassed,” she said. “I don’t feel like I’ve been very successful. We have tremendous resources in this community. I feel like we still have to do a huge amount of work to get everyone to devote their time and their treasure to continue that legacy.”
In his closing remarks on the CHCA’s past year, Detweiler reviewed the organization’s accomplishments, particularly the nearly complete transition to a 501(c)(3) organization and acknowledged its fiscal challenges ahead. He was optimistic about its future.
“When I see all the volunteers, I wonder, what’s their motivation?” he said. “It’s a common denominator. We all love Chestnut Hill. It’s why Chestnut Hill is a special place to live and work and raise a family, enjoy our neighbors and have fun.”