From left: Mary Zell, executive director for the Chestnut Hill Center for Enrichment, Gail Inderwies, executive director of Keystone Care, Meg Mitchell, a respresentative from Chestnut Hill Friends Meetinghouse, Nima Koliwas, education director at Mt. Airy Learning Tree, with daughter Suha Koliwad, Brien Tilley, Chestnut Hill Community Association President, Tolis Vardakis, CHCF treasurer, John Fowler, president and founder of Buxtehude Consort, Joanna Naylor, executive director at Mt. Airy Learning Tree, Steven Gearhart, a representative from The Crossing, Maura McCarthy, executive director at Friends of Wissahickon, Gabriella Ibieta, a representative from Meals on Wheels, and Norman Matlock, a Weavers Way Co-op board member. (Photo by Sue Ann Rybak)

by Sue Ann Rybak

Hundreds of residents, businesses and local organizations took the words of Sir Winston Churchill to heart: “You make a living by what you get – you make a life by what you give.” Thanks to the generosity of 550 donors, the Chestnut Hill Community Fund was able to award grants to 20 local organizations, such as Chestnut Hill Center for Enrichment, Children’s Park in Chestnut Hill, Teens Inc. and Chestnut Hill Meals on Wheels.

“Every year the residents of Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy answer the call to the Chestnut Hill Community Fund,” said Tolis Vardakis, Community Fund treasurer.

This year the Community Fund exceeded its goal of raising $100,000. Vardakis said the money raised “supports charitable organizations as well as programs that benefit Chestnut Hill and the surrounding communities.”

Vardakis noted that Chestnut Hill Hospital has been “a great booster of the community.” Every year the hospital donates $20,000, of which $10,000 is allocated to Pastorius Park Concerts.

Brien Tilley, president of theChestnut Hill Community Association, said “it’s an honor for our board and our fund to be able to give back” to organizations those programs benefit Chestnut Hill and the surrounding community.

Norman Matlock, a representative from Weavers Way Community Programs, said the $1,000 grant would benefit the Weavers Way Co-op marketplace program at J.S. Jenks Elementary School and Our Mother of Consolation Parish School by teaching students financial responsibility and how to sell food.

Matlock said that at the end of the year whatever profits students make will be donated to the charity of their choice.

“This money is going to go in a nice circle,” Matlock said. “From start to finish, this money will benefit the community.”

Gabriella Ibieta, a representative from Chestnut Hill Meals on Wheels, said the organization is always in need of money.

“Chestnut Hill Meals on Wheels serves the elderly and the ill, who often cannot cook their own meals,” Ibieta said.

Maura McCarthy, executive director at Friends of the Wissahickon (FOW), said the $8,000 grant would benefit the FOW watershed restoration project. FOW, in collaboration with Philadelphia Water Department and Fairmount Park, are in the process of fixing erosion near a stream bank on Valley Green Road.

“We are fixing that stream bank, not just to protect visitors to park. but because the erosion in that stream channel is contributing to the sedimentation load in the whole Wissahickon Valley,” McCarthy said.

She said the project is one of many to remove sedimentation from the Wissahickon Creek, adding

that The Watershed Restoration project “will have twofold benefits – public health in terms of our drinking water quality and a public access benefit, which will help make the area where people park safer and more accessible.”

Steven Gearhart, a representative from The Crossing, which hosts a series of concerts at Chestnut Hill Presbyterian Church, said the organization is always working to “promote new music that’s being written in the 21st Century.

“We are happy to call Chestnut Hill our home,” Gearhart said.

Jonna Naylor, executive director of the Mt. Airy Learning Tree, said her organization was “pleased as punch” to be part of the community, providing one of the many services that are here in the old German Township of Chestnut Hill, Mt. Airy and Germantown.

“We appreciate the vision that the Chestnut Hill Community Association shows in recognizing that and counting us a part of the family,” Naylor said.

John Fowler, Buxtehude Consort, president and founder, said they were very grateful to the Chestnut Hill Community Association for the grant. He said the Buxtehude Consort tries to perform with “historically correct instruments to the extent that it’s possible.”

“It is really neat to have a community that so interested in preserving and participating in the arts,” Fowler said.

Meg Mitchell, clerk of the Chestnut Hill Friends Meetinghouse, said the Friends were grateful and honored that the Chestnut Hill Community Association gave the meetinghouse a grant to help build a “sky space” into the meetinghouse.

“We are especially excited because it’s the only one in the northeast of the United States that is going to be accessible at sunrise and sunset,” Mitchell said.

Gail Inderwies, president of Keystone Care, said that without the ongoing support of the Community Fund, her organization would not be able to continue.

“It is really a honor and a privilege to be supported and acknowledged by the community we serve,” Inderwies said.

She added that it was a “trying time” for all nonprofits, but said that thanks to the generous support of community businesses and organizations “we have never turned anyone down regardless of their ability to pay.”

“It is a mission we have been able to maintain because of your foundation and the many other foundations that have created this beautiful quilt,” she said.

Mary Zell, executive director of the Chestnut Hill Center for Enrichment, said that without the financial support from Community Fund her organization “could not have made it to the next year.

Zell said the grants allowed her group “to continue to make classes and fellowship available to a wide spectrum of people from Chestnut Hill to East Germantown.”

“We just can’t ever say ‘thank you’ enough for allowing us to be a program which is so important to so many people, ‘ she said. “Thank you, and as everyone else has said, ‘we all love you.’”

The Chestnut Hill Community Association encourages residents to join and volunteer. Tilley said joining a committee is a great way to give back to the community without making a huge commitment. For more information about CHCA, call Noreen Spota at 215-248-8810 or