Plenty of parking in Chestnut Hill

In reference to the Susan MacBride (of Roxborough) letter in the June 26 Local, I am puzzled by her concern of not being able to find parking space in any of the six parking lots located between Gravers and Evergreen. Some of the merchants like Kilians even offer complimentary tokens for 30 minutes parking.

I have lived in and near Chestnut Hill for over 50 years. I moved to Blue Bell two years back but still shop/dine at my favorite places on top of the Hill without ever not finding parking in one of the six parking lots. Susan, please Google “Parking lots in 19118” to help you locate the exact locations of various lots and DO come back to Chestnut Hill.

Chuck Gupta

Blue Bell


Dangerous oil trains traveling through our city

July 6th is the first year anniversary of the tanker car explosion that nearly wiped out the town of Lac Megantic in Quebec and killed 47 people. People throughout the United States are holding events to remember this tragedy as well as to call attention to the fact that these same DOT-111 tanker cars wind through our city twice daily, carrying crude oil.

They travel alongside the commuter rails in some places and skirt vulnerable institutions like Children’s Hospital. Last December when another tanker car caught fire in Casselton, N.D., residents within five miles had to evacuate. Luckily when two accidents occurred in Philadelphia, one over the Schuylkill River last January and another in the Northeast in April, there were no explosions. Think what would have happened if residents within five miles of these accidents had to evacuate.

These DOT-111 cars, designed in the 1960s, are flawed. Their steel shell is only one-half-inch thick, so is vulnerable to punctures and ruptures. And the Bakken Oil, which they carry, is highly flammable. While 14,000 newer safer cars were manufactured, 78,000 of the older, flawed cars are still used.

There were more leaks from trains last year than all the years since 1971 combined. Pipelines are no better. Altogether there were at least 7,662 leaks, spills for onshore gas and oil activities in 2013. We need to halt these “ticking time bombs,” as Sen. Charles Schumer of New York referred to them.

There will be a gathering at 25th and Locust Streets on July 9 at noon to honor those who lost their lives in Quebec and to learn more about the risks in Philadelphia.

Sandra Folzer

Chestnut Hill


Compassion for trapped dogs

Compassion in action was demonstrated in the heart of Chestnut Hill’s business district very recently. On a sunny 84-degree day, a retail shop employee spotted two dogs alone in a parked motor vehicle at approximately 12:30 p.m. The dogs were panting, which indicated that they were cooling down their bodies. Their cooling system is less efficient than ours.

I don’t know the time lag here, but when the vehicle’s owner returned, the shop employee confronted her for compromising the well-being of her dogs. She got a good tongue-lashing to boot. The driver of the vehicle pointed out the cracked windows in her defense. She and others should know that, according to veterinarian and internal medicine specialist Dr. Louise Murray, cracking the windows doesn’t help.

Many more people consider their canine companions as irreplaceable family members. Yet all too many of them unthinkingly leave their cherished family members alone in motor vehicles in warmer weather, risking serious harm or – even worse – death. Some estimates put the number of dogs who die each year in overheated motor vehicles in the thousands. One cruelty investigator said, ‘’We see a beloved dog’s last moments of life, the desperate pawing of a car window, the slow and painful death. Too many, we can’t save in time.”

Firstly, you get a dog for the dog’s own sake and when you are ready to give the dog the proper care. Taking on the responsibility of a dog means you pledge to meet the dog’s needs for the life of the dog. Roger A. Caras, author of more than 70 books on animals, once said that we are the focus of a dog’s love, faith and trust. Nothing should compromise their well-being. To shirk your responsibility is unconscionable.

Bridget Irons

Chestnut Hill


Underground Railroad history deserves better

Philadelphia’s anti-slavery and Underground Railroad history is just as fascinating as the events celebrated on 4th of July. This American history should be more accessible to tourists.

Philadelphia’s African-American leaders had significant roles in the abolitionist movement. Former slave Richard Allen founded the Mother Bethel Church and, with his wife Sarah, was involved in hiding, retraining, and educating freedom-seeking slaves, sometimes using the church as a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Wealthy Robert Purvis devoted most of his time to the largely African-American “vigilance” organizations founded to aid fugitive slaves. James Forten, a wealthy sail maker, supported abolition by buying the freedom of slaves, financing William Garrison’s abolitionist newspaper and operating an Underground Railroad station.

An interracial group – including Forten’s wife and three daughters and Lucretia Mott – founded the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. William Still recorded interviews with hundreds of escaping slaves and published those accounts in his book “The Underground Railroad.”

Even before the Civil War, Philadelphia had a large free African-American population. As early as 1787, Philadelphia’s African-Americans organized the Free African Society, a spiritual and economic mutual aid group.

Philadelphia’s Quakers had significant abolitionist roles. Individual Quakers began advocating against slavery in 1688, and by 1774 the Quaker church formally ordered members not to own slaves. The first American abolition society was organized in 1775 by an interracial group of mostly Quakers. Isaac Hopper was assigned by the Quaker church to assist freed slaves and, together with African-Americans, began helping freedom seekers to escape slavery.

In Germantown, three generations of men and women in the Johnson family held abolitionist meetings in their house, used the house for the Underground Railroad and worked closely with African-American organizers. Unlike most abolitionist sites, the Johnson House was preserved and now is a museum.

Women, both white and African-American, were abolitionist leaders. In 1838, Angelina Grimke spoke to the Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women at Pennsylvania Hall, a huge building constructed by abolitionists as a safe place to meet. As the pro-slavery mob outside threw rocks, Grimke refused to stop, saying, “What if the mob should now burst in upon us, break up our meeting and commit violence upon our persons – would this be anything compared with what the slaves endure?” The next day, a mob of 10,000 burned down the building – only days after Pennsylvania Hall had opened.

Philadelphia’s abolitionists were closely aligned with advocates for women’s right to vote. The abolitionist movement was the first opportunity for its female leaders to publicly make speeches and take political leadership. The feminist movement is rooted in abolitionism.

Free African-Americans had a tenuous hold on freedom. The movie 12 Years a Slave told the true story of Solomon Northrup, a free man who was kidnapped, sold into slavery, and was only rescued 12 years later. Tragically, Northrup’s story was not unique. As early as 1799, Reverend Absalom Jones and other black Philadelphians petitioned Congress to address the problem of free blacks being kidnapped in Philadelphia and sold in the South. By the 1820’s, historian Julie Winch explained that, in Philadelphia, “kidnapping free blacks had become a well-organized business venture.”

Philadelphia’s abolitionist and Underground Railroad history deserves to be better known.

Sharing our history with visitors to Philadelphia has the potential to generate jobs and revenue. While the African-American Museum, Belmont Mansion, and the Independence Visitor Center each have exhibits about the abolitionists and the Underground Railroad, we can do more to promote this important history to tourists and Philadelphia residents alike.

Sarah Ricks

Mt. Airy


A surprise treat in a video tribute

Timing is everything. Had I been 20 minutes early or 20 minutes late I would not have been the recipient of a beautiful gift that was unwrapped in front of me this past week from the students and faculty at the Antonelli Institute, the 75-year-old photography and design school in Erdenheim.

While digitizing an old family photo album for a woman who was giving the images to her husband on a digital frame for his 85th Birthday, I ran into some problems and popped into the school.

I tracked down Antonelli president John Hayden, who assured me he would find someone to help, but that the faculty were going to view a brief video and gave me the option of sitting in the hallway or joining them. I thought I might learn something, so opted to sit in the back row to watch what I assumed was a training video.

What unfolded was actually a student-produced video and a surprise luncheon in which Lansdowne resident Todd Murray, a graduate of the school who had a storied career and came back to teach and give back, was nominated by the students and staff for the Pennsylvania Association of Private School Administrators (PAPSA) Annual Outstanding Educator Award for 2014. While Murray sat in the front row thinking it was a faculty meeting, he learned that he had won, and the video they submitted was played.

Todd sat in the front row totally in shock as each testimonial from students and staff appeared on screen, detailing the mark this man had made on them and the institution. The goose bumps welled on my arms as the video concluded and Todd was presented with a bag of goodies that included all of the testimonials on a computer card, several gifts, and a huge card signed by all of the students and staff. The group then went off to a small reception in his honor.

So often I work with families for a retirement party, milestone birthday or funeral to do some sort of tribute. So to see a man in his 50s being recognized for giving back to the institution he graduated from was the most refreshing thing I could be served on a hot summer day. I applaud the students and staff at Antonelli Institute for taking the time to recognize this man and thank them for sharing this gift with me.

In looking back, it was one of the highlights of my week.

After the fun-filled meeting, IT Manager Parke Hitchings, solved my file problem with a simple suggestion for renaming files, and off I went in under an hour.

Barbara Sherf

Flourtown, PA


Francis Ballard, original Green Tree Foundation board member

The Green Tree Community Health Foundation joins with the greater community in mourning the loss of one of its founding board members, Francis Ballard (see obituary page).

Green Tree was created in 2005 upon the sale of Chestnut Hill Hospital to Community Health Systems. Francis, as former chair of the board of the hospital and as a member of the hospital’s executive committee, formed a steering committee to help develop the foundation, whose purpose would be to carry out the charitable community outreach programs of the hospital.

The foundation is now entering its 10th year of operations and has an excellent track record of identifying and funding health care needs of the greater Chestnut Hill community. Within the last year the foundation, with the help of many community donors, has been able to support 38 local organizations.

The programs and organizations that received funding participated in a very aggressive application process. Each grantee provided significant documentation, clear evidence of outcomes, hosted a site visit and successfully presented a long-term plan that included sustainability measures. Grants are awarded in varying amounts, totaling more than $4,000,000 since the foundation was created.

What is unusual about the foundation, and was proposed by Francis, is that all monies raised by the foundation in its annual appeal, which averages around $120,000 a year, go into grant making. Francis always took great pride in the amount of scrutiny provided to each grantee and often talked about the grantees, assured that only the best-run organizations passed through the rigors of the grants review process.

Francis was also instrumental in developing Wissahickon Hospice, which was later acquired by the University of Pennsylvania. Green Tree Community Health Foundation has supported the Wissahickon Hospice, as well as Keystone Hospice, Keystone Care, St. Catherine Laboure Medical Clinic, Springfield Ambulance Association, the VNA, Maternity Care Coalition, La Salle Nursing Center, Journey’s Way, Breastfeeding Resource Center, Center in the Park, and many, many other health care related programs and organizations in the greater Chestnut Hill area.

Green Tree Community Health Foundation has offices at 6 East Willow Grove Ave. and can be found on the web at

Susan Hansen

President and CEO

Green Tree Community Health Foundation