by Celeste Hardester

As many of you already know, I notified Chestnut Hill Community Association President Will Detweiler last month that I have decided to leave my position as Community Manager.

It has been my great pleasure to work for four years in a position that has put me at the intersection of so much that goes on in this special community, allowing me to meet and work with many wonderful people. The initiatives that I have been involved in have been diverse, challenging, and in so many ways rewarding. Being Community Manager of the CHCA is an unusual and compelling way to get to know a community, and I am the richer for it.

Over the years, the CHCA has had a number of chapters since first forming in 1947. Many of today’s residents may be only partially aware that many of Chestnut Hill’s special qualities they so appreciate are the result of the participation of an involved community.

These committed volunteers worked to safeguard what is here (green parks and open land, historic structures, an appealing commercial center, vital organizations, a sense of community), and to fend off some things that never happened (a connector road from central Chestnut Hill to Ridge Avenue, losing the Chestnut Hill West line, paving over Germantown Avenue).

The CHCA has played a key role in much of this. It has also been involved in some of the harder outcomes that the community has had to accept – areas of dense development, tall buildings (of which there are many), loss of great old properties. Their efforts did not always lead to the desired results.

Within all of this history, various boards have had their own cultures and sense of purpose, based on their vision combined with the dynamics they encountered. I have felt fortunate in my timing of being the Community Manager, and know that many of my predecessors have not been so lucky. I was here when the community wrestled with the large decision to accept a significant new commercial development, and I experienced the CHCA’s role in helping it to fit in the community.

I administered the CHCA’s transition into becoming an RCO (Registered Community Organization). I helped revive the Streetscape Committee, saw the renewal of the old tradition of the Holiday Parade and the creation of the new, family-oriented Hoops Madness Basketball Tournament. I helped establish a program to plant dozens of trees on Germantown Avenue, and worked with the CHCF to do many long-needed improvements on Town Hall. And I helped spearhead the initiative for the CHCA to become, finally, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

With all of that, in what I see laying ahead, I find myself at some odds with the sense of purpose that is driving the organization at present, and this is why I have decided to leave. Despite this personal consideration, I remain a believer that the CHCA exists for a very good reason, that it can serve a key need in the community.

The CHCA is a tremendous resource, rare among most communities. It continues to attract enthusiastic and professional individuals, but it cries out for even more individuals to come together and use it as a means to accomplish things they would like to see, now and in the future. With good guidance and imaginative vision, the opportunity is present. I hope everyone will think big, think forward, and imagine what people in 2050 or 2100 might say about them as they look back, thanking the people who cared.

Thank you, Chestnut Hill.

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