Saturday’s CARES Event Prefaced Something Bigger

Saturday's CARES Event Prefaces Something Bigger

CARES Community Day, held Saturday at The Hill School on Beech Street, proved to be as much fun (this face painting was one example) as it was informational

The free-to-the-public community fair was well attended. It’s only a start of a grander vision, though.

POTTSTOWN PA – Volunteers from the borough, The Hill School, and the Pottstown School District combined forces Saturday (Oct. 19, 2013) to stage a community education and activities day that serves as a preface for even bigger, and far more extensive, acts of hometown caring planned for this coming Friday (Oct. 28).

The community fair had a steady stream of participants, and a wide mix of local group involvement

The community fair had a steady stream of participants, and plenty of local group involvement

Pottstown CARES – the acronym translates to “Community Awareness, Responsibility, Empowerment, and Sustainability” – was conceived last spring during conversations between borough Manager Mark Flanders, district Superintendent Jeff Sparagana, and Hill School Headmaster Zachary Lehman. Their vision: create a collaborative project to spruce up a designated area in the core of Pottstown, while also boosting community pride and awareness about Pottstown resources.

Marcia Levengood, co-chair of Pottstown's Fourth of July Committee, promoted next year's Independence Day parade

Marcia Levengood, co-chair of Pottstown’s Fourth of July Committee, promoted next year’s Independence Day parade

Awareness was the focus of Saturday’s event, held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at The Hill’s former outdoor hockey rink, located off Beech Street near its Center For The Arts.

Non-profits and other Pottstown-focused organizations shared free materials about their programs and talked with Pottstown residents. They ranged from arts and recreational groups to a bloodmobile, electronic waste recyclers, and other service providers.

Several free children’s activities were available through the YMCA and other organizations, and the Masons conducted finger-printing for child identification. Free, gently used office supplies were given away at a “Get Organized Pottstown” station. Numerous local food vendors were on hand, too, selling everything from French fries to vegetarian foods.

The Pottstown Cluster of Religious Communities accepted donations of food, clothing, and other human essentials. Pets were remembered as well; the Chester County Pet Food Pantry happily accepted donations of pet foods, and Forgotten Cats and CAT Naps groups were represented.

A Miller-Keystone Blood Center bloodmobile was available for walk-in blood donations, and the CVS Pharmacy in Sanatoga provided a flu shot clinic from noon to 2 p.m.

Several volunteers also staffed a voter registration table to help people register for future elections.

Other organizations listed as participants included Community Connections, Community First Development Corp. Inc, Children and Youth Services, the Colebrookdale Railroad, Genesis Housing Corporation, the Greater Pottstown Tennis Association, Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery County, the Montgomery County Health Department, borough government representatives, Pottstown Carousel, the Pottstown Downtown Improvement District Authority, the Pottstown Fourth of July Committee, the Pottstown High School Key Club, Pottsgrove Manor, Pottstown Memorial Medical Center, Pottstown MOSAIC, the Pottstown Office of Family Services of Montgomery County, Richard J. Ricketts Community Center and Olivet Boys and Girls Club, Sunnybrook Foundation, the United Way, the World War II Dance Committee, and the YMCA and YWCA.

Non-profits and community groups distributed free information about their services ...

Non-profits and community groups distributed free information about their services …

... and pets were remembered too, represented in part by Chester County's Pet Food Pantry, Forgotten Cats, and CAT Naps ..

… and pets were remembered too, represented in part by Chester County’s Pet Food Pantry, Forgotten Cats, and CAT Naps.

And ahead, Phase Two, in which more than 700 volunteers take to Pottstown’s streets for a clean-up

The day marked an energetic undertaking, and was well attended. But organizers say it is only a start. CARES estimates that more than 700 students and adults will contribute to its “Phase Two” project that launches Friday (a Monday, Oct. 28 rain date has been set, just in case Mother Nature fails to cooperate) with a clean-up day in a targeted area of Pottstown: from High Street north to Beech Street, and Hanover Street east to Edgewood Street.

All 505 Hill School students, as well as Hill faculty and staff; 50 Pottstown High School students, and other faculty members there; and many borough workers and officials will be dispersed to weed, pick up trash, and complete other spruce-up tasks in public spaces in the core downtown area. A team of volunteers also will work to beautify Edgewood Cemetery.

The massive volunteer crew will assemble under Hill’s former hockey rink roof at 8:30 a.m. to receive instructions. Teams then will travel to designated project areas until about 12:30 p.m., when they will return to Hill for a picnic lunch prepared by Sodexo, Hill’s food service provider. Sodexo donating the meals for all school district and borough volunteers, as well as Hill students and personnel.

After lunch, a celebratory group photo of all participants will be taken on Hill’s campus.

Saturday offered one chance to donate blood. A second opportunity arises at Pottstown High School on Friday

Saturday offered one chance to donate blood at a bloodmobile, above. A second opportunity arises this Friday at Pottstown High School. Call to make an appointment

As part of Friday’s clean-up, the school district is running a blood drive from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Pottstown High School. Individuals interested in donating blood should send an e-mail to Pottstown faculty member Mark Agnew at magnew@pottstownsd.org, or call him at 610-970-6707.

Students in The Hill’s fine woodworking class are painting new planks for a park bench to donate for one of the MOSAIC community gardens. A team of volunteers is expected to help build new compost bins for the garden at 423 Chestnut Street. Also, Hill School art students and faculty will be canvassing neighbors to ask for input on the design of a public, downtown Pottstown mural they would like to create in partnership with Pottstown High School art students.

Pottstown CARES organizers hope the two events will have long-lasting, maybe even generational, effects on the town

Pottstown CARES organizers hope the two events will have long-lasting, maybe even generational, effects on the town

Many organizations have contributed funds, tools, supplies, or other support to the CARES project.  In addition to equipment being shared by each of the three entities involved, from rakes to a public address system, the United Way has donated $1,000 to help buy tools and also loaned tools through its tool share program. Home Depot made a cash donation to the project as well. The Pottstown Police and Montgomery County Sheriff’s departments also provided support.

Pottstown CARES is not intended to be a once and done affair, Flanders noted, but a starting point that builds momentum for additional efforts to increase residents’ pride. He said he hopes “this is the beginning of something bigger, and that, as time goes on, Pottstown CARES is a way of life for the residents of Pottstown – rather than a scheduled event,” Flanders noted.

Lehman said he is excited about the synergy occurring between Hill, the district and the borough, and claimed he is passionate about Hill’s involvement in the community.

“Hill was happy to provide the space for the community education event and to serve as the rallying point for the clean-up project,” Lehman said. “I see these CARES initiatives as the first of many cooperative projects.”

“Pottstown CARES provides community stakeholders with the opportunity to send the clear and inspirational message that, when working together, we are more effective in our actions,” Sparagana added. “Together, we are Pottstown.”