Fast Three: Local Childcare Deserts, Thanks to Firefighters, and Growing Good in MontCo

A graphic display of the local childcare problem

This map graphically details the local childcare problem

If a picture is worth a thousand words, the map above might scare local families in need of childcare. It’s selected from a nationwide view published at the website ChildCareDeserts.org, which examines municipalities across the U.S. where childcare shortages exist (dots and areas ranging in color from tan to red) or don’t (from light blue to dark blue).

Every dot is said to represent 10 families, each of whom have at least one child younger than age 6, according to data from federal and other sources. The density of the color (darker brown or darker blue) represents the adequacy (or lack of it) of childcare providers and available enrollment vacancies to serve those families within a 20-minute drive-time radius.

Notice that, as depicted in western Montgomery County, there’s a substantial amount of brown and red and not much blue. Notice, too, where the crisis appears worst: Pottstown, and the Pottsgroves. We were directed to the map by readers of the Sept. 3 (2020) edition of Fast Three, in which The Post offered U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation commentary on childcare declines. We thank them for pointing us to this easily understood visual information.

Thanks to firefighters, who came through in a storm

John Fogel is a guy with a wide grin, a hearty laugh, and an elephant’s memory. As Lower Pottsgrove director of utilities, Fogel manages the township public works department. Talk to him about a problem – the grass needs mowing in this park, or potholes are flattening tires on that road – and he’s unlikely to forget it. Finding time and manpower for fixes can be a different story, though, so when necessary Fogel isn’t shy about asking for help.

That’s what he did Aug. 4, as rain water from Tropical Storm Isasis swamped everything in sight. It heaped inches-thick mud from the township’s most popular fishin’ hole, Sanatoga Lake, onto its lake-side parking lot. Fogel asked Lower Pottsgrove’s firefighters to help clear the muck away. They brought trucks and shovels, cleared and hosed off the asphalt, and made the lot usable again.

About a month has passed, but Fogel hasn’t forgotten their assistance. He was looking for a way to publicly announce his thanks to both fire companies for their efforts. He called The Post on Tuesday (Sept. 8) and asked if we could shout out his belated appreciation. Consider it happily done.

Master Gardeners put their talents to highest use

Those in need who rely on the Pottstown Cluster of Religious Communities, or any one of 10 other food pantries in Montgomery County, for a portion of their daily meals have benefited since July from the vegetable-growing talents of 17 Pennsylvania-certified master gardeners and their friends, according to county Penn State Extension Master Gardener Coordinator Dawn Stelts.

Stelts reported Tuesday the master gardeners, who have years of specialized training and thumbs so green they can be spotted at a distance, normally spend spring though fall working on and displaying their flower learning garden outside the Extension offices near Skippack. Pandemic restrictions made that impossible. Besides, the group reasoned, they could do something more helpful – producing food – in the rich soil there and in their home gardens too.

During the past the past three months, after the county entered the pandemic green phase and restrictions were relaxed, the master gardeners have harvested and donated about 750 pounds of fresh edibles to the pantries. The menu includes late bloomers like tomatoes, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, swiss chard, kale, green peppers, and green onions. Before the season ends, Stelts added, they hope to reap and deliver another 250 pounds of good eating to their less-fortunate neighbors.

Photo (at top) by go_see via Pixabay, used under license

About Fast Three

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The Post doesn’t play with the news, but we do experiment with it.

“Fast Three” is The Post’s effort to keep readers informed and entertained. Our weekdays-only goal is to find three local newsworthy items daily between 11 a.m. and 1:55 p.m. (just shy of three hours), condense them into a fast read of three or fewer paragraphs each, and publish them by 2 p.m.

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