Archive | December, 2013

‘Them That Do’ Profiles of West Philly block captains: Lisa Barkley, 5500 Vine Street

December 11, 2013

Editor’s Note: We’re proud to present the sixth in a series of vignettes of local block captains drawn from Them That Do, a multimedia documentary project and community blog by West Philly-based award-winning photographer Lori Waselchuk. Go to Them That Do for more information, updates and additional photos.

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Lisa Barkley, Haddington Homes, 5500 Vine Street

Lisa Barkley / Photo: Lori Waselchuk.


Lisa Barkley shows me the view of her fruit tree orchard from the window of her bright yellow kitchen.

“We have apple trees, pear trees, plum trees, cherry trees, peach, apricot and nectarine trees,” Barkley says. She sounds surprised by the bounty she helped create. “A grapevine – we have Concord grapes out there. Wow!”

Barkley lives in the same 2-bedroom unit in the Haddington Homes public housing project at 55th Street and Vine where she was born. As a child, she played games on Pearl Street. As a young woman, she was the secretary for the Haddington tenant council and in 1999 she was voted the block captain.

From her home, she has watched her community evolve. “There were never flowers, no plants, just trees and some shrubbery here and there,” she remembers. “But it was clean. The adults really took ownership of where they lived.“

But as time went on, the community seemed to lose that sense of collective responsibility. The children lost safe play areas. The local cleaning business was torn down. The city blocked off Pearl Street, creating a dark, abandoned space. Haddington’s parking lot became a staging ground for stolen cars.

“Public housing is transient, so people move in for a while and move out. As a block captain, I want to see the neighborhood be neighbors again.”

Through Barkley’s leadership and with planning and material help from Urban Tree Connection and Mission Philadelphia (Facebook page), the Haddington residents have transformed the parking lots and Pearl Street into a playground, community gardens, and an orchard.

Barkley has reserved the orchard for the adults who live at Haddington. She encourages them to plant their own vegetable plots or use the orchard as a place of refuge.

“Gardening is a natural de-stresser, right? When I plant a seed in the ground and nurture a little sprout, the feeling I get inside – it’s fulfillment. “

The orchard feeds Barkley’s imagination and passions. She inspires others as well. On a sunny Saturday morning in September, eight women attended Barkley’s class on juicing, which she held in the orchard. The women laughed as they placed copious chunks of pineapple, grapes, pears, and spinach into the juicer. They teased each other during the tastings.

The orchard brings beauty into Haddington Homes, and beauty is Barkley’s highest priority. “I want to embrace life now and do all the beautiful things and live the beautiful way that I envision.”

Lori Waselchuk

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Energy efficiency help & tips

December 11, 2013

As temperatures outside drop, many older West Philly houses can feel drafty and cold inside while your energy bills skyrocket. Air sealing and insulation alone can save up to 25 percent on these costs, but not everyone can afford this type of work on their house. We learned that The Keystone Home Energy Loan Program (Keystone HELP) is a special program designed to help homeowners improve the comfort of their homes and save money through energy efficiency upgrades.

Homeowners can qualify for a 0.99 percent interest loan of up to $15,000 to finance the upgrades. As a first step for loan qualification, a home energy audit must be completed that assesses a home’s durability, energy efficiency, and health and safety. Other qualifying improvements include heating and cooling system replacements, hot water heater replacement, windows and doors. The pre-qualification loan application can be completed on Keystone HELP’s Web site,, and you can search for a local contractor by clicking the “Find A Contractor” button.

Also, click here for quick tips for energy efficiency.

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Fire at 46th Street Station quickly contained; no injuries reported

December 10, 2013

A fire in an electrical box below the westbound platform at the 46th Street El Station caused a temporary Market-Frankford line service interruption this afternoon, according to SEPTA’s spokesperson Andrew Busch. The fire was reported around 3:50 p.m. and was quickly contained by responding fire crews. No injuries were reported.

During the train service interruption, shuttle buses transported passengers between 52nd and 40th Streets. The train service was resumed around 4:40 p.m.

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Adopt-a-Dog: Monty

December 10, 2013

MontyThe Animal Care and Control Team of Philadelphia shelter is jam-packed once again and there are many dogs and cats in need of permanent or foster homes. This week’s adoptable dog is Monty, likely suffering from “black dog syndrome” and being overlooked because of it. Monty is an amazing boy patiently waiting for his forever home.

Monty is just a young, medium sized pup of 6 to 12 months. He was recently surrendered to the shelter when his owner could no longer afford to care for him. He is the perfect gentleman, he takes treats very gently, plays very gently, and even knows “sit”!

He would do great in a home with kids. He loves a good game of fetch and doesn’t mind when you take the ball away from him to throw again. He is mellow and just goes with the flow. He loves treats and is eager to learn, so training shouldn’t be a problem! He also walks like a gem on the leash.

He loves to play with other dogs but is happy to just hang out and chill by them too. He would make a great walking or running buddy and you can’t resist his cute little face! Don’t worry, he also gives tons of kisses too. He is the whole package and would love to be in a home sharing all of his love with you for the holidays.

He will be neutered, microchipped, and up to date on vaccinations prior to going home with you! Come meet this wonderful boy and have a lifelong best friend.

If you have questions about Monty or if you want to come in and meet him, email: or otherwise feel free to stop in at ACCT. Hours are Monday-Friday 1pm-8pm and Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm at 111 W. Hunting Park Ave, Philadelphia.

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Snow causes some closings, schedule changes

December 10, 2013

Today’s snowstorm has disrupted plans for many residents and some organizations and businesses in our area. West Philly Local already reported about public school closings announced by the School District of Philadelphia. As of 11 a.m. the somewhat heavy snow turned into light and it looks like we have avoided the mayhem this time. We haven’t heard of any business closings in the area, except for Firehouse Bicycles and Wolf Cycles (Facebook page). Libraries are open, too, and invite folks to stop by and bring their kids. If you hear of any other closings, please post them in the comments.

Erica Maust, Program and Communications Coordinator of The Woodlands Cemetery and Mansion, has sent a note that due to the snow, the gates to The Woodlands grounds will be open to pedestrians only today until 5 p.m. No vehicular traffic will be permitted through the gates to ensure the safety of visitors, monuments, and the site. The Woodlands welcomes visitors on foot to enjoy the snow and the beautiful views (see photo below, courtesy of The Woodlands).



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City offering “gentrification relief” for longtime homeowners

December 10, 2013

Here’s another chance to save some money on your property tax bill – if you have owed and lived in your home since July 2003.

Homeowners have until Jan. 15 to apply for the Longtime Owners Occupancy Program, which is in place to help offset tax increases brought on by neighborhood development (some are calling it “gentrification relief”). If approved, the tax relief is good for 10 years.

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Taken from city brochure on the LOOP program.

This offer is different from the Homestead Exemption offered earlier this year and you should apply whether you received that or not.

• You must own and have lived in this property as your primary residence since at least July 1, 2003.
• Your home is either a single family or a multi-unit property with no more than three residential units and one commercial unit.

• Your property has not received a tax abatement.

• The real estate Taxes on your property must be paid in full or you must be up-to-date on a payment plan (or have an application for a payment agreement pending).

• There is an income limit based on household size (see graphic).

Here is a brochure with more details about the LOOP program. The application is available here. The city says that applicants will be notified in March. Call 215-686-9200 with questions.

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  • smallbusinesssaturday sale at VIX and in the preciousmeshes etsy shop!
  • By special request hand built WestPhilly mugs by threetceramics Neighborhood
  • Busy punching and binding calendars for Saturdays AnniVIXary XI party
  • Thanks to Zach from blackhoundclay for making us these tiles!

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