Brotherly Love

West Philly Tool Library plans expansion, launches crowdfunding campaign

July 24, 2014


West Philly Tool Library staff (Photo courtesy WPTL).

West Philly Tool Library (WPTL) is Philadelphia’s only library that lends tools to community members, both individuals and organizations. WPTL’s members borrow tools for home repairs, construction projects, gardening and even creating art. Recently, the tool library has announced some big plans that include increasing the number of members in more neighborhoods and their access to most needed tools and expanding their education and outreach programs.

Sounds great, but the problem is that WPTL can’t meet this demand without community help. Their current memberships fund only 34 percent of their annual operating budget of $40,000. So an online crowdfunding campaign was launched to help them make ends meet.

WPTL is currently raising $10,000 through Indiegogo and has already raised over $3,000. The money donated through this campaign will help the following projects, according to the campaign page:

 Increase availability of the tools they can’t keep on the shelves, like table saws, weed whackers, tile saws, and cordless drills
 Develop a robust education program to ensure that community members have the skills they need to properly leverage their tools
 Develop programs to reach into the neighborhoods they don’t fully serve

For more information and to donate, click here.

If you want to learn more about how to become the tool library member, visit this page.


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Readings at the X: Talking history at Malcolm X Park

June 27, 2014


Click to enlarge.

The Friends of Malcolm X Park and local resident, historian and educator Rhone Fraser are teaming up to bring dramatic readings of seven historical plays to the park located at 51st and Pine Streets. The focus is on dramas dealing with important figures and events in African American history. The series, titled “Readings At The X,” will kick off July 8 and will be presented every Tuesday, starting at 7 p.m., until August 26 (see the flier for more details).

Currently, the organizers are raising funds for this community theater project. $3,000 is being raised to pay the venue, actors (some are coming from New York and Washington, DC), and videographer who will record the readings (not for commercial purposes). A portion of the raised funds will go to the Friends of Malcolm X Park for future events.

If you would like to support this project or want to learn more about it, please visit this Indiegogo page. There is only one week left to help the project with your donation.


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West Philly news roundup: Marigold Kitchen update, save The Seven Giants and more

June 25, 2014

Check out some of the latest news, upcoming events and other happenings around the neighborhoods.

Around 700 homes in Kingsessing were still without gas service on Tuesday night due to a water main break near 56th St and Woodland Ave on Saturday, according to NBC10. The water main break caused a disruption to the natural gas line. Initially 60 homes in the area were affected but during the repair work, hundreds more homes were disconnected from natural gas service as far east as 52nd Street, according to reports.

MarigoldKitchen• Good news for Marigold Kitchen fans! The highly-acclaimed Spruce Hill restaurant, whose owner Robert Halpern is moving on (and moving out of the state), is not closing after all, as was initially reported. Well, at least not for good. Halpern sold his business to his own chefs de cuisine, Tim Lanza and Andrew Kochan, both 26, The Insider reports. Halpern’s executive chef, Keith Krajewski, will also continue his work at this location, according to The Insider. The restaurant will serve its last dinner under Halpern’s ownership on Saturday, June 28. After that, it will close for some kitchen refurbishment work and will reopen in early September.


The English elms at The Woodlands (Photo courtesy The Woodlands)

• The Woodlands Cemetery and Mansion is asking the community to help them save seven English elm trees (they’re called “The 7 Giants”), some of the most significant historic trees on the grounds thanks to their size and age (they date back to the late 18th century). The trees are suffering from Dutch Elm Disease, which may kill them if left untreated. Treatment and monitoring of the disease is costly, so the Woodlands has started a fundraising campaign to help cover the costs. The initial goal is $20,000. For more information and to donate, click here.

Little Baby’s Ice Cream has created a new flavor called the Works, now available at LBIC’s Cedar Park location (49th and Catharine). Proceeds from the sale benefit Neighborhood Bike Works, a non-profit that offers youth bike education programs and bike repair classes for adults.

• deathofsamuelmillerWest Philly based art rock band The Chairman Dances will present their new album, The Death of Samuel Miller (out 6/27 via Grizzly Records), on Friday, June 27 at The Rotunda (40th and Walnut). Spelling Reform (Facebook page) and Vita and the Woolf (Facebook page) will also take part in the album release show, which begins at 8 p.m. ($10). The Chairman Dances’ song “Prophetess” was No. 2 in WXPN‘s list of the 5 best Philly songs of 2013. The music video for the new record’s single, “Dance to the Neighbor’s Stereo,” is streaming on Vimeo.


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Saving Mount Moriah: Trying to bring back Philadelphia’s largest cemetery

June 12, 2014


Mount Moriah Cemetery. (Photos from The Friends of Mount Moriah Facebook page)

From Betsy Ross to former Philadelphia Mayor George Connell and famous local architect Samuel Sloan, the soil of Mount Moriah Cemetery in Southwest Philly is steeped in history.

In Mount Moriah’s heyday, the 380-acre estate with its elaborate Romanesque entrance and gatehouse, served as the burial grounds for Philadelphia’s elite. But now, the largest cemetery in Philadelphia is suffering from neglect, overrun by weeds and foliage as a result of years of failed management and confusion about ownership.

While the private group, The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, is working to bring the cemetery back to a beautified state as legal issues over its ownership still go unresolved, the costs to maintain the grounds are steep. In an effort to help the West Philly Runners and the Fishtown Beer Runners have teamed up for a two-part fundraiser next week to support the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery’s work.

The two running groups will hold their respective fundraisers in tandem, with West Philly Runners’ hosting its event on Wed. June 18 at City Tap House Philly (3925 Walnut Street), from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. The group is asking for a $10 donation, which will be pooled together and given to Friends of Mount Moriah.

MountMoriah2“The Mount Moriah Cemetery has the potential to be a great outdoor space, but right now it’s in limbo,” West Philly Runners member Stacey Ritzen, who co-organized the event, told West Philly Local. “We really want to clean up the space and make it nice, how it used to be back in the day. It used to be a cemetery for pretty wealthy West Philadelphia residents, and people would go and have picnics, just really enjoyed the space. It would be great to see it restored to what it was.”

During next Wednesday’s event, attendees can enjoy beer specials courtesy of Southern Tier Brewing Company and possibly win prizes from Honest Tom’s, Little Baby’s, Greensgrow West, Philadelphia Runner and other local businesses by taking part in the raffle. Fishtown Beer Runners will run a similar event the next day, Thurs. June 19, at Llama Tooth, with a portion of the proceeds received that night going to Friends of Mount Moriah.

West Philly Runners is also hosting a clean up day at the cemetery on Sat. June 22 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. “Hopefully through the efforts of these two fundraisers, we can get the word out and hopefully inspire people to come volunteer and put in the hours,” Ritzen said. “We really want to see it become a space everyone can use.”

Annamarya Scaccia

Editor’s Note: Here’s a recent video, “In Memoriam,” made by Temple University. The history and current state of this massive, formerly abandoned cemetery are examined through interviews. The dramatic efforts by hundreds of volunteers to revitalize it are also addressed in the video.

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West Philly news roundup (updated)

June 11, 2014

Here is a summary of some of the latest local news, upcoming events, and fundraising campaigns.

• Parents of West Philadelphia area school children are going to City Hall from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 12 to rally for funding for the public schools, according to an announcement by the Spruce Hill Community Association. A group is meeting outside the main entrance of Penn Alexander School (43rd & Locust) at 8:45 a.m. to travel by trolley together. The goal is to ask City Hall and Governor Corbett for much needed financial support for the school year 2014-15 and beyond. Children and community members are welcome to join the group.

Here’s the schedule:

10 – 10:15 a.m.: Press Conference Council 4th floor outside of Council chambers
10:20 – 10:40 a.m.: Make rounds and speak with other Council members
10:50 a.m.: Walk to Governor’s office at Broad and Walnut
11 a.m.: Press conference at Governor’s office
12 p.m.: Meeting with Governor’s staff and delivering letter to Governor’s office

 Curio Theatre is creating a ground breaking play about the Rev. Frank Schaefer who was defrocked in Lebanon PA for officiating his son’s gay wedding. The Frank Schaefer Project is Curio’s most ambitious production to date and needs help. The goal is $10,000 and there are 25 days to go. For more info and to donate, go here.


Magic Circle at PIC. (Photo from

 The Parent Infant Center (PIC) is in the process of transforming their main play space into a nature-based outdoor classroom and playground for children, both at PIC and in the community, according to PIC’s Communication Manager Rachel Isaacson. The new space, called Magic Circle, will host a Make Music Philly event on Saturday, June 21 (more on this later). This will be a chance for PIC to not only celebrate music, but welcome their neighbors to the Magic Circle. Read more on the PIC News blog.

 If you’re looking to support a local cause this summer, try Ben & Jerry’s limited time “For the Birds” milkshake. $1.00 from each shake sold will benefit the Spruce Hill Bird Sanctuary. The shake features strawberry and vanilla ice cream blended together with chocolate sprinkles, with some Oreo’s on bottom, and topped off with fresh whipped cream and peanuts. From June 14th to June 28th at the 40th Street Ben & Jerry’s location (between Locust and Walnut).

 Local independent publisher The Head & The Hand Press will be hosting an opening at Milk & Honey Market (45th & Baltimore) on Thursday, June 12 at 6-7:30 p.m. to celebrate the new placement of their chapbook vending machine (a first one in West Philly!). The vending machine features $2 chapbooks from up-and-coming writers, many of which are Philadelphia area residents. The event will feature author readings from the Press’ newer chapbooks, including West Philly resident Patrick McNeil, Joey Sweeney (of local entertainment blog Philebrity), and Simone Zelitch (author of forthcoming novel, Waveland). The event is free and open to the public and light refreshments will be provided. No RSVP is required, but attendees are welcome to visit the event’s Facebook page.

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The never-ending litter problem: Would more trash cans help?

June 6, 2014

Editor’s Note: Dozens of articles have been written about trash in Philadelphia. So what are some grassroots, block-by-block solutions to the problem? More trash cans? Culture change? It’s a tricky one.

It’s no secret that Philadelphia is an unkempt city. After all, the riverside metropolis has landed on the top end of a few “dirtiest cities in America” listicles—chief among them, Travel+Leisure’s 2012 roundup (in at number six) and Forbes’ extensive 20 Dirtiest Cities list (in at number three).

A resident placed this trash can at 45th and Pine years ago and it's still doing the job.

A resident placed this trash can at 45th and Osage years ago and it’s still doing the job. (Photo by Mike Lyons / West Philly Local)

You don’t need lists to tell you that, though. Look down your block, in a vacant lot, or any SEPTA station, and you’re bound to see— and smell — trash. Sure, it’s gotten better over the years, but not by much. And, as Ryan Briggs wrote for City Paper in May, the politics of cleaning up Philadelphia are just as messy as its streets.

In the interest of sifting through those politics, we here at West Philly Local were curious about how public trash receptacles played into West Philly’s litter problem. Why were there multiple public trashcans on certain corners while other streets didn’t have a trashcan for a few blocks?

As West Philly Local reader, Victoria, tweeted us under the handle @vvictorrriaa, “What trashcans on our streets? Lived her for 18+ yrs + there aren’t any on my block or surrounding blocks.”

So we turned to the City for some answers. Turns out, the City normally places public wire baskets on business corridors with heavy foot traffic “where there is a need and the expectation that they will be an effective tool to control litter,” June Cantor, spokesperson for the Philadelphia Streets Department, told West Philly Local.

“The most heavily littered areas are commercial corridors that lack strong business associations and some residential areas. Public trash receptacles serve a role in the control of litter[,] but they are not a panacea,” Cantor told West Philly Local. “Property owners, residents and businesses need to have civic pride, take personal responsibility for their environment and engage the community in order to effectively control litter.”

Community Development Corporations, local community groups, businesses, local schools, and block captains also have a hand in providing public trashcans, West Philly Local was told by city officials. For example, in the Powelton Village area, University City District and Drexel University mostly provide and maintain public bins within their respective borders, according to Powelton Village Civic Association President Michael Jones. (University City District did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)  Continue Reading

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