"The truth will set you free. But first it will piss you off."

Gloria Steinem

Friday, October 2, 2015

Make It Safe, Clean It Up And They Will Come

Part I:  Try To Keep It Simple

I have been following with great interest the dispute in my favorite town, Norristown, Pa.,  over financial grants allocated by Municipal Council to bring a restaurant from the town’s periphery to its downtown core.  This dispute greatly interests me, but I have refrained from joining in the chorus of comment because I did not like the focus of the discourse.  That focus has been on the business in question, with its history and finances questioned publicly, trying to make the issue whether this particular business “deserved” the grant.  That’s wrong, on more than one level.

I’m not going to come down on one side or the other about the restaurant.  Norristown Municipal Council clearly (if not unanimously) wants to see the restaurant on Main Street.  It weathered the initial wave of disapproval, and then, when the bids to accomplish the first plan of work came in much too high, added more monies to the grant and restructured the work to be done.  That is a sign of commitment if there ever was one.

I comprehend several of the reasons why such a commitment might be made, and I know and respect the people who made it.  Yet I believe the decision is an example of “failing to keep it simple,” a very important commandment for municipal councils.  Once again, I am going to make the case for a simple guiding generality instead of a series of ad-hoc decisions, regardless of how well intentioned.

The dispute I utilize to launch my “Keep It Simple” series is not a simple story, but that’s part of the problem; it ought to be.  Decisions to spend tax monies should follow commitment to a simple, fundamental and broadly accepted plan, and should each advance that plan, even in the face of the many tempting opportunities to tack on what appears to be other good ideas that do not advance the plan.  That’s a lot harder to do than anyone who has never been in—or near to—municipal public office can imagine.  I use the issue of grant money to introduce both the needed philosophy and the equally needed sense of perspective.

First, why should a municipality offer financial grants to lure a business in the first place?  There are several reasons that can be offered for such an action, but there is really only one REAL reason…wait for it…MONEY.  That’s net money, by the way, which is how municipalities calculate it.  Here’s the axiom: residential developments cost more in services than they pay in taxes; businesses cost less.  Stripped of all the (perhaps relevant) details, that’s the point.  A municipality that is purely a “bedroom community” is caught within an inescapable financial vise.  Hence all municipalities seek to have businesses locate within their boundaries, to make up the deficit that residences create (the Pennsylvania tax code lies at the bottom of this, but that is an issue unto itself).  Norristown is hardly alone in such a search.

The point is not whether or not a municipality should try to attract businesses, but rather what kind of businesses it should try to attract.  Before anyone gets the wrong idea, let me make it clear that I am not referring to how a municipality should handle a potential business, but whether it should consider giving that business financial incentives.  ALL those inquiring about opening a business in your town should receive quick, positive and informative service, regardless of their proposal.  Whatever is required to expedite the application/approval process—and is in accordance with all relevant laws and ordinances—should be done.  You want to make it as easy as possible for a business to negotiate the approval maze, effectively taking each by the hand and seeing them through it (or as far as they get, alas).  By the way, “easy as possible” refers to the application/approval process, not to their life in town thereafter.  Along the way you introduce the relevant laws and ordinances, and make it clear they will be enforced.

But I digress.  In the interest of keeping it simple, I am going to suggest that when it comes to businesses a small municipality is likely to attract, there are really only two types:  Production and Service.  You want both types to set up shop locally, but you offer financial incentives to only one type.

Both terms have a multitude of definitions, so here’s mine, solely for the purpose of this analysis.  Both types produce (or process) things; the significant distinction is the location of their primary market, whether outside the community or within it.  If it is outside, let’s call it a production business; if local, then it is a service business.

The river towns were built on Production businesses, and what they produced tended to be both physically noticeable and rather heavy.  Today, a “product” could be paper, or just something added to paper.  They may even produce software, i.e., something with no tangible existence at all.  It doesn’t matter.  If all—or at least the vast majority—of whatever is produced is marketed outside the local community, it’s a “Production” business.

“Service” businesses may produce or process things just as much as any “Production” business, but they do so to supply a local clientele (whether full-time residents or day workers) with items for their consumption, adornment or use.  Thus retail is added to the “Service” category.  Restaurants clearly fall into the Service category.  They want a widespread clientele, of course, but depend on local patronage to survive.

The applications of both types of businesses should be treated as described above, but there is one significant difference between how the applications of Production businesses and those of Service businesses should be handled.  Production businesses can be considered for “financial incentives,” but not Service businesses.  Period.

The reasoning behind this admittedly harsh approach is a dispassionate understanding of what brings businesses into a community, not one crafted for the widest possible approval.  It’s all about the Benjamins, or rather the odds.

A production business establishes—or relocates—itself for purely economic motives.  It looks for a site of sufficient size and close to the form of transportation both its employees and its product requires.  It then tries to obtain that site—and the necessary approvals—for as little expense as possible; hence negotiations, and the possible need for incentives, etc., etc.  The arrival of such a business provides tax benefits, and perhaps much more, to a municipality.  It’s a competitive world out there, and the unpleasant reality is that concessions, even those that will limit future revenue, are often necessary to attract any business of any size.  This reintroduces the element of personal decision into the equation, but if your decision is going to cause controversy anyway, at least make it about a Production business.

And what about Service businesses?  Why shouldn’t they get incentives?  They are also established for economic motives, and may themselves represent quite a substantial investment.  Starting a business is a much bigger deal today; you can’t begin with a cart and a horse, as did several of the Schuylkill Valley’s commercial legends.  Even a “mom and pop” business requires risking substantial capital (at least substantial to those attempting to establish a “mom and pop” business).  Sources of such capital are always welcome, but the public coffers should not be among them.

The reason is, alas, statistical, which means it is cold, analytical and lacking the human component.  The data is, however, quite clear: businesses that open depending on a local market (and thus “service” by my definition) have an obscenely high failure rate.  They are recurrent testimony for both human optimism and the attraction of a market economy, but they are not the type of investment worthy of tax monies.  There are higher priorities.

In future posts I will discuss those priorities, why they deserve special status, and why focusing on them to the exclusion of attractive side projects keeps it simple, or at least as simple as such a thing can be.  In so doing, I will also point out some reasons why keeping it simple is so very difficult and why we shouldn't judge too harshly those who fail our ephemeral purity test.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Why Phoenixville? Some Suggestions From Readers

I began 2015 with the first post in my “Why Phoenixville?” series.  I phrased it as a question—in fact THE question for historians—because I do not know the answer, nor do I know anybody who does.  That answer (or, more likely, answers) would be of great value to the other towns along the lower Schuylkill at the very least, and probably many more than that.  It’s a subject well worth pursuing, and I shall continue.

I put the question out for discussion and contributions among my readers, and have been continuously pleased with the results.  I printed a full post by a guest a few weeks ago, and this week I want to take up some of the subjects offered by others in their responses.  Several actually compiled lists, with points that deserve to be made.  This week I touch on just a few.

One topic that has been the subject of several different responses is the avowedly religious nature of Phoenixville.  Some claimed, in the words of one, “We seem more religious than the average community.”  Another writer put it more precisely:

This is also a very religiously diverse town. There are 33 different churches in this town of varying beliefs. This can allow people to find the church that best speaks to their personal beliefs and find the sense of community they have been looking for. This is almost unheard of in small towns.”

This statement is manifestly true, and several people commented about how active their churches are in the community.  Yet I have some questions about determining how religious a community is, even using the obvious data.  Take the situation in Bridgeport, for example.  The borough possesses about one quarter of the population of Phoenixville, and their economic conditions can scarcely be compared.  The final two Catholic churches within the borough’s boundaries have just shut down, leaving Bridgeport without a Catholic place of worship for the first time since 1892.  Does that make Bridgeport any less religious that Phoenixville?  I seriously doubt that.  These closures are about people and money, or rather the declining number of both, not the religious nature of those that remain.  Perhaps the point raised by another writer applies here: “The Borough's size seems just right; not so big that doing things is like trying to turn the Titanic, but big enough to actually have some resources.”  I’m not so sure that any size is “just right,” but smallness is usually more of an impediment that largeness.  I think Bridgeport falls into that category.

My second question about the place of religion in the revival of Phoenixville is one of the favorites of historians, referred to generically as the  “chicken-or-the-egg question.”  Is Phoenixville’’s religious/community orientation a cause of the borough’s revival, or a result?  In other words, did Phoenixville’s already religious nature attract people who wanted to live in a close-knit community, thus spearheading its revival, or did its revival, locally-generated as it has been, attract this kind of people?  The answer to such a question is usually “both,” because any individual component in so complex an equation can be both a stimulant to and a result of a town’s revival, particularly when it involves judging the nature of a substantial portion of the population.  Because we must employ those arbitrary and imaginary categories that I have written about previously, the question becomes at which end of the spectrum does this particular component, on balance, deserve to be placed, as cause or result?  I’d like to hear more about this aspect of the subject from you, my readers.  It’s important.

Other readers have made individual points that must remain classified as claims rather than facts, because they are not manifestly obvious. Two of these are subjects so vitally important to a town’s revival that—and with all due respect to their author(s)—they must remain as theses, not conclusions.  Each might be correct or it might not, which is just the kind of search in which I love to participate.  These two date back to my first post, and I regret having to wait this long to air their heartening opinions.  

One writer put the spotlight on the borough’s administrative staff.  This is a hugely important aspect of a community's revival, and the claim made is that the staff of Phoenixville Borough has been quite supportive of private efforts in recent years.   The writer specifically praised the (now-defunct) Community Development Corporation for its efforts.  This opens an interesting issue (why is it defunct?  Was it no longer needed?), about which I look forward to reading opinions.

Speaking of staff, the same writer—joined by a couple of others, but I’m using his words—also made the claim that

the leadership of the county government has always been supportive of Phoenixville’s revitalization and the voters of surrounding areas have not born any resentment towards the Borough if it sucks in a few more tax dollars than it generates on paper. 

The first, if true, is laudatory.  The second, if true, would be a miracle.  I hope that the historical record demonstrates that both are, but that would make them exceptions to the norm.

I very much want to hear other opinions on the subjects of borough administration, its relationship with the county, and the attitude of surrounding residents toward what has happened to Phoenixville.  These are crucial subjects, and because they involve several sub-topics and even more people, the answers are likely to be complex.  Let me hear from you.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Where Can You Buy My Book? It’s A Matter Of Principle

I advocate for communities.  I am pretty open as to just what can be called a “community,” and put people above profit.  As such, I am no great fan of Bigness, particularly when it comes to corporations.  I am by nature on the side of “the little guy.”  But I live in the real world, and much has changed since I reached adulthood.  Today, in order to be a writer, I must abandon my principles and publish (indirectly) using one of the best examples of how Bigness can work against those communities for which I work.  Here’s the sad but logical story, and a very principled one.

The Bigness I refer to is Amazon.com, which I have been known to refer to as “Amasquash,” for the effect it has had on one of my favorite components of a community, the local, independent book store.  I cannot place the blame for the almost complete demise of local book stores solely on Amazon, as the Bigness Effect on them goes back to increasingly larger brick-and-mortar stores, which climaxed with Barnes & Noble and the late, unlamented (at least by me) Borders.  But Borders is gone, and the future of Barnes & Noble is obscure at best, because online ordering has replaced going to the local—or even not so local—bookstore.  Local bookstores are by no means the only victims of Amasquash, but they have meant a great deal to me since childhood, and are the ones with which I, as a writer, am most concerned.

A community needs a means of communication among its members.  Not too long ago, a bookstore was a likely candidate for the job.  It attracts people who like to think and talk, and among them a few who also like to do something.  Talk about yearning for a lost world, but it is exactly that type of local communication that a thriving community demonstrates.

Today’s technology delivers personal isolation, which is a cancer on any sense of community.  In the kind of irony that one finds everywhere in history, technology has enabled an unprecedented widening of those with something to contribute, so that a community need not depend solely upon itself for ideas and support.  Knowledge from far away and previously unavailable is today quite literally at our fingertips.  The problem is getting the fingertips in touch with each other.

I have just published a book entitled They've Been Down So Long.../Getting Up's Still On Their Minds, which is aimed directly at the residents of the eight towns on the lower Schuylkill River.  They are my primary market, but after the problem of making them aware of the book (and it’s a big problem) comes the question of where they can buy it.  Online purchase easy; the book is only a few keystrokes away (I will provide the link at the end of this post).  Nothing should be easier, but I am old enough to know better, personally as well as academically.  The fact that “It’s just not the same” I can attribute to age and personal experience, but I also assess the online phenomenon professionally as a major historical event.

There is not only single independent bookstore in the eight towns that constitute both my subjects and the core of my market.  There is, however, one that is at least strategically located near several of them, the Towne Book Center and Café, in the Providence Town Center at the intersection of U.S. Route 422 and Pa. Route 29.  This shopping center is an ersatz location if there ever was one, an artificial “re-creation” of the mythical American downtown of our dreams.  But it does have an independent bookstore, and I sold a good number of copies of my first book there.

I had hopes for even greater sales, as the subject of my first book was only Norristown, while my second, They’ve Been Down So Long…/Getting Up’s Still On Their Minds, deals with an additional seven towns.  I was therefore displeased to be informed by the store owner that he will not stock my new book.  He’ll fulfill any orders placed, but will not stock it.  He has a reason, a very principled one.  Amazon is his enemy, and he is part of an organization fighting it in the courts.  Things are getting ugly, and he is angry.  Therefore, because my book is published by a company owned by Amazon, he says sorry but no.

He is clearly taking this stand on principle.  Amazon is simply not going to notice—much less care—that one bookstore has declined to stock my new book.  His business, on the contrary, will lose potential income.  The loss may not be too noticeable, but it is certainly a greater percentage of his gross sales than of Amazon’s.  I lose the most, largely because “brick and mortar” book outlets are getting quite scarce (At present I have only one, the Historical Society of Montgomery County, at 1654 DeKalb Street in Norristown.  The Spring-Ford Area Historical Society will be stocking copies shortly).  Thus the loss of even one hurts.

I am deeply conflicted on this.  I truly believe that people in the towns not too far from the Towne Book Center could benefit from reading my book.  That’s why I wrote it.  To have my best (okay, only) local bookstore refuse to stock my book certainly doesn’t help what I am trying to do.  Yet I am also sympathetic, for reasons explained above.  I write about principles I consider important and Towne Book Center upholds a principle it considers important, in the knowledge that the gesture will go entirely unnoticed.  We both uphold our principles, and make no impact whatsoever on the Bigness we both oppose.  Here again, on a day-to-day basis (but not “in the end”), it truly is all about the Benjamins.  We can all lament this to our heart’s content, but we have to keep on living in this changing world, and that means compromise.  The struggle over principles is unending.

As I have to depend on internet marketing, here is the link to buy my book:  


Friday, August 21, 2015

When Did Phoenixville’s Renaissance Begin?

Last week’s guest post by Shannon Mannon of Activate Phoenixville Area (APA) proved to be very popular.  In fact, it’s my most viewed post to date.  That is understandable, because Shannon’s love for and commitment to Phoenixville shone clearly.  Her essay was truly a “love letter.”  Shannon’s essay offered several threads to pursue, but as a historian, I have to start with one that is critical to addressing the question “why Phoenixville?”: when did the borough’s renaissance begin?

“When did [insert your subject here] begin?” is one of the most debated questions in historical inquiry.  The result is always disagreement as to the “correct” answer.  There is no consensus definition of “began,” either, even when you have major events and convenient dates.  The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and we went to war.  Okay, but that war had begun in 1939 when Germany invaded Poland, right?  Yes, but the Japanese invaded China several years before that, and it was the Japanese who got us into the war, so shouldn’t their invasion of China count?  And what about Germany and Italy making sure Spain would be at least neutral during the same period?  If this is the way it is with such easily definable—and infinitely discussed—events, what about those of less fame and considerably less analysis?

I deal with the question of when something “began” in my first book, What Killed Downtown? Norristown, Pennsylvania, From Main Street to the Malls.  When did Norristown’s classic American Main Street downtown begin to decline?  Here’s a hint:  sooner than you think!  I can back up my claim with statistics, but how about when the decline ended?  No so easy, but I think I make a good case.

Still, other—and conflicting—cases could be made.  This is largely because life—and therefore time—is a continuum, a heterogeneous unity where every part differs from every other part, but in such subtle gradations that no boundaries exist within the unity itself.  The corollary is that ALL such boundaries are both arbitrary and imaginary.  Yet without boundaries and categories, all you would have is “hippie history,” where “everything’s like everything, man.”  That would be no help to anyone at all.  So we establish all sorts of groupings of reality’s elements, because we need to.  We talk about them, promote them, disagree over them, but in the final analysis we should understand that they are all imaginary while we continue to employ them.  Unfortunately, there are few concepts harder to keep in mind.  I offer our current political discourse as an example.

Historians, as you might expect, tend to give the “roots” of an event much attention.  You must look at the period before it became obvious that something was going on if you want to know why it is going on.  The result within our profession is that not only do we dispute the time when something “began,” we also dispute what ”began” actually means.  As a result, that arbitrary and imaginary date when something “began” gets pushed back further and further. 

As we collectively understand history better, we appreciate the minute but inexorable pace of “change.”  Pretty much everyone else settles for easily definable “periods” with exact dates for boundaries.  The terms of presidents has pretty much replaced the reigns of kings for such purposes, but the change in very few of either actually signifies much.      

Phoenixville could prove to be an excellent example of disagreement over when it renaissance “began.”  Shannon referred to 2003, as “decidedly pre-renaissance”.  But it’s not that simple, and Shannon came to understand that.  In her words,

But the bones were all there – a walkable downtown, a diverse population, an intimate small town feel in close proximity to Philadelphia and the bigger suburbs….As a new Phoenixville transplant, what I hadn’t yet learned, was the community underground of leaders who had been working for decades to poise our community for the explosion in growth / engagement we benefit from today…. the founding parents of Phoenixville, who stuck around after the mill closed, jobs were lost, and decades of pain, and darkness ensued. How these visionaries lit a flame of hope, and fanned it with their belief that this Phoenix would rise again from the ashes. Painstaking project by project, committee meeting by committee meeting, these heroes built up the foundation our community to poise it to rise greater than before.”

Here’s a question: might those “founding parents” who endured the hard times have a different idea as to what constitutes the beginning of “revival” than someone who had recently arrived?  They have a very different perspective, after all.  I suspect they might they date its beginning before 2003, but I am sure they could not all agree on any one year.

Could statistics—population trends, borough issued building permits, tax receipts and the like—help to answer this question?  Tangible results may offer a date (or more likely, a date range) that things began to coalesce, at least among those components that can be calculated.  Yet we must remember that tangible and measureable results only appear after several components have already coalesced.  People had indeed worked for decades prior to 2003 to revive Phoenixville.  That makes those positive economic indicators an example of results, not causes.  They thus have limited usefulness in answering that all-important question “WHY?”

Let’s return to the question of perspective.  Even after statistical analysis had identified the date (range) when categories turned positive, wouldn’t something like “when Phoenixville’s renaissance began” ultimately be determined by your perspective anyway?  If we consider statistics as results, or at least only a partial answer, then we need to identify those less quantifiable but still necessary other components.

I believe that’s where the long-time residents can add a great deal to our discourse.  I would love to know when those hometown heroes—the ones who “stuck around”—think Phoenixville’s renaissance began. If you qualify as an “old time” resident (and I will let you define what that means), then chime in with your opinion, regardless of length; take as long as you need.  You can either comment on this blog, or email me directly at: mike@michaeltolle.com

Either way, you have a chance to add important, but too easily ignored, pieces to the puzzle.  I guarantee you that I will read what you send me, and perhaps even publish it, in part or in whole.  Let me know what you think!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Why Phoenixville? A Guest Post

This week I return to the topic of  “Why Phoenixville?”  The answers(s) to that question are important to the other river towns, because Phoenixville clearly offers a much better template for revival and reinvention than does Conshohocken, despite the latter's hugely larger financial numbers. 

I strive to expedite communication among the towns and their activists on the subjects about which I write; I do not claim to have any answers myself.  I have asked for contributors to answer the question “Why Phoenixville,” and I am pleased to publish the first response I have received.  It was written by Shannon Mannon, Chief Empowerment Officer of Activate Phoenixville Area (info@activatephoenixvillearea.org).  I take no stand about its contents, but if I published it you can bet I think it is something worth thinking about.  It is truly a “love letter,” as its title says, and I would like to hear from you about what she has to say and what you think of it.

Why Phoenixville?”: A Love Letter

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” -Lilla Watson

As a child, I had dreamed of living in a true community, where folks watched out for each other, where everyone knew your name. The dream was full-blown, bunting on the front porch, lemonade stand on the corner, romanticism. A throwback to another era.  I tried not to let myself feel the dream too intensely, so that I wouldn’t be disappointed with the reality that places like that just don’t exist anymore.
While the dream lay dormant, my newlywed husband and I were drawn to Phoenixville as proud first time homeowners in 2003. This was an era, most decidedly, “pre- renaissance.” But the bones were all there – a walkable downtown, a diverse population, an intimate small town feel in close proximity to Philadelphia and the bigger suburbs. More than anything, there was this palpable hope, this energy that seeped from the pores of the sidewalks, from the quirky folk I’d pass walking the tree-lined streets, to the historic buildings on Bridge Street themselves. Still, it was a leap of faith. We knew no one here, and had no idea what beauty we were about to uncover.
After our first year as residents, there was no doubt in my mind that the community I jokingly dubbed to my out of town friends as “little Manhattan,” would one day rise into its full potential. You could feel the forward momentum.  In those pre “First Friday” days, the Bridge Street sidewalks were empty on weekends. My pug and I would trail any other twenty-something we spotted because they were so rare a sight in the borough.
It took experiencing our first Dogwood Parade to crack open the vault, shining rays of light on my sleeping childhood dream. Whoa Nelly! Was THIS ACTUALLY that kind of town? Be still my heart! Watching that sweet parade, that lil’ slice of Americana, stream past my front stoop, and realizing that communities like this DID exist? The dream was alive. 
For all of the parade’s eccentricities and length, what stood out was that folks came together to put this on because they cared.  They shared a belief that neighbors are worth showing up for, kids get raised best when the whole village looks out for them, and that carrying on a tradition, no matter how much times have changed, is worth doing. Something shifted in me that afternoon. And I made a commitment to myself that I would raise the children I one day hoped to have right here. 
My initial enthusiasm made room for deep grooves to form. Inside those heartfelt hollows was our community’s shared sense of interconnection. What happens to one of us, impacts us all. This is the spirit that is next to impossible to quantify in words. Ask anyone who has been lucky enough to live here “what IS Phoenixville?” and they stare off, thoughtfully struggling to sum it up. Volunteerism? Generosity? Compassion? Caring? Love itself? We all feel it, sense it and live it.
As a new Phoenixville transplant, what I hadn’t yet learned, was the community underground of leaders who had been working for decades to poise our community for the explosion in growth / engagement we benefit from today. I began to integrate myself into the community, to understand the social fabric that was clearly so rich. I struggled to figure out my place – knowing that I’d only get out of Phoenixville what I was willing to put in.  How could I best serve and connect in to this community?
I joined a church in the Borough, attended every community event I could find, volunteered, and became a frequent flyer at the Library, the Colonial, and the YMCA.  And finally I made friends the old fashioned way – by pushing my sleep-detesting baby girl through the borough streets for hours a week chatting up folks. But still, I didn’t really feel like I was inside the community yet – more just a cheerleader from the outside. I sensed there was a bigger story at play, and like a detective, I hunted away until I could find a way in. The key clue was discovering, in 2006, the opportunity to be a Girls on the Run (GOTR) coach at East Pikeland Elementary, after reading about it in “The Phoenix.” (Cause what self-respecting ‘vill-ain didn’t read that cover to cover)?
Suffice it to say that program knocked my socks off, and books will be written documenting the impact it brings to communities and to women of all ages. What was special for me, was that my GOTR coaching gig lead me to the community wellness coalition that brought GOTR to Phoenixville, Activate Phoenixville Area (APA). I joined APA in 2007. This position gave me a privileged seat to understand, and impact, the very fabric of this place.
I learned that the profits from the sale of Phoenixville Hospital were used to start up the Phoenixville Community Health Foundation, whose mission is to improve the health and quality of life in the greater Phoenixville region by increasing access to health care services and promoting healthy communities. Aha! So this is why we have a depth and breadth of community organizations, and what feels like the most non profits per capita in the US!    In Phoenixville, like most places, you can’t get anywhere without relationships. Over the years, APA has formed intimate partnerships that let us glimpse the stunning, selfless service that this community is built upon. Our knowledge grew deeper this year, as we joyfully conducted stakeholder interviews with the leading community wellness experts to better determine how Activate Phoenixville Area can be Phoenixville’s wellness hub.
We heard stories about PACS facing “N.I.M.B.Y.” challenges in all their former locations. But in Phoenixville, were not only welcomed with open arms, but were given a key location in the heart of town to facilitate the ease of getting food and supplies to our most vulnerable populations. We learned more about Elizabeth Andersen’s crusade to get Phoenixville our first Farmer’s Market to open up access to fresh food. We celebrated connections that were made at the Activate table that enabled our brightest servant leaders like Michelle Ferretti at the YMCA, to engage hundreds of people and get thousands of pounds of fresh produce in the hands of the hungry through new community gardens!  
With great humility, we learned about the founding parents of Phoenixville, who stuck around after the mill closed, jobs were lost, and decades of pain, and darkness ensued. How these visionaries lit a flame of hope, and fanned it with their belief that this Phoenix would rise again from the ashes. Painstaking project by project, committee meeting by committee meeting, these heroes built up the foundation our community to poise it to rise greater than before. Because this time, our “vortex” is built on love.
Activate Phoenixville Area is a partnership forged to empower & inspire wellness and wholeness in our community. We are golden thread that weaves together the organizations, people, and institutions of our community. We gather and shares these stories of hope. Join us. Use the hashtag #PhoenixvilleInspired on social media to share what moves you. Together, we will show the world -- Phoenixville IS the most inspired community.
                                                                          Shannon Mannon