By Mike Weilbacher
As we head into the last moments of 2020, this oh-so-memorable yet oh-so-forgettable year, it’s time for a Review tradition, reaching out to neighbors and friends across the community for their New Year’s resolutions, both for themselves and for the community. Many of these are people featured in this column over the years, many are leaders in the community I’d love for you to know (and support and work with).
“Well, I'm not a resolution person,” confessed John Boyce, leader of the Friends of Gorgas Park, that stunning park perched on Ridge Avenue next to the high school, “but in this year of COVID, I’ll change that. One goal for me is to continue staying in contact with people, not cut myself off from friends and family, to be social at a time when it’s hard to be social.” For the community, he wishes you will “go outdoors! Walk! Along the towpath, along a stream, along the river, anywhere, even just walk around your block!” He looks forward to the Friends group being allowed to again “do outdoor things whenever it is safe.”
Rich Giordano has similar thoughts. The president of the Upper Roxborough Civic Association and one of the leaders of the Upper Roxborough Reservoir Preserve, Rich shared, “In the midst of a pandemic and an incredibly disheartening public discourse, I choose to focus on the blessings of my family and on being part of overlapping groups of intrepid local volunteers who change their neighbors’ lives and lift each others spirits.”
Continuing in this vein, Tom Landsmann is Rich’s partner in crime at the reservoir and a leader with the Roxborough-Manayunk Conservancy. The RMC organizes “Two on Tuesdays,” two-hour work sessions at a variety of greenspaces in the community, from the towpath to Germany Hill to Pretzel Park (you may have seen their signs up at their sites when working.) “At the start of the year,” Tom wrote to me, “we had two goals: engage and empower. We wanted to connect our community to our many green assets, to get out and do good deeds. Then the pandemic arrived and the world stopped.”
But RMC decided to push ahead and hold socially-distanced work sessions, which worked out beautifully for the organization - and the community. “I’m hoping that our movement continues on all fronts,” Tom wrote. Echoing another important national theme from 2020, Tom also added, “I’m hoping we expand our group’s diversity. I’d also hope we’ll continue to expand our partnerships with like-minded organizations.”
Kay Sykora, another RMC leader active in her civic association and former director of the Manayunk Development Corporation, would like “to continue to embrace and foster this community’s commitment to greening and strengthening our environmental evolution within the Lower Northwest area of the City.” Amen!
Krista Wieder is the still-new executive director of the North Light Community Center in Manayunk, arriving just before all pandemic hell broke out. “My hope for 2021 is that North Light, together with our supporters, partners, and local businesses, will continue to be a beacon of hope for the community. That we will be resilient and creative in meeting needs, ensuring that those who are most vulnerable in these difficult times have what is necessary to thrive.”
State Rep. Pam DeLissio, just re-elected to the statehouse as a moderate Democrat during a time of unprecedented political disconnect between the parties, and when moderate voices are increasingly scarce, offers that “my New Year resolution and wish for my district and the commonwealth is that we commit to being active listeners to each other and recognize that, even when our needs differ, the fair approach is compromise. I am concerned that ‘digging in’ on our respective beliefs will always get us nowhere.”
Here’s to Pam helping us all get somewhere in 2021!
Kris Soffa wears many hats in the community, serving on the Police Advisory Committee and the city’s Parks & Recreation Commission on one hand while confounding Toxic Free Philly on the other. Inspired by the outpouring of people seeking justice this year, she wrote, “I will refocus my support of our global, national, and local environmental justice efforts and transitions and see that they are made easily and comfortably for the best possible outcome for everyone involved.”
Rabbi Shawn Zevit, spiritual leader of the Mishkan Shalom Synagogue on Shurs Lane, continues mining this vein as well. He promises “to keep renewing my resolve to stay engaged in our democratic process, staying safe and contributing to my own health and that of my family and community during pandemic times, and continuing to strive for racial, social and environmental justice. Given what has been required of us this past year, fatigue and grief are hand in hand with creativity, connection, and new possibilities. The turning of the secular new year gives me an opportunity to renew and recommit.”
Tom Landsmann brings all of this home for us: “Let’s all stay safe, and let’s all look forward to this spring.”
Dear reader, consider your own resolutions for the year that bring renewal and justice to a dark world desperately in need of light. Happy New Year.
Mike Weilbacher directs the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education in Upper Roxborough, tweets @SCEEMike, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.