Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Hands across Hanover Street

Next Friday, July 20, we are opening our remodeled Community Media Lab, one of a dozen or so open newsroom projects of Digital First Media, parent company of The Mercury.
The lab, once offices of The PennyPincher, has been remodeled and refurnished into a coffeehouse atmosphere. We're not quite finished but when we are, it will be equipped with computers, microfilm, Internet TV and free Wi-Fi.
The grand opening next Friday is being held simultaneously with the opening of a new Pottstown Visitor's Center across Hanover Street from our entrance.
Pottstown Borough Council approved our request to close the block of Hanover Street for part of the day so we can stretch a ribbon across the street between the two sites for a joint ribbon-cutting ceremony.
We'll have food donated by local restaurants at the visitor's center, which is home to the Pottstown Downtown Improvement District Authority and the Main Street manager, and more food (DESSERTS!) in our media lab.
The joint ribbon cutting will include speeches by Pottstown Mayor Bonnie Heath and Digital First Media Director of Community Engagement Steve Buttry, among others.
We learned in early spring that we were named as one of the sites for a DFM-sponsored community outreach project. The impetus for our selection was the success of our community food drive that collected more than 16,000 food items and nearly 700 bottles of laundry detergent in just five weeks. The food drive showcased the partnership of The Mercury and community bloggers with the greater Pottstown area community to accomplish a goal.

As we began working on our remodeling plans, we also learned that PDIDA and Main Street Manager Sheila Dugan were planning a similar remodeling across the street in the building that was the first home of this newspaper when it was founded in 1932 and was later site of Longacre's Jewelers and then a podiatrist's office. We decided to cross the street, bridge the divide and join forces with the downtown business group to reach out to our community.

"Someone had a vision of people working, collaborating and succeeding together in a place that promoted our community."

The theme of our joint ceremony is to reinforce old partnerships and introduce a new initiative in both community engagement and improvement.
Part of the emphasis in our grand opening is the "Buy Local" campaign growing in popularity in U.S. towns like this one.
The opening of our Community Media Lab is part of a two-day downtown Pottstown promotion focused on a Sidewalk Sale on Saturday, July 21. Our new site will be open to the public, and anyone who brings a receipt from shopping local that day will get a chance to win prizes in the downtown raffles being conducted throughout the sale event.
The Community Media Lab was designed to celebrate this newspaper's relationship with the town and surrounding area. We are opening our archives to visitors and making available microfilm of 80 years of publishing. On the walls is a photo display of some of our favorite newspaper photos over the years, reflecting life in the towns we cover. We will have free Wi-Fi, Internet TV, coffee and cold drinks available, a lending library of books (with recommendations for reading from our editors and bloggers) and computers for public use.
The space can be used to blog, work on a resume, research. You can ask us for help starting a blog, you can schedule a meeting of your writers group, you can knit, you can read, or you can just stop in to say hi, pick up a map of the Schuylkill River Trail or post a help-wanted notice on the Community Share bulletin board.
The Mercury has been a resource used in the lives of our readers for 80 years; this opening marks the start of a new era of engagement and working together.

"Hands were joined, ideas were shared and what started as an idea has become a partnership dedicated to a commonly held faith in new growth and new vitality for Pottstown."

Please join us. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Pedaling, paddling, Pottstown

Some things I learned last Saturday:
-- Paddling a kayak can be more difficult than it appears. Or, I'm just not coordinated.
-- The village of Douglassville, now a massive-area mailing address, was founded by an English Quaker George Douglass whose home in the 18th century is the mansion under restoration I pass every day on my bike ride to work.
-- George Washington stopped twice at the White Horse Inn in Morlatton Village for a meal or a drink. He didn't sleep there.
-- Bause-Landry Catering makes the best boxed lunch. (I already knew that; it was just re-learned.)
I learned these things while participating on the Pedal-Paddle event sponsored by the Schuylkill River Heritage Area. I also learned about some planned events the SRHA is working on, including a cycle and cemeteries tour for the Civil War 150th anniversary.
The Pedal-Paddle started with gathering at the Heritage Area headquarters at Riverfront Park to bike 4.5 miles on the Schuylkill River Trail to Morlatton Village. At the village, a guide from the Historic Preservation Trust of Berks County conducted a tour of the Mouns Jones House, White House Tavern, former Covered Bridge Keeper's House and an explanation of the Douglass mansion, though it was not open due to ongoing renovation.
Then, we biked to Ganshahawny Park where a boxed lunch was served, kayaking instructions were given, and we set out on the river to paddle back to Pottstown.
The cost of the day's events were $25 and included use of a Bike Pottstown yellow bike, lunch, kayaks provided by Kelly's Canoes and Kayaks -- and lots of free and useful information.
Special thanks to Chris from Kelly's who paddled alongside in an attempt to convince me I was not as woeful a kayaker as my wandering route indicated.
Calm and confidence is key to success in everything. I learned that, too.