Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 was a year to forget

In many ways, 2012 is a year we would like to forget.
It was a year of too much horror and heartache, a year that saw the legends of a generation pass and that left us reeling with questions about random violence rocking our sense of security.
Not since 2001 and the terror of 9/11 have we felt so hopelessly victimized as we did twice in 2012.
The world didn't come to an end on Dec. 21, as the Mayans predicted.
Instead it came to an end a week earlier on Dec. 14 for 26 families who lost their children in the Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Conn.
The massacre was the second mass shooting of horrendous proportion, coming five months after a deranged lone gunman killed 12 people and injured dozens at a Colorado movie premiere.
We saw the venerable educational institution of Penn State University rocked by scandal that began in 2011, resulting in 2012 in the trial of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on charges of sexally abusing and raping young boys.
Again, the horror in headlines. 
The scandal included a sad chapter, as legendary Coach Joe Paterno died of cancer early in the year.
JoePa, Whitney Houston, Nora Ephron, Etta James, Dick Clark -- all legends to different groups for different reasons -- all giants in someone's world, now gone.
Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on New York City and the Jersey shore, leaving in its wake death and destruction, forever altering shore towns that for many held their fondest memories of summers gone by.
Part of the sadness of 2012 is that the things destroyed were the very things we held dear in our hearts  -- a Jersey shore memory, a first grade class, a night at the movies.
I am a Penn State alum so I add the happiness of Nittany Valley to that list.
In the December buildup to the Mayan calendar tale, there was a lot of talk that it didn't mean the end of the world, it meant a change in the world.
2012 was a year that turned upside-down many things we believed were stable and safe.
In so doing, many of our fears were laid bare.
As we head toward 2013, the hope is that we have a place to start.
Perhaps the awful events of 2012 were a way to turn the directions of violence and hatred in a different direction.
A local leader who I respect said to me recently: "All our agendas have been exposed. Maybe that's the first step to figuring out how to change society and make it truly about goodwill toward others."
That seems at least a way to look at the year past beyond just regret.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Successful show of support for literacy

About one in six adults in the U.S. is not literate, as defined by reading and writing above a fifth grade level.
Low literacy costs the nation more than $200 billion a year in lost productivity.
More than four million Pennsylvania adults lack the basic literacy skills needed for gainful employment.
Those statistics are listed by the Pottstown Adult Literacy Center among "Literary Fast Facts" to highlight the need in Pennsylvania and in the Pottstown tri-county area for support of adult literacy programs.
The center, part of the Pottstown YWCA but located in its own offices in the lower level of 1830 E. High St., offers classes and tutoring for adults and students in reading, writing, citizenship and math.
The center has a small staff, using resources of volunteers and materials bought through grants and limited funding.
Like most service agencies, the center has experienced cuts in funding and grants from county and state government due to budget constraints.
Despite the cuts, the need for training is increasing. The center served more than 400 adults last year and expects to see that number go higher this year. Many are English as Second Language students who need help mastering English to continue education, workforce training, or to get jobs.
Others are students who need extra help to master college courses or pass tests necessary for education or work.
Some in the program are older adults who never learned to read well enough to read to their grandchildren.
Increasing literacy in our local adult population is important to the community and to our nation's economy. It is certainly important to the newspaper industry which depends on people reading.
Those are among the reasons our staff and our TownSquare network of bloggers joined forces with the literacy center to raise money and awareness about the need for adult literacy training. Tuesday marked the wrapup of a monthlong campaign in which an anonymous donor gave $1 for every name of a person who signed on to support literacy programs.
The effort raised more than $900 for the tri-county center.
Literacy support does not stop here. The program needs volunteers and continued sources of funding to buy materials.
For those who read and write every day, it's easy to take literacy for granted.
Such is not the case for everyone.
Helping our community raise the level of literacy is a goal in which we are proud to take part.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Children's story hour (with cookies!)

I was just sitting down to write a blog about our story hour at The Mercury Community Media Lab Friday night, but I see Business Editor Michelle Karas at Balancing the Books has beat me to it.

Below is her blog post; as a note from me, please join us for homemade cookies and story hour with our Mercury and TownSquare readers.

The Mercury is hosting a free story time for kids this Friday as part of the holiday events happening throughout the month of December in downtown Pottstown.

The Mercury's holiday story hour will be from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Community Media Lab, located adjacent to our main entrance at 24 N. Hanover St. in Pottstown.

Special guest readers Mercury Editor Nancy March, who writes The Editor's Desk blog; Reporter Evan Brandt, who pens the Digital Notebook blog; TownSquare blogger Mandy March from So Much To Do, So Little Time; and Community Engagement Editor Diane Hoffman, author of the Lessons in Triathlon blog, will read selected holiday-themed books to children and their families during the hour.

The book selections include "The Polar Express," by Chris Van Allsburg, which will be read by the beguiling Mandy March.

Fresh, home-made cookies and hot chocolate will be available for all children in attendance. (I'm hoping there will be some free cookies and hot chocolate for random adult book bloggers who also plan to visit the story hour.) There will also be a holiday coloring activity for children.

If you can't make it to story hour, be sure to stop back and visit The Mercury's Community Media Lab during its regular hours. The lab is free and open to the public Monday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is located inside The Mercury at 24 N. Hanover St. With three computers, a microfilm machine in which to look up archives of The Mercury that go back to 1933 and free WIFI for those with their own lab top, the lab is a great place to sit and relax. There's also a free lending library that includes all kinds of books, from "Into the Wild" by Jon Krakauer to a vast collection of Anita Shreve novels, available for borrowing. Coffee and water are also available for $1. The Media Lab is also available to community groups looking for a free space to use.

For more information about the holiday story hour or The Mercury's Community Media Lab, call Diane Hoffman at 610-323-3000, ext. 156, or email