Golf with a Higher Purpose

June 1, 2011

It was a sun shiny day in August with the wind blowing gently through the willow trees at Rolling Acres Golf Course. 19 youth and 8 adult mentors made their way on to the green to practice their skills. At hole 7, WGAL’s Ron Martin walked his group of youngsters out past the hill to see the hole. “Aim to the left side of the pole”, he coached the kids. Twelve year-old J’san Washington made the 80-yard shot from hole number 7 and hit the green. I watched him hustle over the hill with his golf bag on his shoulder. “I can’t believe it!” he shouted as his face beamed with pride.

The York County Black Golfers Association, hosted season two of its Youth Mentoring Program during the Summer of 2010. The association was founded in 1996 with four friends traveling to Myrtle Beach to play golf. Today, the Black Golfers are a forty-four  strong, multiracial, 501c3 Non-Profit Organization teaching the skill and sportsmanship of golf to boys and girls. Leo Cooper, a 65-year old retiree and one of the founding members of the group has been an active member of his York community for years. “We wanted the group to be about more than just playing golf recreationally”, he said. “Golf is about trust and integrity…We’re losing our youth at such a rate and for a myriad of reasons.  I think that those of us who’ve experienced some success in life ought to give back.”

The Black Golfers offer their eight week long Youth Mentoring Program to children and adolescents of all ages, races and cultures each summer at no cost. The Golfers open each session with a lesson and informal discussion with the kids. Lessons cover topics including leadership, staying in school, and goal setting.

Jarrett Barnett is a 33 year-old Account Executive and a driving force behind the Youth Mentoring Program. “Golf levels the playing field.”, he said, “Size and strength don’t necessarily matter.” Each youth receives a logo golf shirt and hat, a school bag, drinks, snacks and a starter set of golf clubs to keep upon completion of the summer program. Parents provide transportation to Heritage Hills Golf Resort and the Black Golfers take care of the rest. Heritage Hills golf pro Bill Brander has been coaching youth sports for thirty years. He teaches skills to the youngsters while the Black Golfers offer support and encouragement.

Five year-old Manny was the youngest to graduate the Youth Mentoring Program in 2010 and sixteen year old Allone was the oldest. Schools represented among the 18 youth participants included McKinley Elementary, Hanna Penn Middle, West York Middle, Dallastown Intermediate, William Penn High and Jackson Elementary. Twelve year-old Trey said, “I’m sort of a competitive person and it’s a sport I can show my skills in. I like to win.” Five year-old Manny’s Grandfather is a member of the Black Golfers Association. “Manny watches the golf channel and he beats everybody at golf on the Wii.”, he said.

The Black Golfers Association has a vision to expand their offerings to a Winter program and to extend their Summer program offerings. “’anything to stay involved with the kids.”, said Jarrett Barnett.

The 2011 Youth Mentoring Program begins on June 12th and concludes on July 24th.


Nothing To Do In York City

March 7, 2011

I’ve been away for too long. I miss blogging and sharing The Good in York City. I’ve been away from the blog, but I haven’t missed a beat in York City.

I am dumbfounded when I hear folks say “There’s nothing to do in the city.”, so to get my groove back, I decided to write about the things I’ve been doing in  York City lately.

I’ve been working at two agencies located in York City. Yorktowne Psychological and Addiction Services and Community Progress Council provide services to York City and County residents. Both agencies serve at risk adults, youth and families. I count it as a privilege to work at both of these agencies to provide mental health and wellness services. It’s a treat for me that the agencies are located just blocks from each other and that I can walk to Central MarketMartin Memorial Library and my other favorite downtown locations like The Green Bean Roasting Company.

Here’s a little of what I’ve been doing when I’m not at work:

I’ve been picking pretty posies at Linclonway Flower Shop in Central Market, attending Cap Live Concerts and checking out the sounds of Indian Summer Jars at Bistro 19. On the First Friday of every month, I take in live music at Pete & Lindsey’s First Friday After Party.

I gave high fives to two friends who recently moved to York City from the suburbs. I helped with painting and jazzing up the transformer box outside of White Rose Bar & Grill and toured the old Fraternal Order of Eagles building slated to become an Arts Center. I also enjoyed a tour of Salvaging Creativity, the business responsible for creating the functional art you see on Beaver Street.

I baked cookie invitations for a YorIT event, and participated in the York County United Way Day of Action. I rubbed elbows with creative types at the inaugural Artists Pot Luck at York Arts. I took an eight-week long writing class, also hosted by York Arts. I volunteered at the annual “Swing Into Literacy” Gala and hung out at York City’s Bike Night afterward.

I watched outstanding individuals, businesses and organizations receive recognition at the Downtown First Awards. I took part in some raucous, costumed Halloween fun, complete with an after-dark parade down Market Street by the light of Chinese lanterns. I tapped my feet at the Second Annual Downtown Hoedown hosted by Farm & Natural Lands Trust.

I volunteered as a guide for the annual York College of PA in the City tour and supported a back yard fundraiser for  Susan G. Komen For the Cure. I nommed lots of tasty treats from the new Student-Run Bake Shoppe at Central Market and sampled chili prepared by Beaver Street merchants on First Friday.  I handed out samples of hot cider to Beaver Street visitors and did some old-fashioned holiday shopping there.

I went ice-skating with a crew of friends at the York City Ice Arena, and most recently had the chance to show our friend Marion from France around our great city.

I did all of this in York City.

Nothing to do in the city…

I’m looking forward to spending more time here on the blog, it’s good for my soul to capture my good times in York City through writing. Look for entries on one creative and busy Chief of Staff and a program that takes city kids to rolling hills for lessons in sport and self-discipline.

Granola Girl Goes to the Emmys

September 26, 2010

My great friend “The Granola Girl”, Sarah Lanphier, owner of Nuts About Granola, LLC, was invited to have her products featured at the News and Documentary Emmy Awards in New York City.

Sarah is my first ever Guest Blogger on “The Good in York City”  and I’m thrilled that she would share her story here.

I was sitting at my computer when a message popped up in my inbox from a lady claiming she was from a company called “Off the Wall” and wanted to know if we were interested in getting our products featured in the gift bags for the 31st News and Documentary Emmy Awards in New York City. My first inclination was SCAM, but I hesitated to delete the email containing what appeared to be legitimate contact information. So, I called the number listed in the signature, and low and behold an actual person answers the phone from an actual company who actually does the gift bags for the Emmys. I thought to myself; “seriously, this is actually happening?” And so it began… my trip to the Emmy Awards.

There are 700 gift bags, which means 700 2oz. bags of granola attached to 700 postcards that have to be made, packaged, sealed, affixed and driven to New York City. Immediately, I called in the reserves: my amazing, fabulous, supportive, caring, giving group of peers, coworkers, friends and family who jumped at the opportunity to help in any way they could to make this event a success. This is a story of community, of neighbors helping neighbors, small businesses working together and a true tale of synergy at its finest.

Now, before I begin I just want to give a little background information about my businesses. Nuts About Granola was founded in June of 2008 after I spent two years planning, researching and testing products in conjunction with my business classes at Elizabethtown College where I graduated in May 2009. I spent a good deal of time looking for a stand at a farmers market and finally settled on the Central Market of York in the heart of York City. From the very beginning, I got involved in different committees and volunteer organizations. Little by little my network grew; I began to get know more and more people and before I knew it I was engrossed in an extraordinary community filled with passionate, entrepreneurial spirited individuals, unafraid to get their hands dirty to better the city they love.

Ok, back to the Emmys…

Thursday, September 9th at 2:00pm: I received confirmation of our inclusion in the giveaway bags. First thought, “What am I going to wear!?”. Second thought, “we need more granola”. We booked our kitchen, ordered the ingredients and recruited my visiting Aunt and Uncle to help make 300 lbs of granola. It when off without a hitch. Step one completed. Then my mom and I went shopping and found two perfect dresses, what a relief.

Generosity side step: We attached our 2oz bags to post cards with our company story and contact information. I needed 1000 post cards with five days notice. Kat Gwinn from Solutionz by Kat got me 1000 post cards rush printed and shipped to my door for an amazing price. My sales rep from Associated Bags made a special trip down to York to deliver the glue dots I needed to attach the bags to the cards. Now that is service!

Tuesday, September 14th at 7:00pm: We had to apply our labels to our bags so four of my dearest friends came over for our labeling party and we knocked out 900 bags in 45 minutes! That would have taken my mom and I 3-4 hours each. Step two completed.

Generosity side step: I wanted to involve our community in every girls’ ongoing dilemma “What am I going to wear?”. Matt Ensminger from Digital Ephemera Photography volunteered to take photos of me in my dress paired with three different necklaces donated by Kimman’s Gift Co. We posted the photos on our blog and asked people to vote on the one they liked the best. The response was overwhelming! Hematite is the clear winner.

Tuesday, September, 22nd 7:00pm: “Baggin’ some Singles,  2 oz., that is” The power of Facebook amazes me every time I use it. Particularly the events feature where you can send a personal invitation to each and every one of your friends. I scheduled a bagging party at Bear Heart Bakery, a local bakery who, when asked, lent me their kitchen space without even thinking twice so we could assemble the bags. 12 people, 3 scales, 2 heat sealers, 90 lbs of granola: 700 2oz bags packages, sealed and stuck to post cards. Step three completed.

Sunday, September 26th 11:00am: We hit the road, 700 bags in tote, embarking on what will be one the most unforgettable experiences of my life.

Tuesday, September 28th: The possibilities are endless.
Stay tuned for the follow up!

Bobby Cares

September 13, 2010

Bobby Brunner spent the night on a sleeper sofa in the parking lot of the Helen Thackston middle school in York City.

A line of people stood along the sidewalk of Ridge Avenue, wrapping around to Philadelphia Street at the Thackston Charter School an hour and a half before Bobby opened up the gate to the summer “We Care Giveaway” event. It was 97 degrees that day and the parking lot of the Thackston school was filled with televisions, barbeque grills, computers, couches, and toys, all to be given away, free of charge, to those in need.

Just inside the Thackston school, Family First Health was providing free Blood Pressure Screenings and a dentist was promoting Dental Health Awareness.  A classroom was filled with food, cleaning supplies and clothing, all free for the taking.

Sweat was pouring off of Bobby, founder of the “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” organization, born of the July 2009 fires on Chestnut Street that displaced dozens of York City residents. Bobby’s granddaughter, Tilaya, who was five years old at the time said “Pop Pop, help them please.”, and help them he did. Bobby mobilized with his neighbors on Chestnut Street to hold a Block Party to benefit the fire victims. Bobby found that giving and helping those in the throws of crisis and need was so energizing, inspiring and invigorating that he had to do it again.

His first community giveaway event was held at Love’s Auto Sales on Market Street in October, 2009. Bobby advertises the giveaway events then solicits, collects, loads, hauls and stores donated items until the Big Day. With the help of volunteers and supporting agencies, he displays household items, food and clothing for those in need to peruse and take at no cost.

Bobby grew up on the corner of College and Pine Streets in the city. His father opened his home to anyone in need of a place to sleep. He said “It didn’t matter what color your skin was.” Bobby struggled with addiction for years and now, clean and sober, his mission is to Pay it Forward. His personal anthem is Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror”. “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make that change.” He takes the words to heart and to the street.

“He’s a five foot eight package of ‘can do’. He’s a fire-cracker. I love his inspiration.” said Dr. David Uhrik of West Side Dental.

Bobby, a laborer at Graham Packaging, buys most of the food to be given away at the giveaway events. He works over-time, earning extra money to buy food to cheerfully give away. He is prescribed blood pressure medication, but allocates all of his dollars to purchasing food for the events. He winds up in hot water with his physician, Dr.Tyndall-Smith at Family First Health, for not purchasing and taking his medication.  Dr. Tyndall-Smith recently made arrangements for Bobby to receive his medication free of charge so that he can remain healthy as he carries out his giving mission.

Bobby and “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” have held events at various locations throughout the city including Crispus Attucks, the Lincoln Charter School and most recently at the Helen Thackston Charter School. Oscar Rossum, Sr. is the President of the School Board for the Lincoln & Thackston Charter Schools. Mr. Rossum opened up his school to Bobby to host the Summer  “We Care Giveaway” event. “I tear up when I talk about Bobby”, said Mr. Rossum, “He has limitations compared to many people who have resources, yet he’s out here making things happen out of little or nothing.  We will do it again in our schools and we will open our doors.” said Mr. Rossum

Four teenage volunteers from the Empowering Youth program facilitated by Ms. Jerri Zimmerman staffed the registration desk and directed folks through the maze of free goods and services. The sign in sheets show that about 1,200 people attended the event.

Gail Wilson, a single parent of four children walked one hour to come to the giveaway event.  She is participating in job training and earning her GED.  “I need things desperately.” she said.  Gail found toys for her children and clothing for herself, but by the time she arrived, all the food was gone.

Amber, Jason and their two year-old daughter Jaiden moved to York City after their home in Felton was destroyed by fire in June. They lost almost all of their belongings in that fire and they came to the giveaway event to find replacement house wares and clothing. They left with a couch, a painting and some toys and clothes.

Tom Palmer of “Tom’s Snow” brought his snowball truck to the event and made a donation to the cause. I heard the heartwarming story of how Bobby and Tom met one summer day when Bobby bought snow cones for two children whose parents were fighting. Bobby said  “They didn’t need to see that. It’s hard on kids. I just wanted to get them away from that.”  “Bobby is something special.”, Tom told me as he served me a Green Apple snow cone.

Don and Lanette Miller showed up in their F150 pick-up truck to drop items off for the giveaway. They wound up staying and hauling furniture from the event site to family homes throughout the city. “We have had people in the City of York help us out numerous times, both financially and physically – when things were at their darkest. We decided to Pay it Forward.”

Through the oppressive heat, people smiled, said “thank you”, made eye contact, hugged one another, served, and loved each other by giving and sharing. No one’s smile was brighter than Bobby Brunner’s.

Bobby Brunner and “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” is unstoppable. What started as a Block Party benefit has taken on the form of a community initiative. Bobby has garnered the support and endorsement of the York County United Way, the Salvation Army, the York-Adams American Red Cross, Re-Source York , York City Police Department and others. Bobby has been nominated for a Jefferson Award for Public Service and he has his sites set on hosting a giveaway event, complete with entertainment and a hefty dose of free services at Sovereign Bank Stadium in 2011.

He’s busy planning his seventh and final giveaway event for 2010. I spoke to him on the phone last night and his energy, enthusiasm, and initiative had my heart pounding in the way that only caring and sharing with those in need can. He already has a box truck and several other spaces filled with furniture and goods. He intends to rent a storage unit so that he can keep collecting items. Bobby has an impressive list of donors of goods, services and entertainment including Sneaker Villa, World of Cuts (haircutting), and the Temple Guard Drill Team lined up for the event.

Watching Bobby carry out his work and listening to him talk about his vision for giving, caring  and sharing reminds me that when the problems of York City and even the world seem insurmountable, change really begins with one person.

The Fall “We Care Giveaway” event is slated for October 16, 2010 from Noon -5PM at the United Way Building at 800 East King Street in York. To donate items or non-perishable food, or to volunteer at the event, please contact Bobby Brunner at (717) 434-7656. Items may also be delivered to Re-Source York (235 N. Beaver Street, York) and designated for the “We Care Giveaway”.

“What makes this a success is my community.” Bobby Brunner

“Decanter”: The Music Video

August 19, 2010

I was at the right place at the right time, Cherry Lane, to be exact. I was there to see Dana Alexandra and Free Breakfast perform at the Box Lunch Revue. After a few brief telephone chats, I finally got to meet Justin Sprenkle there in Cherry Lane. He invited me to come to the Valencia Ballroom to check out the filming of a music video with Dana Alexandra the following week. At some point after the invitation, it occurred to me that it would be fun to write about the filming of a music video in York City. I was, after all, an MTV junkie back in the day. I watched music videos like it was my religion. Here’s the story of my little adventure in music video land:

Max Hess met Dana Alexandra about a year ago at First Capitol Dispensing Company in York City. He said “I saw a cute girl at the bar and then she got up and performed, and, Oh My God.”

Photo by Matthew Davis

One year later, Max approached Dana with his song “Decanter”. It took about 3 tries for her to actually take a look at the song. “When Max asked me to listen to his song, he bothered me like two or three times. It’s right up my alley”, she said. “I asked myself why I didn’t listen to it sooner.

Photo by Katlyn Wolfgang

Max is a self-taught musician and was a member of the Pop-Punk band Llewellyn. He said he was in the midst of some creative experimentation when “Decanter” evolved. He shared the song with some friends who commented that the opening piano sequence sounded a little like an accompaniment to a 1940’s silent film. From that point, he began to formulate a visual story to give three-dimensional life to his song.

“It’s a story of someone neglected.”, he said, “Like an old Marilyn Monroe film, the story starts out with her being stood up in the real world…but in her dream, she’s completely happy.”

Max had his heart set on filming the “Decanter” video at the Valencia Ballroom on North George Street. He attended his senior prom at the Valencia and chose to film the video there because of the classic look of the interior as well as the fantastic deal that the Valencia extended.

Photo by Matthew Davis

Enter Justin Sprenkle. “Justin and I go way back.”, said Max, “We used to fight over the same girl.” Justin went off to college to study film-making and landed an internship on the Conan O’Brien show. With Justin back in York after college, Max approached him about filming the “Decanter” music video.

I visited the set on Day One of filming. On the glass doors of the Valencia were signs demarking it as the set of a music video, a novel occurrence for York City. Max treated the early morning cast and crew to Dunkin Donuts and coffee. I found the star of the show, Ms. Dana Alexandra, in the basement dressing room. “I’m the damsel in distress; I’m waiting for this boy to show up.”, said Dana as make-up diva Hannah Conrad painted a perfect black line along her dramatic eye-lashes. “Decanter” would be Dana’s first experience with a full production music video.

In the weeks and days leading up to filming, Justin listened to “Decanter” over and over and over again to get a feel for the story behind the song and how to tell it in the video medium. Justin worked his magic in capturing the story. From behind the camera he coached Dana, sitting at the bar drinking as she waited for her fictional lover: “You’re drunk…you’re falling asleep…where is that guy?”.

Justin is the antithesis of the narcissistic Hollywood director barking orders and snapping out when something goes wrong on set. He hustles. He asks for what he needs. He directs and shoots the footage — all the while exuding a zen-like calm.

The ingenuity and resourcefulness of Justin and Max tied together all the behind the scenes elements of a professional production. Justin captured “dolly shots” of “Decanter” dancers using a rolling apparatus that he constructed from PVC piping and roller blade wheels he found in his garage. He also fashioned a “ring light” out of supplies he purchased at Lowe’s for $20.

Max drove all the way to Bel Air, Maryland to borrow the “Elvis Microphone” Dana would sing into. He coordinated the moving of the baby grand from the floor to the stage of the Valencia.

Photo by Matthew Davis

Near the end of filming on Day One, Justin said: I’m kind of like Charlie Brown. I don’t want to get too excited because that’s when bad things happen.” And a Charlie Brown-type he is. Justin is understated, soft-spoken, humble and kind to everyone on the set. Hands down, my favorite part of the filming of “Decanter” was watching Justin behind the camera. He would watch the play back of a shot while standing silently and motionless behind the camera. Then, a tiny, sheepish grin of satisfaction came over his face as he saw what the camera had captured.

Day two of filming was all about the energy, the talent that is Dana Alexandra. Her character is a pouty, circa 1940’s dame. She waits for her man and falls asleep. She waits: “I call my lover but I don’t receive an

Photo by Matthew Davis

answer.” She drinks: “So bottom’s up. The time’s a wastin’.” She frets: “It’s all I’ve got to keep the child in me from pacin’.” She’s out: “He’ll find me dreaming with a bottle tucked beneath me.” And in an instant she’s at the mic belting it out like the songstress she is.
Max, in his classic tuxedo, is the smiling piano man at the baby grand waving for the crowd to gather ‘round.

A crowd of crew and extras stood around the stage looking up at Dana with the heat of the ring lights in her face. She was aglow up there in front of the camera with red lips and tousled blonde curls. Before the first take, Justin to Dana: “So…lots of energy.” After the first take, he had to back peddle and ask her to restrict herself to upper body motion only, as her stage energy was causing the camera to shake during filming.

Photo by Matthew Davis

She’s a born performer, as anyone can see. In between shooting, Max played some Chopin on the baby grand while Dana took to the hardwood floor in her bare feet and practiced some classical dance. “This is every girls’ dream come true. I had a hairbrush in my hand this morning and now I’ve got lights in my face.”, she said.

Being on the set of the “Decanter” music video was a dream come true for me. Max’s vision, Dana’s glamor  and Justin’s skill in capturing the story had me straight-up captivated for two days. It seemed like those two days of filming were over in minutes rather than hours. I was there to absorb the creativity of the talent tri-fecta that is Hess, Alexandra and Sprenkle.

Thanks to Max, Dana and Justin for welcoming me to the set and for charming my Creative Soul.

“Decanter”, the music video is slated for release at a public showing at Agape Healing Center on October 16, 2010. Watch for my cameo.

For more pictures by Matthew Davis, check out

Journey Notes

August 9, 2010

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection.” Anais Nin

I started writing The Good in York City blog in March. I had barely read another blog and had certainly never written my own. This season, I have collected pages and pages of raw material to be crunched, cajoled and crafted into blog pieces. The blog has taken me on adventures I’d otherwise miss out on. The blog takes me to the people. It takes me to the programs. It takes me to the issues. The blog takes me to the city I’ve grown to love.

I’ve been working in York City for more than a decade. The work has taken me into the back alleys and to the hood.  I’ve spent the light of day and the dark of night in the city.

Snowy streets. Sweltering days. Leaves blowing. Sirens sounding.

I’m not new to the city, but writing this blog affords me the opportunity to see the city in a new way.

Seeing all that I’ve seen and knowing all that I know about York City, compels me to write it down and shine a light on the good that this city is filled with. I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of the good therein.

Summer! at Dream Wrights

August 5, 2010

Summer! It’s a time to sing. It’s a time to dance. It’s a time to play, create, express and be a kid.  Dream Wrights Youth and Family Theatre is a-buzz all summer long with Camps that take boredom and idle time and transform it into imaginative time, creative time, expansive and expressive time. There’s no time for video games, television or sleeping in until noon. Dream Wrights offers programming designed to facilitate youths’ growth into their Creative Selves.

I visited the Broadway Dance Camp and the Creativity Camp and witnessed the energy, talent, and fun that be-bops through the rooms and halls of Dream Wrights.

Broadway Dance Camp is taught by Miss. Alecia Knott. Alecia has an impressive resume of dance and theater experience and is bound for Pointe Park University to study Musical Theatre this fall. Her class members rage in age from 12-16 years old and every one of these kids bring a uniquely creative element to the mix.  After ice breaking games designed to foster creative expression and acceptance, Miss. Alecia teaches her students about the foundations of dance, voice and acting.

One of the first exercises of Broadway Dance Camp is called “Character Cue”. Miss. Alecia put on a piece of music from The Wedding Singer and told the kids to “Go for a walk. Explore your space. Don’t interact with anyone – just walk.” And as the music played on, she led the kids through an exercise ultimately transforming each student into a character of his or her own design. “How do they walk?, What’s their attitude?, What do their hands do?, Are they ticked off? Are they thrilled?” Miss Alecia challenged her students to become their character. Soon, the students were characters in a performance piece and began interacting with each other mingling, giggling, making eyes, and dancing, as characters in a play. Miss. Alecia reminds her students frequently “We are in a safe place”. Dream Wrights is a place to be, to express, to push the limits of character. No one makes fun of you at Dream Wrights.

At lunch, I had a chance to learn a bit about the students, their creative backgrounds and passions. As the students were comparing sandwiches of salami, provolone and mayo, I learned that Lauren has been performing at Dream Wrights since she was 7 years old. Victoria lives in Rhode Island and is visiting her father in York for the summer. She said that her Dad found Dream Wrights on-line and knowing her passion for song and dance, decided to sign her up.

Bradlee, age 16, has grown up in the arts and theatre.  He participated in his first theatre camp at when he was 5 years old. His mom, Paula, told me that he began acting out parts of movies like the Wizard of Oz and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang when he was just two years old.

Bradlee is a student of theatre. He told me “When I go to a show I’m just in awe of the talent.” He’s been taking voice lessons for 6 years and plans to major in Musical Theater at the University of Arts in Philadelphia.

Miss. Alecia works with her students on both skill and character development. I watched the students learn and practice graceful leaps. The kids made pass after pass back and forth right in front of me, creating a breeze of excitement and energy. Miss. Alecia called out pointers and affirmations as her students focused, lifted those back legs and sprung to new heights.

Broadway Dance Camp runs for only one week. The students move quickly through the steps to creating a group performance and an individual number to be performed on the Dream Wrights stage. In one week’s time, they formulate their own character and become part of a cohesive group of entertainers, all the while, being entertained themselves. During a rehearsal break, I asked the kids to shout out their favorite thing about Broadway Dance Camp at Dream Wrights. Here’s a sampling of what I heard “Being yourself!”, “No judgement zone!”, “Being able to do whatever you want and not even caring!”

13 year old Morgan has been in 15 shows, 4 musicals and is involved with Dream Wrights year-round. She reflected on her role in “Ramona Quimby” and mused “I was the mean girl and I thought that was fun.”

At the end of the week, students perform before an audience of other Dream Wrights Campers, staff and parents. On show day, the energy is infectious. Meredith told me about her grandfather just a few hours before taking to the stage. She said “I imagine him. He encouraged me to sing. He was there for everything I did. He died 3 years ago. When I’m performing I just imagine him. I would sing to him.”

Downstairs at Dream Wrights, Mr. Jesse Snyder leads Creativity Camp for 7-10 year olds. Mr. Jesse introduces his class of 17 kiddos to the basics of theatre. Jesse has been involved in performance theatre since he was 7 years old.  Teaching this Camp allows him to exercise his love for theater and for kids.

Jesse explained that in Creativity Camp, kids create their own play by starting with drawing, then collectively brainstorming a plot, characters, & conflict all based on those initial drawings. Of the kids in his Camp Mr. Jesse says: “They’re so creative.”  After all of the planning is finished, the kids get to create costumes from scrap materials. The finished play is scripted and complete with all the elements of story. Each student plays a role in the performance and develops his or her own character.

As if creating a play is not enough fun, Mr. Jesse infuses his class with games  focused on building theatrical skills. I watched the students play a few rounds of  “Gargoyles”, a game designed to teach the skill of posing motionless as one would at the opening of a scene in a play. The kids are challenged to get each other to break their pose without talking or touching one another.

I chatted with the kids just before their performance and felt the buzz of excitement among them. 8 year old Alyssa, who plays “Addison” in the play told me “My favorite part was when we shared ideas”. 8 year old Sam beamed and said: “Well, I liked making the characters because you could be anything you wanted. I like the characters because I’m a Jedi”. 9 year old Jonathan seconded Sam and added “I get to wear a Jedi Robe and carry a light saber.”

At the end of each day of Camp, Miss. Alecia and Mr. Jesse combine their groups and play one big game of ‘Gargoyles”. Both Alecia and Jesse believe in the power of mentorship, having been mentored through theatre themselves.

I have always wondered what goes on behind those big yellow brick walls of Dream Wrights, and now I know. There’s wide-open space for self-exploration and expression at Dream Wrights. There’s art. There’s talent. There’s camaraderie and the thrill of performance. Dream Wrights is a youthful and exuberant example of The Good in York City.

Unity Marches On

August 2, 2010

On July 15, 2010, The York City Human Relations Commission held the 10th Annual, and final Unity March. Over 1200 participants showed up and marched under the scorching sun and oppressive heat from York City’s Penn Park to Farquhar Park. The march represents the literal and figurative steps each one of us can take to end hate, prejudice, violence, discrimination, bias, and exclusion.

Opening remarks were given by York City Mayor C. Kim Bracey, the Reverend Ron Rengilian of the York Unitarian & Universalist Congregation and others. Nathaniel Gonzalez, a sixth grader at Edgar Fahs Smith Elementary School was honored as the winner of a t-shirt design contest for the event. He was one of 35 students to submit artwork for the contest. Nathaniel beamed from the stage and told the crowd: “This shirt represents the unity!”

The Reverend Kate Bortner has been an organizer of this annual event since its inception in 2000. Reverend Bortner said that the event is “…part of passing York’s history on to the younger generation and at the same time, changing history step, by step.

The march aims to “promote good will and harmony among inner-groups” according to Ms. Stephanie Seaton, Executive Director of the York City Human Relations Commission.  Ms. Seaton was the Education and Outreach coordinator for the Commission when the annual march was first organized in 2000 and has since been promoted to Executive Director of the Commission.  She reflected on the gains the York community has made in ten years in the interest of unity, diversity, tolerance and acceptance of all people. She noted that the York County Community Against Racism and the YWCA’s Race Against Racism were formed within the last ten years as well as the Leadership for Diverse Schools and YorkCounts with one of its Indicators being Relative Diversity.

Numerous organizations and businesses were represented at the march including the Salvation Army, the Northeast Neighborhood Association, Helping Hand, Kinard Trucking, Wolf, WLCH FM Radio Centro, Planned Parenthood, the York City Police Department, The York County Chamber of Commerce, the YMCA and YWCA and the York County Sheriff’s Department. The YMCA alone, brought about 100 children between the ages of 5 and 10 years old to the march.

Six year old Aalisia said that her Mom told her that the march was “…about having peace, unity and fairness in our hearts.” I’m not sure that I knew what “peace, unity and fairness” meant when I was six years old, but because of the Unity March, Aalisia has grown in her understanding of these concepts. Young Aalisia witnessed and participated in this peaceable assembly on the streets of York City. She is one of hundreds of children who will carry these principals forth.

Silent Witness Peacekeepers Alliance participated in the event acting as a firewall of protection between Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Individuals participating in the march and protestors who come to speak out against participants. Silent Witness representatives carry jumbo- sized rainbow colored umbrellas that they use to shield participants from protest signs and language of a hurtful nature.

Ms. Seaton noted that despite the end of this decade-long march, there is still much work to be done in the arena of unity and diversity building. The Commission plans to ramp up its existing outreach and education components through continued contact with organizations and individuals.  Ms. Seaton spoke of the positive changes in the social and political climates in the past ten years.

She said “I was emotional at that last march.” She spoke of the time, energy and dedication of the community. She said “I’ll miss this. We accomplished what we set out to accomplish”.

Long live love, acceptance, peace, fairness, inclusion and Unity in our city, York City.

A Little Shimmer on Beaver Street

July 26, 2010

Michele Strine opened her new storefront on North Beaver Street on First Friday, June 4, 2010. She painted, decorated, glittered and opened the door to her new retail space called  “Shimmer” shortly after Sunrise Soap Company vacated the space. Sunrise Soap Company, owned by Christina Clarke, moved into the former Studio & Art Bar Space which Strine co-owned for seven years in downtown York. Of the move, Michele said “It worked very well for both of us. We were thrilled to be able to maintain our businesses on Beaver Street.”

Strine is a self-taught mosaic artist. She left the field of Social Work over ten years ago to follow her passion for art and creativity and hasn’t looked back. She began selling her craft in York’s Central Market, then joined with a small group of artisans to open The Studio & Art Bar on Philadelphia Street in 2002. She taught workshops in mosaic art, and with her partner Andrea Linebaugh, featured the creations of over 50 regional artisans.

The Studio & Art Bar closed its doors at 29 North Beaver Street on April 24, 2010. Strine says she wanted to stay on Beaver Street and continue to sell handmade art and “Pretty Little Things” as her tagline suggests.  “I can’t picture myself in a strip mall or shopping center”, she said, “There’s something about being in the mix here on Beaver Street.”

Strine walked me around her cozy little space and told me about each of the 15 some artists and crafters she features at Shimmer. It’s a sweet space, tastefully adorned in the feminine spirit, with pink glittered walls and the famous image of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s behind the counter.

As we walked through the space and explored numerous Pretty Little Things, I noticed that many of the pieces in Shimmer bear words; canvases with words, bracelets with words, boxes and plates with words. Strine said that she is drawn to “…happy things; things that leave you feeling better than you were before.”  Strine pointed to a statue rendering of a lady by artist Kelly Rae Roberts and read the words to me from top to bottom. “Without the words, she’s just a lady standing there. She’s got something to say.”, said Strine.

Brightly colored little dishes by Karissa Chase, Sassy greeting cards by Allison Strine and earthy pottery by Connie Rae fill the shelves of Shimmer. “I wanted to fill my space with things that make people’s hearts sing. I want to dazzle people when they look in the window.”

Shimmer’s window on Beaver Street is sure to dazzle as Strine has filled it with the most graceful and feminine items including a four- tier mosaic birthday cake, sparkly jewels and a gown fit for a princess.

Strine is at home on Beaver Street in downtown York City. She says she has seen an increase in organization and unity among the merchants on Beaver Street in the past few years. “There’s enthusiasm; everybody here wants to see something good happen and they’re willing to do something to that end.” Strine referenced the Sunday this Spring that volunteers came in to repaint the massive green doors of Central Market. “All of these things together make for significant change and increase the quality of business downtown. It’s going to keep getting better.” said Strine.

Visit Shimmer at 49 North Beaver Street, York, PA

Photos by Matthew F. Davis

“Write Bite” The George Street Culinary Experience Part II

June 1, 2010

Colosseo’s next -door neighbor is Maewyn’s Irish Pub and Restaurant. Maewyn’s opened in the former Harp & Fiddle space on February 17th of this year. Maewyn’s is owned by Heritage Hills’ Matt DeRose.  Native York Countian Steve Hoke was hired to manage Maewyn’s after a successful management career in Las Vegas. Hoke said “It’s great to be in downtown York…to be back here and managing a restaurant is very exciting.”

Maewyn’s menu, developed by Heritage Hills Executive Chef Chip Conard, is a mix of traditional Irish dishes and casual American Favorites.  Hoke said that the Fish & Chips, with its traditional Irish presentation, is far and away Maewyn’s most popular entrée.  The raw bar is open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and features a selection of Chesapeake Bay oysters priced at $1.50 each.

Upon securing the restaurant space, Maewyn’s changed up the layout of the interior to offer patrons a more comfortable and relaxed atmosphere. Dining space was re-worked and three comfy couch areas were added with the goal of creating “a place to come and relax and feel at home” said Hoke.

This is sure to be a hot spot this summer as Hoke has been working diligently on planning Maewyn’s Summer Concert Series. The Irish sensation “Tartan Terrors” kicked off the series on May 1st in Maewyn’s Abbey.  An impressive list of talent is already lined up including the Steven Courtney Band, the Mark DeRose Duo, Ryan Peters, and Ryne McCormick. Traditional Irish Sessions are also in the works for Summer at Maewyn’s. Hoke is working to bring female acts together for a Ladies Night in the Abbey as well. Patio dining at Maewyn’s is up and running for the summer season.

The last, and arguably best stop on this culinary tour of George Street is The Left Bank. Chef David Albright purchased The Left Bank twelve years ago on a shoestring budget after paying his dues in the kitchens of area country clubs. Albright’s fresh, local, New American cuisine coupled with the cosmopolitan feel of the dining space and bar have rendered The Left Bank a downtown icon. Albright tells me he’s never spent a dime on advertising in twelve years and come to think of it, I’ve never seen an ad or a billboard.

Albright relies solely on word of mouth referrals to bring in new business. “The food is what really keeps us consistent” said Albright. His love of food and all things culinary is apparent as he becomes more and more animated while sharing about his roof-top garden, the freshly caught Hawaiian fish he has flown in from the Honolulu Fish Company and his recent trip to the emerging culinary mecca of New Orleans.

Albright says that he’s been passionate about cooking since he was a child. He is a graduate of the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island. Albright and his staff prepare every morsel of food on the premises. Stocks, soups, rolls, sauces, potato chips and pastries are created behind the glass at the rear of the restaurant. The seasonally rotating menu features hand cut fillets and fish prepared to perfection while showcasing local ingredients at the peak of freshness. The Left Bank is currently offering an 8 ounce fillet with spinach, vidalia and gorgonzola mash potato and spring vegetable jus. The Jumbo Lump Crab Cake is among the restaurant’s most sought after dishes. It is currently being paired with sunchoke risotto, prosciutto wrapped asparagus & cucumber dill sauce.

Albright employs two pastry chefs and doesn’t hesitate to admit that he spends more money on staff labor than he spends on his high quality ingredients.  He says that staff loyalty plays a “huge” role in the long-term success of his culinary enterprise. He’s had minimal staff turnover in his twelve years and counting.

Maitre ‘d Scott Kile manages the front end of the restaurant along with Albright’s wife Julie. Dagmar Snowadzky heads up Service Etiquette at The Left Bank.  Top quality service is the name of the game here. Albright takes his cues from eateries in New York City, Philadelphia and Vegas.

There are truly too many amazing dishes to list here, but the Grilled Bruschetta Caesar Salad, the Flash Fried Calamari and the Margarita Shrimp and Crab Martini are among my favorites. About 6,000 of the Calamari appetizers were served to patrons in 2009.

Albright and his staff are committed to artistic presentation of the food prepared at The Left Bank. If you order cheesecake, you wont find the classic triangular wedge here. Food quality, presentation and service are at the top of Albright’s priority list

Fans of The Left Bank and York’s Central Market eagerly await opening of The Left Bank market stand. Slated to open in September of this year, the location will be a quick service retail location offering soups, panini and other lunch fare. The Left Bank is cutting edge York City. Albright has a cookbook in the works and is exploring the potential for retail sales of his luscious sauces and dressings.  He intends to continue to provide “that extra service that adds to the downtown experience”.

Visiting each of the restaurants along George Street’s “Restaurant Row” would make for a great summer time To Do List in downtown York. These five restaurants are but a few of the culinary gems in the center of our city. How I look forward to more “Write Bite” opportunities to the North, South, East and West.