Downtown Details: Day one and Two in Chambersburg

3.9.09 and 3.10.09


Day One and Two in Chambersburg:


So far I have interviewed ten people that are involved in Chambersburg Elm Street program, ranging from volunteers, to staff, to a Pastor, to someone who hasn’t volunteered yet but is interested.


I have also had the privilege of attending a Borough Council Meeting and touring the Elm Street neighborhood with Jack Jones, the Elm Street Manager.  Here are some things that I was awe inspired by:


·         Jack took the position as the Elm Street Manager even though he was supposed to be “retired” because he was so passionate about the project.


·         Jack went to all of the Elm Street training before Chambersburg was selected as and Elm Street Program and he was hired for the job.


·         Annick Kiernan manages the grants program for homeowners, making sure all of the information is submitted for applicants and the bids process for the contractors.  What’s shocking bout this?  Well, Annick is a flight attendant who works on the weekend and she does this full-time job as a volunteer!


·         Jack is paying out of his own pocket for a translator, Isabel Stennett, that can be on call to translate for the Hispanic community, both residents and contractors. 


Can you say “wow!”?


Don’t get me wrong, the community has its own challenges.  There is definitely an underlying current of “them and us” within the people I interviewed. A lot of those involved don’t see themselves as part of the community that the Elm Street Community is located. The community is diverse in ethnicity, has a concentration of renters and a lower socio economic standing than some of the other Chambersburg neighborhoods.  This comes with a lot of challenges, both actual and perceived.


In addition, Chambersburg is a small town so it suffers from the, “Do I Know You?” Syndrome.  This is when unless they know your parents’ parents and what school you went to and the neighborhood you grew up in, they don’t trust you.


In spite of all of this, however, they are making a difference.  They were able to give out $250,000 to improve homes in the community and utilized contractors that lived in the neighborhood. This has inspired other individuals to work on their properties and to get involved.  Annick first found out about the program as a recipient.  The program has another $250,000 to spend this year and already knows how they are going to do it.


Impressive, Chambersburg.  Most impressive.


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