You may have heard that Havertown’s real estate market is particularly in demand lately. Maybe a house in your neighborhood sold in a matter of days – or even hours – or a neighbor was able to sell their house for a nice profit. Maybe you’re thinking about selling your Havertown home?
Throughout the spring, I kept hearing conversation about Havertown’s housing market, and even started seeing regular Facebook posts asking for leads on houses that would soon be available for sale. In March of this year, Havertown was named one of the area’s 11 Hottest Towns by Main Line Today magazine.
According to Coldwell Banker, as I write this, there are 87 homes for sale in Havertown and the median home price is $350,000.
I spoke with two real estate agents who work in the Havertown market. Both are also Havertown natives and current residents themselves: Erica Deuschle and Kevin Toll.
HavertownLife: How was the spring market in Havertown this year?
Erica Deuschle: The spring market was crazy. Inventory was at an all-time low, and that drives values up.
Kevin Toll: The demand is amazing. Lack of inventory is the main thing. We always felt Havertown could become a hotbed, because the home values are at the mid-point of neighboring towns. I’ve been told Havertown is one of the hottest markets in Pennsylvania.
HL: What’s bringing buyers to Havertown?
Erica Deuschle: Havertown has always been a place people want to live, and the market has always been good. I have been working in this market for 10 years, and every year we are selling more.
People like the walkability of certain neighborhoods in Havertown, the culture, schools, and something I think is unique about Havertown is the economic diversity. You have every income level under the sun here. People work hard to maintain their properties, and every neighborhood has their own nook.
Kevin Toll: A lot of my clients are having kids and looking for a house where they will raise their family. The location of Havertown, with accessibility to the city and the highways, is a draw for some people. And then you have people who grew up here, and want to stay here because they are happy and close to their family. It’s a family town.
There is demand coming from the city, and now you see the restaurants and businesses coming in, it’s all attractive to people who are used to walking places. We have sidewalks, even in the quieter neighborhoods. There’s just a feel to Havertown that people like.
HL: Are there specific neighborhoods in Havertown that are more popular than others?
ED: It depends on the buyer, but there’s demand across Havertown. When I have buyers coming from the city who really want to be able to walk everywhere, they may be more interested in the Brookline or Penfield neighborhoods, for example.
KT: It’s across the board. The tricky part can be finding the type of house you want in the neighborhood you want.
HL: What are you most excited about in Havertown right now?
ED: I have always felt Havertown was a great place to live. I grew up here, moved away for a little while, but then came back for that reason. There is a great community and a lot of history.
KT: The economic development is great to see. The restaurants and there’s just a good overall vibe here. We have activities, festivals, and people get to know each other and enjoy life.
HL: What would you tell someone who wants to buy in Havertown?
ED: Interview agents. Look for full-time agents. If you’re buying in Havertown now, you almost need an “in.” I think it’s really important to find an agent who understands the market on a hyper-local level.
KT: You definitely want a full-time agent. Be ready to make a strong offer.
“We have a refrigerator here now, which makes it easier to store things,” says Randy. He explains that Ardmore Food Pantry was able to donate their refrigerator to the YMCA after receiving a grant to get a new refrigerator at their location. Refrigeration and safe storage of fresh food are the biggest challenges facing food pantries and gleaning gardens.
Randy had been using his own refrigerator, and borrowing his brother’s, to store the harvest.
“I couldn’t even grocery shop for myself, because my fridge was so full,” he says, laughing.
David Mullin, Executive Director of the Haverford Area YMCA, tells me there are gardens at other YMCA locations, but none are as active as this one.
If Randy had his way, the garden would be even bigger.
“If only I could tear down this fence,” he says to David, motioning to the fence across the driveway. “I could expand.”
David jokes back: “If we could take that fence down, there would be more parking spaces.”
David also tells me Randy has been honored with the YMCA’s Volunteer of the Year award – twice.
It’s easy to see why. Just to name a few of the things you will find in the garden: asparagus. Peppers. Ten varieties of lettuce. Forty kinds of tomatoes. Peas. Cauliflower. Borage (edible flowers). Garlic. Herbs. Numerous pollinator plants.
It’s not just pollinators that Randy would like to attract to the garden. “I planted some flowers around because I think a lot of people don’t realize there’s a garden back here,” he says.
The garden fits into the Y’s overall mission of supporting healthy living and social responsibility. I think it fits nicely into the overall spirit of Havertown, as well. Deeply rooted, grown with care, and generously giving to those in need.
Many parents might not be too happy to hear one of their children call their sibling a nerd.
My neighbors, Greg and Linda Tino, welcomed it. Until recently, their 24 year old son, Gregory, had never been able to take advantage of one of the major benefits of being an older brother: teasing your younger siblings.
Gregory has autism. He’s the oldest of three (he has a sister, Alyssa, and a brother, Ryan). For the first 23 years of his life, he was only able to communicate with his family on a very basic level. To put it simply, it is hard for Gregory to control his body and mind at the same time, which makes speech difficult. Trying to communicate his needs could quickly turn into a frustrating guessing game for his family.
All of that is changing. Over the past year, Gregory has embarked on a remarkable journey that has opened the doors to a new world of communication for him and his family. Spelling to Communicate (S2C) is a communication method that teaches non-speaking people with autism to communicate using a letterboard. (Non-speaking is a term that is applied to people who cannot speak, can speak minimally, or those who can speak but do not speak communicatively.)
I was honored to be welcomed by Gregory and Linda at one of Gregory’s recent S2C sessions at Inside Voice in Springfield, Delaware County. Prior to the session, I had heard through Linda some of the amazing things Gregory was communicating by using the letterboard. His family was learning many new things about him, such as his interest in the Civil War, his fondness of ice hockey, and his feelings about living as a person with autism.
“We did not know about any of this,” Linda told me.
At Inside Voice, a trained professional takes on the role of Communication Partner – what we might normally refer to as a teacher or therapist. Gregory’s Communication Partner is Emily Pinto. Emily is close to Gregory’s age, and she creates her lessons based on material she thinks any person in their 20s would find interesting. For example, when I was there, Emily read Gregory a passage of information about the indie rock band Judah & the Lion. Then Emily played one of the band’s songs, Suit and Tie, on her iPhone. Afterwards, Emily asked Gregory some factual questions about the passage she had just read.
Gregory recalled the information rapidly and accurately, pointing to the letters on the board with no hesitation. Linda and I joked that we couldn’t even remember the details we had just heard Emily read.
Then Emily asked Gregory some open-ended questions.
When asked what inspires him, Gregory’s right index finger moves smoothly across the board, spelling out the following words:
MY FRIENDS AT INSIDE VOICE INSPIRE ME
When asked what advice he would give someone struggling to make a change in life:
I WOULD TELL HIM THERE IS SO MUCH TO BE GAINED FROM TRYING NEW THINGS
When Gregory’s parents first learned about the S2C method, and the success many of its participants were experiencing, they were intrigued but did not want to get their hopes up too high.
“We didn’t want to be deluded,” says Greg, who is a physician.
The family had to travel to Virginia for the initial sessions, as that was the closest available location at the time. Gregory took to the method quickly, and the results were undeniable.
Greg recalled a lesson which was focused on Dr. Seuss, and the rhyming patterns he used in his stories. Elizabeth Vosseller, the Speech-Language Pathologist who developed the S2C method, asked Gregory if he thought he could create a poem using the same style as Dr. Seuss.
With no hesitation, Gregory spelled:
THE WAY TO GO IS EASIER THAN IT APPEARS I WANT YOU TO KNOW YOU MUST PUT AWAY YOUR FEARS IS THIS SIMPLE? NO! YOU CAN EXPECT SOME TEARS MY BELIEF IN YOU IS STRONG YOU WILL NOT PROVE ME WRONG
About a year ago, Inside Voice opened its location in Springfield, Delaware County. Colleen and Frank Foti, whose adult son Brian has experienced tremendous success using the method, led the effort to open the center. Brian’s brother, Tom, is now also a communication partner at the center.
There are currently 15 participants at Inside Voice, referred to as spellers, whose ages range from 16 – 57. All are experiencing success using the letterboard to communicate.
Emily attributes the success of spellers using the letterboard to their desire to communicate, more than any other factor.
“This population is determined to show the world what they are made of,” she says.
“This is not just my child,” Linda emphasizes. “We used to think of autistic savants – I now realize they are not the exception.”
It is not an exaggeration to say this method may completely change the way the world views people with autism. It is growing rapidly, with centers using this method now located across the country, including two in Pennsylvania.
As Emily puts it, “I believe it is going to take the world by storm, and hopefully it will reach as many people as it possibly can. This population is going to be able to communicate, and they are going to have a lot to say.”
HAVE AN OPEN PERSPECTIVE
This is the advice Gregory spells when I am visiting his session. He is aware that some people may find this method to be, well, unbelievable.
But what I witnessed was Gregory independently communicating his thoughts. There was no prompting of specific words, or guiding of his finger to certain letters. In the few cases where he pointed to the wrong letter, he immediately pointed to the “X” on the board, signifying that he had made an error. What I witnessed was a young man completely aware of what he was saying.
When Gregory was diagnosed at age 2 ½, his parents were told that he would most likely never talk. It was believed that many children with autism had severe intellectual disabilities, and it was almost impossible for Greg and Linda to tell what Gregory could actually understand.
At that time, one in 10,000 children received an autism diagnosis each year. In 2017, that number was one in 45.
“We decided from the very beginning that we were going to do everything we could to maximize his potential,” says Greg. “That has always been our guiding principle.”
Even with access to the best doctors, therapists, and resources available, many facets of Gregory’s autism have remained mystifying.
But Inside Voice has a motto: Confidence in Competence.
It is clear to me why this is such an important aspect of their core philosophy. On the surface, it does appear that Gregory may not even be listening while you talk to him. He may move around, and talk or sing to himself, giving no indication that he is absorbing what is going on around him.
“We are so used to judging people’s abilities based on what their bodies can do,” says Emily. “What I have learned to do is presume competence despite what I see on the surface.”
Learning to use the letterboard is “not a magic process,” says Emily. The spellers work hard. Starting with a board that contains larger, hollow letters, the spellers start by using a pencil to point to each letter. As S2C’s website explains: speech is a motor function. S2C works to coordinate the motor skill of communication with the cognitive function of language (our ability to think and understand in words). As spellers achieve fluency, they begin using their index finger to point, as well as a “laminate” – the type of letterboard Gregory now uses – which is a laminated piece of paper, slightly smaller than a typical placemat, with the alphabet printed on it. The ultimate goal is for spellers to be able to use a computer to speak.
Gregory now uses the letterboard as part of his daily routines. While Linda explains they still have their everyday challenges, there are basic aspects of life that have been made much easier because of the letterboard. Linda can find out what kind of sandwich he wants to bring for his lunch break at his job (Gregory works with a job coach and works in the bakery department of a local grocery store, as well as stocking shoes at a local department store, and at a veterinarian’s office once a week). For the first time in his life, if Gregory has a headache, he can now let his mother know that.
He can also do other important things, like call his brother a nerd.
Greg laughs, recalling how Gregory teased his younger brother this way through the letterboard. These are the everyday interactions, the joking around, the busting of one another’s chops, that many families take for granted. Not the Tinos.
Another important part of Gregory’s experience at Inside Voice is the community that he has gained. A group of spellers meet each Saturday for a group session. Again, it may appear to an uninformed observer there is no real interaction happening. But, using their letterboards, the group talks about many topics, they share their feelings, and they even play games like UNO together.
Emily asks Gregory to tell me what the group has named themselves.
Gregory smiles and spells: THE GANG
They shared transcripts of a recent group session with me. I laughed when I read how The Gang eggs each other on during the game of UNO, just as any other group of friends would (one speller said I AM GOING TO CRUSH YOU ALL). At the end of the session, The Gang shared some insights about living with autism:
SEE BEYOND MY DIAGNOSIS. I HAVE SO MUCH TO OFFER THE WORLD.
NON-SPEAKING DOES NOT EQUAL NON-THINKING! I AM A GREAT THINKER, AS IT TURNS OUT.
WE USED TO BE VOICELESS BUT NOW WE HAVE A VOICE FOR CHANGE.
CHANGE THE MINDSET.
I AM CAPABLE. I AM SMART. I AM AWARE.
And Gregory’s contribution: I AM HUMAN FIRST, MY AUTISM IS ONLY ONE PART OF MY IDENTITY.
This is the message that the spellers, the Tino family, and the folks at Inside Voice really want to get out there: do not treat people with autism as though they do not understand what is going on around them. Interact with them. Talk to them about the things that any person their age would be interested in. Even if it is not apparent on the outside, they are listening.
We have so much to learn from those who have lived with significant challenges, and my time with Gregory was a humbling reminder of this. During the session I attended, he offered the following advice:
I THINK MY AUTISM HAS GIVEN ME AN APPRECIATION FOR THE SMALL JOYS IN LIFE
THE ADVICE I WOULD GIVE IS TO REMEMBER TO GIVE THANKS FOR THE LITTLE JOYS IN LIFE
Thank you, Gregory, for the joy you bring to life. It certainly is not small.
When I talked to Christa Gosseaux, she was taking the opportunity to run some errands while her kids were at sports practices. It’s a scene familiar to many Havertown parents: seizing a window of time – that never seems quite long enough – to try and cross a few items off your to-do list.
As a board member of the St. Denis Fair, Christa’s to-do list is a little longer than most these days. With about a week to go before the gates open for the 2018 Fair, it’s what Christa refers to as “crunch time.”
“The texts and emails are flying between board members right now,” says Christa.
As is the case with most community events in Havertown, the organizers are all volunteers who are juggling work, family, and many other responsibilities to ensure that the fair is a success. Many are the second or third generation of their families to be involved.
Christa is a St. Denis alumna and second-generation volunteer. The planning goes on year-round, but in the weeks leading up to the fair, Christa explains with a laugh: “This is the time when our families don’t see much of us.”
A photo circa 1984 shows, from left, Joe Perna, who founded the fair in 1968, with fellow organizers Vince and Frank Gorski. (Photo courtesy of St. Denis Fair)
This year is extra special. The Fair is turning 50.
What started in the late ‘60s as a fundraiser for St. Denis parish, led by late parishioners Joe Perna and John Savini, has become a cherished Havertown tradition; a mainstay so synonymous with this town that it’s hard to imagine a time when it did not exist.
Some things have not changed. The Fair still serves as the primary fundraiser for St. Denis parish (which includes Cardinal John Foley school). The proceeds now support operational costs of the church and school, things like building upgrades and repairs. Christa tells me the fair raises an average of $80,000 – $100,000, after expenses.
The Fair in recent years (Photo courtesy of St. Denis Fair)
Fair set-up in the early 1980s (Photo courtesy of St. Denis Fair)
Those who have not been to the fair in many years may be pleasantly surprised at how recognizable it is from the days of their youth. Many of the amusements and games have remained year after year. New Jersey-based Lynam’s Amusements have provided the rides for the past 28 years.
Other things have changed, including an indoor area for more grown-up fun like a beer garden with live music and casino games.
“We are also bringing back an old ride this year,” says Christa. “But it’s a surprise.” The St. Joe’s Hawk and Villanova Wildcat mascots will also be in attendance for high-fiving and selfie taking.
If you’re looking to start a new family tradition, consider volunteering. Christa says, “Volunteers come from all over, and they make it possible.”
As Christa and I spoke, a memory flashed through my mind. Somewhere among the VHS tapes that document our family activities starting from the early ‘80s until the dawn of digital cameras, there is a moment where I grin into the lens of the camcorder my dad is holding. My smile is full of missing teeth and there’s an unmistakable expression of excitement on my face.
“What are you doing today?” my dad’s voice asks from behind the camera.
“We’re going to the St. Denis Fair!” I exclaim back.
I realize that must have been around 1987, the same year Christa Gosseaux graduated from St. Denis School.
Thirty years may have passed since then, but the fun continues. And it never gets old.
A wide range of environmentally-focused activities will take place at the CREC on Saturday, April 21st from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. as part of the 2018 Haverford Earth Day Celebration. Attendees will have the opportunity to test drive an electric car provided by Armen Chevrolet, learn about bats with Riverbend Environmental Center, learn about recycling, worm bin composting, and participate in tree planting – just to name a few of the activities planned.
Dizel, who took over planning of the Earth Day event in 2015, says the event has grown every year and this may just be the best year yet.
“We have more sponsors, educational booths and service projects than ever,” she says.
Like many of the volunteers on the EAC, Dizel joined the committee because of a deep interest in local environmental issues.
“I have always cared about the environment. I am a lifelong gardener, inspired by working with my grandmother in the garden as a child,” explains Dizel, who worked in corporate banking before becoming a stay-at-home mother to her two children. “When I joined the EAC, I was looking for a way to get outside and become involved in something meaningful in my community.”
The EAC meets the first Tuesday of every month at 7:30 p.m. at the township building. Meetings are open to the public, and Dizel says new members are always welcome.
“Anyone who has an interest in the environment is welcome,” she says. “We have some people with professional backgrounds in environmental fields, and some who are simply passionate about helping and learning as they go –like me! Both are important and valued within our group.”
In addition to the annual Earth Day celebration, the EAC also hosts the “Green Zone” at Haverford Township Day every October, which is a dedicated area for environmentally-friendly businesses and non-profit organizations.
And as Havertown residents gear up for spring landscaping projects, another great resource is the Hav-A-Rain Garden group, which is working towards installing 100 rain gardens over the next ten years in Haverford Township. The group installs ten gardens per year – for free – on residential properties. Residents who are interested in receiving a garden can request an assessment and submit an application, and the group is always looking for volunteers to help with installation. The gardens are a great way to manage storm water, which helps protect local waterways.
A lot has changed since Earth Day was founded nearly 50 years ago; however, the idea that citizens can make simple changes to help reduce their impact remains the central message of the day.
Details: 2018 Haverford Earth Day at the CREC (9000 Parkview Road, Haverford). 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Rain or Shine. More details and a list of sponsors can be found here.
Led by Havertown resident Tom Kelly, the all-volunteer organization has created opportunities for both musicians and the community alike, and all proceeds go back into local charities and initiatives benefiting Haverford Township and the surrounding communities.
“In 2010, the Haverford Township Civic Council approached me about creating more arts and music-related events,” said Kelly. “We launched the Haverford Music Festival the following year.”
The Music Festival was so well-received that Tom, along with his wife Sheri, as well as his brother Paul and his wife Susan, decided to set up a separate non-profit organization dedicated to creating more opportunities for community-building through music and arts. Kelly Music for Life was born.
“Offering music and arts related events is all part of having a well-rounded community,” says Kelly.
Now they are taking on their biggest project yet. The Kelly Center for Music, Arts and the Community will set up shop at 4 Eagle Road. The Center will be home to professional music performances, after-school and senior programs, art exhibits, poetry readings; anything related to creative expression and – this is important -accessible to all ages.
“Over the years, I have been exposed to the talent of the young people in our community,” Kelly says. “There aren’t enough opportunities for them to perform. The only option for live music in Havertown right now is in the bars.”
There will also be programs aimed at the senior population of the community, which is a group that can often be overlooked in community activities.
Since Tom Kelly and his wife Sheri moved to Havertown in 1989, they have been actively involved in the community as volunteers. Tom’s love of music, and professional background in radio broadcasting, have led him to understand that music has the power to connect people.
Havertown, in particular, is full of people willing to “step up and make the town better,” says Kelly. “I have lived in a lot of places and not every town is like that.”
In order to make the Kelly Center a reality, the organization has launched a major fundraising campaign. To support this enhancement to our community, donate online: https://kellycenter.causevox.com/
Renee James Boutique is a dream come true for its owner, Havertown resident Renee Giacometti.
Giacometti opened up shop on Eagle Road in 2016. Renee James Boutique offers a wonderfully curated selection of clothing, accessories and gifts. Everything is hand-selected by Giacometti, and when you visit the store, she will be there to help you select the perfect item for yourself, or to give as a gift.
Make sure you follow Renee James on social media. It is the best way to keep up with new items being offered in the store – and they sell quickly!
When did you start your business? I opened up shop on November 25, 2016. Black Friday!
How did you decide to take the leap?
I am a nurse, but I have wanted to open a boutique for the last 15 years. I love different, cute clothing and could never find what I was looking for that was also afforable. After the sudden death of my in-laws, I decided it was time. Life is short, you just have to go for it!
What are your favorite items in the store?
I try to put everything I love in the store, but my favorite items are the local products we sell. From candles to pottery to soap, when you buy local, we all win.
What do you love about Havertown?Havertown is a large community with that small, hometown feel. We have so many great things happening, from restaurants to shops to great schools. Everything is right here!
What are you up to when you’re not in the store?
I love Philly sports teams, of course! Especially the Eagles and the Flyers. My son also plays ice hockey! I have a wonderful husband. He and my son have supported me every step of the way. I love animals; I have one dog and…more than one cat. I am very blessed!