Daily Local News: First Suburbs Honors Coatesville Official, Gerlach

Published Monday, December 12, 2011

by Danielle Lynch, Daily Local News

LANSDOWNE - While looking out into a crowd at a local venue Thursday night, an official from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development pledged assistance to a regional coalition focused on the deterioration of older, inner-ring communities.

“We indeed want to be a true partner, not just a bystander,” said Estelle Richman, acting deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at the 20th Century Club in Lansdowne.

Richman was the keynote speaker at the Southeastern Pennsylvania First Suburbs Project’s second annual fundraising event and inaugural award ceremony.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania First Suburbs Project formed about four years ago to address major challenges facing inner-ring suburbs such as housing, infrastructure and education finance reform in Delaware, Bucks, Chester and Montgomery counties.

The regional coalition consists of municipal, education, faith and civic leaders. It was founded by Jonathan T. Schmidt, an Upper Darby resident who died last year at the age of 36 after battling cancer.

During the ceremony, the Rev. David Eckert, of Drexel Hill United Methodist Church, discussed the accomplishments the coalition has made in the past year. On the national level, coalition members attended a White House forum on “Older Suburbs: Inclusion, Sustainability and Economic Growth.”

On the state level, Eckert said the coalition participated in a statewide listening campaign and convened more than 800 leaders statewide for the Building One Pennsylvania public meeting. On the regional level, an assembly took place in Coatesville.

“Ours are the towns which once gave birth to the middle class,” said Jacquelynn Puriefoy-Brinkley, a former longtime Yeadon Borough councilwoman and founding member of First Suburbs.

The coalition presented the Jonathan T. Schmidt Visionary Leadership Award to Coatesville Assistant City Manager Kirby Hudson. Hudson said he believes the coalition has helped his city improve housing issues.

“It makes the fight a lot easier, rather than us being on an island on our own,” he said.

The Faith Leader of the Year award went to the Rev. Ed Crenshaw of Victory Christian Fellowship in Audubon, Montgomery County. Crenshaw said he was confident that if the coalition fights “this fight God’s way, we will overcome.”

The Most Powerful Federal Legislator Ally of the Year award went to U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach, R-6th, of West Pikeland, and the Most Powerful State Legislator Ally of the Year award went to state Sen. Ted Erickson, R-26th, of Newtown. Gerlach and Erickson did not attend the ceremony.