Monday, December 22, 2014

Pottstown Jr. ROTC Unit Full of 'Top Performers'

The Pottstown High School Junior Air Force ROTC unit PA-951 performed recently at Hershey Park Stadium.

Blogger's Note: The following was provided by the Pottstown School District.

What do you do if you are a member of the Pottstown High School Junior Air Force ROTC unit PA-951 when you find out that the unit will be inspected by the visiting Regional Director of 150 ROTC units in eastern Pennsylvania? 

Well, in Pottstown, that means you carry on as normal at a high level of efficiency and effectiveness.
Cadet Master Sgt. Zikia Paschall received a 'top performer' award
for her organizational skills.

Recently Retired Chief Master Sgt. Richardson from the Maxwell Air Force base in Montgomery, Alabama inspected the ROTC unit and had high praise for the cadets. 

Chief Richardson said in his report, “It is clear this unit has a well functioning cadet staff from commander down to each flight, all members of the cadet staff are involved in how the daily operations of their corps operates. Cadets take the lead on uniform inspections, drill, and corps discipline. Corps leaders are actively training their replacements to ensure continued success of the unit once they graduate.”

Chief Richardson was also impressed by the community service program. 

He noted, “The unit has a robust community service program. Cadets have logged in well over 1,000 hours of proper community service time and it is apparent that they are well respected in their community and are often sought out to provide professional color guard and honor guard services. These cadets represent the Air Force and their school extremely well.”

Of particular note about the cadets’ activities the Wellness Program was highlighted. 

Cadet Chief Master Sgt. John Stasik receives his "top performer" award.
Richardson observed that all elements of the fitness program were accomplished in their physical fitness test and that the cadets’ goal of a 20% improvement on physical testing results was an example of their dedication.

Two cadets were recognized with Top Performer awards during the inspection. 

They were Cadet Master Sgt. Zikia Paschall and Cadet Chief Master Sgt. Josh Stasik. 

The “Top Performer” award is presented to no more than 2% of the cadet corps. The award recognizes a cadet’s performance in the following key areas: leadership and job performance: in primary duties and specifically in preparation for the unit’s triennial assessment. Also important in consideration is the cadets’ involvement and positions held in extracurricular activities, their academic performance, and overall coursework.

Zikia Paschall has distinguished herself as a Top Performer in her duties as Logistics Officer for the unit. 

She exhibited superb organizational skills while outfitting over 120 cadets with uniforms. 

In order to accomplish ensuring proper uniforms for all cadets given a one week deadline, she assembled a four person team and trained them. To ensure that cadets were ready for their first uniform inspection, she and her team spent part of their summer vacation, after school weekdays, and weekends comprising individual uniform items for cadets. Her dedication and selfless efforts reflect a cadet who has exceeded the instructor’s expectations and makes her worthy of receiving “Top Performer” recognition.

Cadet Chief Master Sgt. Josh Stasik has distinguished himself through leadership and aggressive volunteerism. 

In his two and a half years with the unit, he has been recognized as a community service workhorse. During that time he has made himself available at every possible moment amassing an impressive 239 volunteer hours. 

He is also an active member of the color guard and serves with pride and dedication as the unit’s Drill Team Commander. He has a “can do” and selfless attitude which reflects great credit upon himself and his unit.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A One-of-a-Kind Gift Idea

The vintage passenger cars of the Colebrookdale Railroad are decorated for the season.
Blogger's Note: The following was provided by the Colebrookdale Railroad.

Are you trying to gift-shop for that impossible person on your list?

You know, the man or woman who, if he or she wants something, they get if for themselves? 

That person who has spent a lifetime collecting the things she loves? 

That person who really doesn't have a 'wish list' this year? 

Santa Claus train rides are going on now through Dec. 20.

Night Before Christmas rides through Dec. 23

Starlight Express and Cabin Fever trains through Dec. 28

May we suggest a gift that will last for many happy memory-filled years?

The newly reupholstered seats in the refurbished 1919 passenger coach can be named in honor of a loved-one or in memory of someone. 

Now for a very special price  -- a $3,000 value for $1,000 -- you can name a Passenger Coach Seat and give them a gift that will benefit many:

Normally, sponsoring a reupholstered bench seat on a coach costs $3,000. 

From now until the end of the 2014 year, as a special Holiday Fundraising Program, you can 'name' a passenger seat for your family member or loved-one for just $1,000. 

That donation will allow you to place an engraved brass plaque on one of the coach seats pictured below. All donations to the trust are fully tax-deductible.
You can make a secure donation online through the railroad website donation page or via PayPal. 

The website donation page is found at

All you have to do is provide the 14 characters [limit] exactly as you would like your plaque to be printed after you have completed your donations. 

You may submit that information via email to

Saturday, December 20, 2014

That Good Old Operation Holiday

Photo by Evan Brandt
Smale's Printery printed these up for us.
It's been a rough year.

So it's not always easy to get into the holiday spirit.

But one thing never fails, even if decorating the tree, putting out the nutcrackers, going on the Holiday House Tour, or going to the school holiday concert, does.

Mercury Photographer Kevin Hoffman

looks cheered up too.
Operation Holiday never fails to cheer me up.

For those of you who don't know, and it should be just a few of you, Operation Holiday is The Mercury's annual drive to raise money to provide gifts and food to needy families during the holidays.

Social service agencies, school districts, hospitals, food pantries provide a list of names of people they know are struggling and we call them up and interview them.

We write their stories and this, apparently, inspires a community that arguably does not have much to share, to give generously.

All kinds of folks work behind the scenes to make it happen including a lady named, I am not kidding you, Sue Klaus.

So yes, as editor Nancy March put it in her talk the food pack-up volunteers Thursday, "it is not lost on us that the person who keeps track of the list is a person whose e-mail is sklaus..."

Then comes the big day, when all the food provided by Weiss Markets is packed into two sets of boxes for delivery to the referring agencies, who in turn pass it on -- along with $75 gift certificates for each child -- to this year's families.

This year, that day was Thursday.

Here is some video:

Pottstown High School student government, after the work is done.
My son and I have been volunteering with the food pack-up since he was old enough to put  a ham in a box and now he is one of the teenagers who come each year from Pottstown High School student government to help out.

(Of course now that he's a teenager, I mostly have to pretend I don't know him, but that's just par for the course. He's still here doing it and that's what counts.)

This year we also got help from students from Pottsgrove High School, Pope John Paul II and St. Joe's.

This is not to mention all The Mercury employees and their families who unfailingly lend a hand.

So it worked.

Happy Holidays everyone.

Friday, December 19, 2014

New Budget. New Officer. Bigger Township Building?

Photo by Evan Brandt
New Lower Pottsgrove Police Officer Scott Burnick, left, is accompanied by his parents just before being sworn in by District Judge Ed Kropp Sr., right, and Lower Pottsgrove Police Chief Michael Foltz.
Thursday night, the Lower Pottsgrove Commissioners met for the last time in 2014 and adopted a budget, hired a new police officer and contemplated the idea of expanding the township building on Buchert Road.

Commissioners Chairman Bruce Foltz said the expansion has been needed for "16 or 18 years."

Here are the Tweets from the meeting, look for more complete coverage in the pages of The Mercury.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Quickie

Last night's Township Commissioners' meeting was swift and uneventful.

It didn't last more than 20 minutes despite the fact that both President Rock D'Emilio and Vice President Pete LaRosa were absent.

The budget was adopted, it does not raise taxes or sewer rates, and every one was on their way.

Here are the Tweets, few though they may be.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Sounds of the Season

Photos by Evan Brandt

Michael Vought directs the Pottstown High School Concert Band for Tuesday night's holiday concert performance.
So it's that time of the year.

Mistletoe, Christmas cards and, yes, holiday concerts.

Dare I say it? The music program in Pottstown is awesome and my apologies to the vocal music department. I could not make it to your concert Monday night. I'm sure it was wonderful.

But there is only so much time in the day. I have meetings most nights and (I skipped one Tuesday night) my son plays saxophone (full disclosure) so they get the coverage.

As always, it ended with the sing-a-long which is fast becoming one of my favorite Pottstown Holiday traditions ... right after the holiday house tour. See Monday's blog post.

Tuesday night began with a performance of the Pottstown High School Jazz Band, which put this little number together after only one rehearsal:

Then we saw the 5th and 6th Grade Concert Band, led by Nancy Mest and Robert Benton; the Middle School Clarinet Ensemble and Middle School Flute Ensembles, both led by Mrs. Mest.

Here is a sample of those performances:

After intermission, the 7th and 8th Grade Concert Band took to the stage, led by Benjamin Hayes.

This included a nice little number with students in bathrobes reading from The Night Before Christmas and, appropriately enough, Hanukkah Holiday played on the first night of Hanukkah.

They were followed by the High School Clarinet Ensemble and the High School Flute Ensemble, again led by Mrs. Mest.

Here is a sample of those performances.

Finally, despite the ritual rudeness of some Pottstown parents (yes I'm talking about you who leave noisily once your children's portion of the concert is finished) we came to the main event.

The Pottstown High School Concert Band played four numbers, followed by the sing-a-long, but by this time, my battery was singing the blues.

So here is one full song I selected to record, mostly in honor of John Lennon. (I mean seriously, how many school Christmas concerts feature a guy who once declared The Beatles bigger than Jesus. But anyway, water under the bridge...)

And here is a sample of two of the four other works and a tiny bit of song-a-long:

Now, as any of you who have been to one of these concerts knows, this is when the students show their appreciation for all the music department does for them with some nice gifts.

But there was a special presentation Tuesday because this year's seniors started with Mr. Hayes when he taught in the elementary schools, and then moved with him to the middle school.
Mr. Hayes always gets his gum...

And since he helps out with the marching band in high school, they have spent nine years with him.

So the officers of the band, led by President Maverick Somich, gave him a little gift too.

I think it was gum.

Also, some Starbursts and a gift card to a steak house.

By his own admission, he likes gum.

And steak.

And last of all, here is a photo of those holiday-minded souls who stayed until the end so they could
sing-a-long with the band.

(Yes, if you were there, that was me. The guy who went to the front of the auditorium to take your picture.)

So Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Awesome Kwanzaa and all the rest to you and yours from the merry staff at The Digital Notebok.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Two for the Price of None

Forgive the headline but really, its not like any of you pay to get this blog or anything....

Anyway, you can say what you want about Douglass (Mont.) Township, but lately their meetings have really been streamlined.

They start a half-hour after Upper Pottsgrove's and finish up at least half-hour before.

Of course, having yet to master the being-in-two-places-at-once trick, I usually have to pick one, but I've come to learn I can often catch a good portion of both if I time it right.

So this month, not only did Douglass start later and end earlier, they also slipped in a last-minute tax increase to boot.

After announcing a budget that would not raise taxes for the ninth straight year last month, the supervisors decided that a one-tenth-of-a-a-mill hike is necessary to help the fire and ambulance companies continue to provide services.

The only objection came from resident Alex Brumwell of Middle Creek Road who objected not so much to the reason for the increase, as the seemingly last minute nature of it.

Meanwhile, down the road in Upper Pottsgrove, where the fire company was hoping for a fire tax hike to help them buy a new truck, the firemen had to be satisfied with the commissioner's decision to take $50,000 out of surplus to supplement the fire fund.

Without further ado, here are the Tweets.