The Community Coffee Klatch meets every Thursday morning at the Market at Liberty Place in Kennett Square.
By Richard L. Gaw
From 1919 until the Stock Market Crash of 1929, a group of writers, critics, comics and wits met nearly every day at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City to share barbs, news and conversation. They were known as "The Vicious Circle," or more affectionately, as the members of the Algonquin Round Table.
A run through its roster of names reads like a Who's Who of American literature, journalism and comedy. Dorothy Parker, critic, poet and writer. Harold Ross, the editor of the New Yorker. Robert Benchley, humorist and actor. Heywood Broun, sportswriter. Tallulah Bankhead, actress. Harpo Marx, comedian and film star. They informed each other. They inspired each other. It was said of them that they were better as a group than they ever were on their own.
For the past few months, on Thursday mornings at the Market at Liberty Place in Kennett Square, the community's own version of the Algonquin Round Table meets for a similar hour or so of gossip, news and networking. Named the Community Coffee Klatch by co-organizer Roberta Eldridge, the weekly gathering brings together local seniors, young mothers with children, local politicians and representatives from nearby organizations. Within the expanse of two sips of coffee, a visitor to the Klatch will often learn of an upcoming event in town; be linked to books, websites and people; learn about an organization that's right down the street from where they live; or be asked to volunteer for them. Although the group convenes at a table in the back of the mall, very often the gathering will spill over to another table because of overcrowding.
It is a random sampling of individuals, a caffeinated fire of connection lit by curiosity, and it's fueled by members of different generations.
"The senior generation has so many things to say," Eldridge said. "We've had so many experiences, so many years behind us, and we need to share that with younger people. To a lot of younger people, an apple is an apple. To the people of our generation, we have a story about that apple. There are no stories on the internet. It has to come through a conversation, through experience."
For every person who attends, there is a different reason for being there. Laura Mackiewicz, event and volunteer coordinator at La Comunidad Hispana in Kennett Square, thinks of the group as an extension of the organization's marketing program.
"One purpose of being here is to raise awareness of the organization, as well as sharing resources that are available," said Mackiewicz, who attends about twice a month. "I'll also come here as well to get volunteers. This is a great place to learn about who may want to come out and help us. I love the fact that so many of this group have had past experiences. There's this huge knowledge base here. It's an immediate response."
Francine Covelli, the owner of Nourish Juice Bar & Cafe, provides complimentary coffee, fruit and baked goodies to the group.
"I've joined them at a few meetings, and it's all different generations, an exciting group of people who are looking for ideas to keep Kennett Square lively," Covelli said. "You have all these different ages all gathered in one place, and you never know what's going to come up. At the end of this great power hour, everyone seems to have something in common."
Co-founder Joan Holliday said the Klatch came out of Kennett Square's Inter-Gen Coalition -- a think tank of ideas that explores ways of connecting older and younger generations in Kennett Square -- as well as Bridging the Community, a local group that creates forums for local residents to share ideas that enlist the help of volunteers to use their talents.
These groups, and subsequently, the Klatch, "comes from the premise from the notion that everyone needs to be a part of a community," Holliday said. "It allows seniors to share views with members of the younger generations, and enhances openness to new ideas.
"We want people talking to each other and through that, you learn more about life," she added. "The discussions can go anywhere, and when you leave, you feel as if you've just heard the experiences of life. Our hope is that very soon, there will be three or four tables all filled with people talking."
It took West Grove resident Carolee Kiernan a few tries before she finally go to attend the Klatch, but she's grateful for it. It's all part of living in an area rich in culture, she said.
"People talk about things they’ve done, things they're doing, and things they hope to do," she said. "The nice thing about this group is that we're not sitting at the head and saying, 'I'm in charge. You can talk about this topic or that topic.' Rather, you can sit down and talk to whomever you wish, and discover things on your own."
At a recent gathering, Eldridge looked around at the more than one dozen people of all ages who stopped by to pull up a chair, pour themselves a cup of coffee, and connect one person with another.
"I've lived in New York City, but I've also lived in small towns, and I've never seen a small town work so much for each other as Kennett Square does," she said. "I find Kennett Square to be an integrated community. This is just another facet of that."
The Community Coffee Klatch at the Market at Liberty Place is held every Thursday, from 11:00 a.m. to 12 noon. Beverages and goodies are complimentary. The Market at Liberty Place is located on 148 West State Street, Kennett Square.