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Chester County Press

Editorial: The book that should be read in every town in America

03/28/2017 10:47AM ● By Richard Gaw
At one point during the official launch of the new book “The Story of Kennett: Shaping Our Future One Child at a Time” at Kennett High School on March 21, Albert McCarthy, the former police chief for the Kennett Square Borough and later Kennett Township, stood up and told those in attendance that two decades  ago, the town he helped police was not a place that many liked to go to.
“In the 1980s,” he said, “people couldn't wait to get out of Kennett Square. Now, people can't wait to get in.”
To determine the exact starting point of this small town's meteoric rise – one that has risen to a cultural, educational and economic renaissance – would be impossible, and to anoint select individuals, groups, organizations and businesses as the founders of this renaissance would only omit hundreds more who also own a share of it. And yet, there it is, a complex labyrinth of connection and kindness, spun to form a fabric that has wrapped itself around the youth of this community like a protective shawl. A business partners with a youth organization. A networking group that links one individual with another. Places of worship that profess different beliefs open their doors to conversation. A mentoring group, made up entirely of resident volunteers, works with students from kindergarten through the fifth grade.     
When Joan Holliday and Bob George began the idea to collaborate on what became “The Story of Kennett,” now available on, they did so with a determination to tell the story of how Kennett Square discovered its soul. In essay after essay, elected and appointed leaders, educators, business owners, volunteers, law enforcement officers and heads of non-profit organizations document the course of their journeys, and the assistance they received along the way.
In her chapter, Kathleen Do, executive director for the After-the-Bell program, wrote that the program has provided more than 4,500 middle school students with “safe, structured and engaging after-school activities” at no cost to the taxpayers, “and when they ask me how this is possible, I answer with one word: Community,” she wrote.
“I believe in collaborations and partnerships,” wrote Alisa Jones, president and CEO of La Communidad Hispana, in her essay. “We live in a wonderful community with so many great services. My hope is that we continue to find new and innovative ways to coordinate and collaborate to minimize duplication and maximize positive impact for the vulnerable in our community.”
“The Story of Kennett” was never written for the purpose of self-congratulations, but as a collated summary of a town that relies on the strength of a continuing narrative. The book holds the answers to questions that the leaders in every town need to ask: 'Who are we as a town?' 'Are we unified, or are we separate?' 'What do we want to achieve, for our young people, our families, our elderly, our under-served populations?' 'What does the greatness we wish for look like, and who do we choose to articulate that message?'
In the end, a book is little more than a bound rash of pages if it does not serve to intrigue, inform or inspire. Our hope is that “The Story of Kennett” serve the greater good of its ultimate purpose: To be the must-read primer for leaders in politics, business, education, civic engagement and community volunteerism.
On the cover of “The Story of Kennett,” there is a photograph of seven children coming down a playground slide. They are tightly bunched together and laughing, but look closer and you will find a soft vulnerability in each young face that seems to suggest that they are in that place between discovery and the need for protection. If there is ever a doubt as to where the road should begin in the course of rebuilding a town, then we encourage leaders to begin – and end – exactly there.