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Chester County Press

Howett’s Custom Screen Printing presents $35,000 to OMI

03/21/2024 12:02PM ● By Betsy Brewer Brantner

Dan Greer came before Oxford Borough Council to present a $35,000 check to Julia Lo Ehrhardt, the Oxford Mainstreet, Inc. (OMI) executive director. The funds were raised through the #OxfordStrong t-shirt fundraiser that Howett’s Custom Screen Printing took a leadership role on.

Greer told council that Brian Little from Cameron’s Ace Hardware approached the printing company with the idea.

Greer said, “I underestimated what we would do. We sold over 4,000 shirts.” 

The $35,000 raised through the  #Oxford Strong t-shirt fundraiser was the single largest contribution that Oxford Mainstreet, Inc. received.

Leslie Sleesman, the OMI board chairperson, and Julia Lo Ehrhardt, the OMI executive director, updated council on the status of the organization six months after the horrific fire that damaged several buildings in the downtown last Sept. 13. The fire displaced nearly 100 residents and numerous businesses.

Ehrhardt had just started working as the new executive director for OMI just two days before the fire. OMI’s building was one of the businesses destroyed in the fire.

Ehrhardt explained, “We lost 25 years of Oxford Mainstreet history. We lost all of our supplies for First Friday, street lamps, street beautification equipment, and supplies for events. It was all gone in 24 hours. We got out with just a laptop and we were fortunate.”

But Ehrhardt emphasized, “We will overcome the devastation of this fire.”

OMI is now located on the second floor of the Oxford Area Historic Association building. Money has poured in from many donors, from a major supporter to smaller donations. Businesses are helping each other. For example, Neff Physical Therapy is providing storage for OMI.

When Chris Grove, the executive director of the Oxford Area Chamber of Commerce, was interviewed recently, she said, “We even had someone bring their piggy bank in. We had Solanco football team also raise money for us. We continue to have supporters that donate even now.”

Donations to OMI have been used for businesses to cover their insurance deductibles and OMI also covered rent for a business completely wiped out by the fire, like the Maroon Hornet.

Now they are planning for the future.

“We have to look forward,” Ehrhardt said. “We need to talk to businesses and ask people what they want—$8,000 in grants will be distributed to the businesses. Some days I still can’t believe what happened. One thing I know, together we are Oxford Strong!”

Melissa Pacella, the director of organization and development for SILO (Serving, Inspiring and Loving Others) presented an update on the fire recovery.

“Our mission is to focus on vulnerable people,” she said. “We have provided emergency support, rent and utilities. The first 48 hours, we were in shock.We went to Walmart to collect clothes. We had to collect information on the sizes. We provided a complete change of clothes. We worked with Chester County Emergency Services. We coordinated with the county and transferred about 100 people to a hotel. We made sure we had transportation for people. They continued to go to work. We worked early morning and late nights. We were looking for housing. We were shocked at the cost of rental properties. It was very hard to find affordable housing. We had to convince landlords to accept the group. We did it in record time.”

She added, “There is something special in this community. Everyone was working with us. Andrea worked with numerous people to find housing. The next step was to transport them to NSC (Neighborhood Services Center) to get used furniture and other supplies they would need to start over. We were also able to provide Christmas décor and presents for the children.” 

Pacella continued, “There were so many people working behind the scenes. There was a lot of creative collaboration. One of those collaborators, St. Christopher’s Church, provided new and used household items. Jennersville YMCA provided used clothing. SILO assisted with car titles, birth certificates and other important papers. We worked with local banks to open bank accounts. We are so grateful to the entire community. The attitude of people was life changing.”

In other business at the meeting, Steven Seivwright, a resident of the Penn Oaks Development in the borough was advocating for a Penn Oak tree in that development.

The Penn Oak tree has always had a connection to William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania. The tree was alive when William Penn arrived in Pennsylvania, making it a remarkable link to the past and a symbol of nature’s resilience. Of course, most notably, the development is named after the Penn Oak and its survival is written within the deed itself which says:

“Additionally, Declarant desires that the Penn Oak tree located on lot No. 15 and possibly overhanging Lot No. 14 and Lot No. 18 be cared for and preserved by subsequent owners with the affirmative duties listed herein as well as any other measures that can reasonably taken to preserve tree.”

“On February 12, my neighbor told me the HOA (Homeowners’ Association) voted to take the tree down,” Seivwright said. “It has been assessed by three certified arborists. Our mission statement says to protect and maintain jointly owned property, including the Penn Oak tree. I’m a simple landscaper that appreciates trees that are healthy. Ours is healthy. Core samples have been taken at the tree. The very idea that it would be an option to cut it down for no reason is ridiculous. I’m here to advocate for someone healthy but old – the tree. It can’t speak, so I am speaking for it. I was not apprised of the vote taking place. I don’t think residents were, either.”

After a lengthy discussion, attention was called to the declaration of easement, and whether it would be wise to hire an attorney for further review.

Oxford Borough Police Chief Sam Iacono reported to council regarding accreditation. The only concern at this point is the Live Scan fingerprinting system. Those concerns are being addressed. More information on accreditation should be coming in April. The Chief thanked Sgt. Coverly and Sgt. Weaver for their work on the accreditation. 

“We will have a post-assessment meeting this month and work with the solicitor on updating policy,” the police chief said.

The borough will go through the process of updating the accreditation every three years. The accreditation will also help the department in securing grants.

Council held a hearing to adopt Ordinance #963-2023 amending Chapter 27, Zoning, Part 2, definitions, section 27-202, definitions of terms, and to redefine terms related to signs, and part 16, signs, by deleting and replacing the part in its entirety. 

After the hearing, borough council approved the motion.

In other business, borough council approved the following:

  • A letter of support for Oxford Mainstreet Inc’s America 250 PA Day Mini Grant Application;
  • HARB Certificate of Appropriateness for 320 Market Street;
  • Oxford Area Chamber of Commerce Special Event Permit Application for Movies in the Park on June 21, July 19, and August 16, 2024;
  • Oxford Area Chamber of Commerce Special Event Permit Application for Movies in the Park  Halloween, on October 5, 2024;
  • Oxford Area Chamber of Commerce Special Event Permit Application for Memorial Day Remembrance Walk on May 27, 2024. It was noted that the chamber will be charged for police service for this event;
  • Oxford Area Chamber of Commerce Special Event Permit Application for the Covered Bridge Motorcycle Ride on May 19, 2024;

Council President Kathryn Cloyd encouraged the public to come to the Regional Comprehensive Plan update meeting at the Herr Foods Visitor Center.