Tiny Tips for Twitter

I gave a little presentation today in class to mix things up. Everyone in this class is a communication major, so I figured taking some time to go over some Twitter tips would be a nice diversion from the normal class schedule. There are a lot of articles and blog posts about it online, which is great, but I took a more personalized approach. Check it out!

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Twitter Presentation

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They Can(aan) Help

According to the 2010 US Census, just about 22 percent of Germantown residents live below 100 percent of the poverty line. That’s over 5,000 people. East Germantown is even worse, with 28 percent of its 26,000+ residents living in such squalor. The area is plagued by poor education, poor housing, and crime.

But one organization is fighting tirelessly against the strength of Germantown’s poverty trap and with the help of La Salle LGU students, real change is happening.

Barrfare chatted with Kellsey Turner, a La Salle senior who double majors in communication and leadership & global understanding. The honors student spends a significant portion of her weekly routine at The Family Life Center, located around the corner from its parent, the Canaan Baptist Church, on Pulaski Street.

BF: What is the main goal of the Family Life Center?
KT: The Family Life Center is associated with Canaan Baptist Church, however it is a separate entity. The mission of the FLC is to provide the people of Germantown with the services and resources necessary for a quality life. These include services such as counseling, education, job training, incarceration re-entry assistance, emergency food and clothing, and housing assistance. In essence, the FLC’s main goal is to support and provide for the people of Germantown.
BF: So FLC works to support residents, but who supports FLC? Where does the money for these programs come from? 
KT: The FLC is mainly supported through grants. Their food pantry is associated with Philabundance and receives additional support from them. They’re also supported through the generous donations of the local community and the members of Canaan Baptist.
BF: I’m sure their workload is lighter with you there as a volunteer. What sort of tasks are you involved in?
KT: I work specifically with the Incarceration Re-Entry Assistance Program. This program is called Sisters Returning Home and is directed by Peggy Sims. The faith-based non-profit works with previously incarcerated women to assist them with re-entry into the community by providing them with housing assistance, food and clothing, and assistance finding a job. The program helps each woman identify their needs and goals, then it works to address these needs and fulfill these goals by empower the women to take action in their own lives and providing them with the resources necessary to do so. ​In my role as a volunteer, I am currently working on building a website for Sisters Returning Home. I am also assisting in creating and maintaining a Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for the organization.
BF: What a great way to utilize your skills as a Communication major to help benefit this great organization! I’m sure your supervisor is thrilled to have someone like you on board. What is she like, Peggy?
KT: She founded the organization back in 2007 after working with women in prison. She recognized that there was a need for services specified toward females in prison, as their special needs were not being met and they had access to less resources than most prisons for men. As a result she opened Sisters Returning Home, which is dedicated to assisting these women in their re-entry process. Peggy is a passionate woman. She loves helping others and she loves her work. A member of Canaan Baptist who attends worship regularly, Peggy is an inspiration and a joy to work with.
BF: Have you had any emotional experiences during your time at FLC? 
KT: I can’t say I have had any overly emotional experiences. I do not work directly with the women in the Sisters Returning Home program, but it has been a lot of fun and I look forward to going there every week. I find the work I’m doing to be fulfilling and I like knowing that I am able to make such a positive impact on the organization.

For more information about the FLC, check out this. Click the circles below to look at stills from around the FLC, taken by Amanda Johncola on her iPhone 5.

Refusing to Desert Lasallian Values: La Salle’s Exploring Nutrition Initiative

Before coming to college, I thought the word desert referred to hot, dry, barren lands where you had fantasies of water and ice cold lemonade. I learned soon after arriving at La Salle that there was this thing called a food desert and not long before I arrived, the area around La Salle was actually classified as one.

Mari Gallagher presenting at TEDxWindyCity.

Mari Gallagher presenting at TEDxWindyCity.

According to this incredible Tedx Talk, a food desert is a large, isolated geographic area that have no or distant mainstream grocery stores. Mari Gallagher, the leader of that particular talk about food deserts, notes how 9-year olds she met in Alabama has never seen grapes or strawberries before. Can you imagine? I can think of so many other fruits that are far more exotic and rare.

The same sort of issue- perhaps not as drastic- was occurring in the area around La Salle. Finally, the University realized that in order to stay true to the values of the Christian Brothers, they had to step in. With the help of La Salle’s program, Exploring Nutrition, the surrounding community has seen vast improvements in the availability of fresh produce, meat, and opportunities for nutrition education. La Salle was the main driving force behind the introduction of the Fresh Grocer to the area and since then, Exploring Nutrition has been pressing even further into the issue of health and nutrition in urban areas. They’ve partnered not only with Fresh Grocer, but local businesses and churches, to provide the resources, education and awareness needed to push families to a more healthy lifestyle.

The inclusion of education programs is undeniably important. Check out this NPR radio piece to understand why. As the old saying goes, you can lead the horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. You can build a grocery store lined with fresh produce, but if the consumers don’t know how to prepare them or why they need to include them in their diet, the demand slips. You can’t force people to purchase healthy items. Exploring Nutrition’s educational and awareness proponents try to bridge this gap and create that demand.

The best part, in my opinion, about this initiative is the way the leadership (spearheaded by Dr. Marjorie Allen) is involving students. They’re taking advantage of all of the resources on campus to help the community. Why enlist professionals to create promotional materials when you have digital art, marketing, and journalism students who are looking for resume worthy experience? It gets the students involved in something that can add credibility to their portfolios and resumes, but it also shows them ways to participate in charity that are outside of the typical picking up trash, donating clothing, working at a homeless shelter, and so on. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.

There are, however, researchers who negate the effect of food deserts on the health of individuals living in poverty, claiming the stressors of living in poverty are actually to blame. The evidence is there all right, but, in all honesty, when is providing people with healthier food options ever a bad thing?

Chompin’ Down on Chelten: Rose Petals Review

I entered Rose Petals Café and Lounge hoping it was going to be one of those hole-in-the-wall places that’s a beacon of hope amid a dreary, impoverished background. The establishment is settled in on Chelten Avenue, which is marred by jagged, cracked sidewalks and abandoned businesses.

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Outside of the restaurant. Photo by Lee Stabert.

They say you should never judge the book by the cover, but the shattered glass on the right bottom pane of the front door was only the first area of concern for the infant restaurant.

I was seated within seconds, although the number of individuals in the party overwhelmed the staff member at first glance. They were not expecting a party of five. She placed a series of high top tables together, accommodating us nicely. The restaurant’s website insists that there is seating for 45 people, which is hard to believe, as the tables in the rear are placed very close to one another. Guests could, without a doubt, hear their neighbors chewing.

After seating our party, the woman returned to her post and continued to scrape the heart-shaped stickers off the glass door using what looked like an icing spatula. Valentine’s Day was clearly over.

We didn’t wait long to be attended to at the table. We were handed menus and utensils bound by paper napkins. The mom-and-pop shop menus and disposable napkins uncomfortably contrasted the sophistication of the deep red walls and the rich Jacobean flowered wallpaper. The ambiance whispered jazz club, while everything else shouted basic breakfast diner.

Within a bearable amount of time, I was able to order a coffee. The server, who was later identified as the owner of the establishment, brought back an enormous mug filled to the brim. The outside of the large, ceramic mug was perfect to warm my hands after braving the atypically cold weather.

I call them snug mugs.

I call them snug mugs.

The coffee itself, however, wasn’t all that soothing. Hot coffee is essential for mid-February freezes and this failed to make the grade. It was lukewarm and tasted as though a cup of water had been poured into it, rather than a dash of milk and sugar. It wasn’t the quality of La Colombe coffee you would expect.

With the coffee sitting at arm’s distance, I scanned the extensive menu. There are 10 different unique waffle options, an apparent specialty and community favorite. After much consideration, I opted for the Rose Petals Waffle, which is served with white and chocolate crumbles, strawberries, whipped cream and garnished with rose petals. I intended on adding a protein to my order, but the server admitted to being out of all pork products. No bacon. No smile.

That was the last time I saw our original server. Our food took 45 minutes to arrive at our makeshift table for five. The server who brought our breakfast over was not our originally assigned server, forcing him to hold the food out and awkwardly inquire whom it belonged to. Breakfast food shouldn’t take that long to concoct. Papa Barr makes pancakes in about 10 seconds and they’re hot. 

It looks pretty, though.

It looks pretty, though.

The Rose Petal Waffle was underwhelming. Upon first glance, it was clear that the plate had been sitting out for some time. There was no steam arising from the food (yes I hovered my hand over it) and the plate was room temperature. The waffle was bland and in no way warm or crispy like made-to-order waffles should be. The texture mimicked that of a day-old waffle reheated in the microwave and left out. The inclusion of actual rose petals was a valiant attempt at paying homage to the restaurant’s name, but missed the mark. They were small in size, but largely obtrusive to the meal, getting uncomfortably caught in my teeth throughout. I don’t look cute when I’m trying to flick roses from my gums. The earthiness of the petals did not contribute to the taste by any means. Still wondering where my “white crumbles” were…

Frankly, a waffle worth $8.49 shouldn’t have been this lazy.

After finishing, there was another significant wait. We had to physically signal a server over after sitting without touching the food for upwards of 15 minutes. The server was visibly uncomfortable with our hastiness, but was extremely courteous when requested to split the checks.

A waffle and coffee can set patrons back just over $15.00, which seems quite high for the quality of both the food and the service. If the staff both in the front and the back of the house were able to align more with the wallpaper than the napkin, Rose Petals could secure a notable and fortuitous future. But so far, they’re disposable.

If you have had a better experience, like many of those who checked in on Yelp!, please comment and help me see the light.