Chicken salad, rhubarb and, of course, strawberry shortcake and hand-dipped ice cream. For 126 years, the Quakers at Woodstown Friends Meeting have been serving up platefuls of this traditional fare at their annual Strawberry Supper. The proceeds always go to a charitable cause which could be scholarships for local students or funding for mine locators in war-torn regions throughout the world.
This February, when a fire ripped through the American Legion Ambulance Association of Woodstown destroying the building and life-saving ambulance vehicles, the Quakers knew they had to help.
“The suggestion to dedicate the supper to the ambulance squad was brought up and immediately endorsed by everybody,” said Kahlil Gunther, clerk of Woodstown Friends Meeting.
With overwhelming community support, 2018 turned out to be one of the most successful Strawberry Suppers in recent memory — a whopping 552 tickets sold.
“Not only did ticket sales increase but so many people and businesses contributed supplies and made contributions toward purchasing items for the menu,” said Gunther. “It was the same supper, but it took on a new and exciting atmosphere.”
The hard work of Woodstown Friends Meeting and the greater Woodstown community resulted in the delivery of $5,000 check to Joe Valentine, President of the Woodstown Ambulance Association, who has had to shoulder much of responsibility of rebuilding.
“It has been probably the most stress that I’d have to endure in my life but one of the good things has been watching how everyone has come together,” said Valentine.
Date for Memorial–Saturday, July 21 at 10:00
A memorial service for Penny will be held Saturday, July 21 at Germantown Monthly Meeting, 47 W. Coulter Street, Philadelphia, PA 19144.
The service will begin at 10 AM. Contributions in her name can be made to the Kelly School Library Fund; c/o Germantown Monthly Meeting; 47 W. Coulter Str. Phila. PA 19144.
Contributions may also be made to the Ridgeway Scheirer Fund for Peace and Justice at Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. Mail to 1515 Cherry St.; Phila. PA 19102 to the attention of the Development Office.
Educator, activist, traveler, Joan Penny Colgan-Davis, 72, passed away on Tuesday, June 19, 2018. Diagnosed with melanoma in November of 2017, she battled the illness for 6 months, before dying at her home in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia. Known as a leader in progressive education and active in the Philadelphia Religious Society of Friends, she brought innovative changes to a number of educational institutions and positively affected the lives of hundreds of students, parents and teachers throughout her long career. She is survived by her husband, John, her son, Evan, her brothers Tim and Tony, and her sister, Debby.
Penny was born in Wilmington, Delaware on October 21, 1945, and lived for many years in Arden, DE. Her parents were Tom and Joan Colgan. Born into a Quaker family, Penny grew up in a house and community that believed in social action. She was taken to Civil Rights Marches as a child, and that started her life-long concern with social justice. When she graduated from Guilford College in 1967, she became an elementary school teacher at Philadelphia’s Miller Elementary School and taught for there for 6 years. Following the protracted teacher’s strike of 1973, she left the school district, saying, “We struck for weeks, and when it was over I was still 1 teacher in a classroom with 33 students. That was not good for the students or for me.” She also had some different educational ideas she wanted to try out, so she joined a parent-run cooperative school in West Philadelphia-the University City New School.
At the New School she helped develop curriculum that featured research projects powered by student questions, plenty of outdoor play and study time, hands-on learning, student designed art projects, and consciously working on building and maintaining a supportive community. These ideas were important ones to her, and they became hallmarks of her later work at other schools. For Penny, education had to be active, involving students in questioning, making knowledge, discovery, and community building. Wherever she went she brought that vision into the lives of countless families.
Following the New School she was a lower school teacher at Friends Select School for3 years, eventually becoming the Director of Lower School for another 3 years. She also served as the principal of the Miquon School in Miquon, Pa for 11 years. From there she became the first head of the Russell Byers Charter School. Finally, she was Head of Frankford Friends School, from which she retired in 2015. At each place she worked she brought the vision and values she believed in and helped change each school in meaningful ways. Her influence was profound, and many of the programs and approaches she introduced can still be found in each of the institutions she led.
Retirement did not mean she was no longer involved with schools. At the time of her death Penny was organizer and leader of a group of volunteers who made the once closed library at the Kelly public elementary school in Philadelphia a vital part of the school. That project continues to grow and thrive. She was also an esteemed mentor in the University of Pennsylvania’s Aspiring Principals Program, helping to train future public and private school principals.
Penny was very active in Philadelphia’s Quaker Community. A member of Germantown Monthly Meeting, she took an active role in that meeting and eventually became clerk for the meeting. She later became clerk for Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, the organization representing Quaker meetings in the tri-state area. She took a role in the re-organization of the Yearly Meeting and was active in it until her illness made that impossible.
Penny was not just an educator and Quaker activist. She was an active person for whom the world offered opportunities to explore. She was a tent camper, a birdwatcher, a quilter, a lover of literature, and a gardener. She visited spots in Pennsylvania, in Canada, New Mexico and Arizona and more on birding trips with her husband. She and John camped regularly in upstate New York, Maryland, and yearly outside of Kingston, Ontario. Her garden is a wildlife friendly habitat and a stopover for hummingbirds, butterflies, finches, wrens and more. She grew herbs and vegetables that found their way to her kitchen and eventually to her table. She was a member of both a cookbook club and a literary book club. She was also a member of the Mt. Airy Quilters and loved to visit quilt shows and shops whenever she traveled. And she was an active participant in the movement to connect kids with gardening, starting an outdoor garden at Frankford Friends.
Penny Colgan-Davis led a full and joyous life that directly affected many people in many ways. Her giving spirit, sense of purpose, and love of life touched people of all ages. She will be well remembered and missed by many who were fortunate enough to know her. Her light shines brightly and casts a radiant glow.
A memorial service for Penny will be held Saturday, July 21 at Germantown Monthly Meeting, 47 W. Coulter Street, Philadelphia, PA 19144 from 10 AM until 1 PM. Contributions in her name can be made to the Kelly School Library Fund; c/o Germantown Monthly Meeting; 47 W. Coulter Str. Phila. PA 19144. Contributions can also be made to Ridgeway Scheirer Fund for Peace and Justice; Philadelphia Yearly Meeting; 1515 Cherry St.; Phila. PA 19102
Update July 7, 2108 — An additional obituary has been published in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
It is with sadness that we announce that Tricia Coscia is leaving PYM staff in early January 2018. She will be working next with Witness to Innocence, a nonprofit devoted to ending the death penalty. Tricia has served in various roles since 2009, and in each has far exceeded our wildest expectations. Much of what we have been able to achieve is due to her devoted service (along with others). From Aging Coordinator, to Sessions & Volunteer Coordinator to Community Engagement Coordinator, Tricia has been the ballast of the Program and Religious Life Department. She has kept us centered and grounded as we move forward. She has been the glue that builds relationships, and she has been a beloved member of our wider community of Friends. While we are gladdened she will embark soon on a new adventure, we know we will miss her deeply.
Announcements about the permanent staffing to cover the tremendous size of Tricia’s portfolio are forthcoming. In the meantime, Eric Berdis, formerly Sessions Assistant, has stepped into the Interim Sessions Coordinator role to take on all of Tricia’s responsibilities related to Continuing and Annual Sessions.
Read more about Eric Berdis.
Read a more detailed letter about the transition than went to PYM groups.
We are excited that Eric Anthony Berdis has stepped into the role of Interim Sessions Coordinator! Eric is no stranger to Philadelphia Yearly Meeting; they** have worked as our Sessions Assistant since 2015. Eric also served our community as the Event Coordinator for Arch Street Meeting House’s William Penn Fundraiser. Excited to bring his** energy and creativity to working with the Sessions Coordinating Committee, Eric has found joy in this work. He hopes to usher new connections and to support our ongoing efforts in making spaces safer and accessible to all friends.
Eric is originally from Erie, Pa, and received a BFA from Slippery Rock University. Outside of Continuing and Annual Sessions, Eric is an artist, interested in the intersections of DIY culture, craft-oriented practices, histories of grassroots social-justice activism, and theories of gender and sexuality.
**Please note that Eric uses they/them/their and he/him/his pronouns. Learn more about this on our website.
Read a more detailed letter about the transition that went to PYM groups.
With the help of his fellow Quakers, Jack Mahon of Elmer, New Jersey, has dedicated the last ten years to sending magnetic locators to poor and struggling communities throughout the world. The locators, a product of Schonstedt Instrument Company, can detect the presence of landmines and other unexploded weaponry left behind in a warzone. Once locals are trained to use them they are literal lifesavers, accurately identifying deadly munitions which often kill and maim both children and adults. “While the mines do impact combatants, most casualties are civilians, peacekeepers and humanitarian workers” said Mahon.
To date, Mahon and the Quakers at Woodstown Friends Meeting have helped send 124 locators to more than twenty countries as far away as Libya and Azerbaijan. This is made possible by the special ‘Humanitarian Demining’ program of Schonstedt which matches each locator for which funds are raised and takes care of transportation. Mahon and his cadre of Quakers are responsible for over a fifth of all locators, costing $1041 each, that Schonstedt sends out through their program. Their 18th century meetinghouse has become a vibrant center for collecting and forwarding donations of all sizes.
How this small group of South Jersey Quakers has managed such a large feat is a lesson in creativity and dedication. “We solicit private donations from our members and at community events, but we’ve also started a concert series that we use to bring education and awareness about our humanitarian demining efforts,” said Mahon. Called Music at Friends, the series takes place at the Woodstown Friends meetinghouse and features local artists in genres like rock, pop, jazz and classical. Its popularity has been increasing and it now hosts artists from Philadelphia and beyond.
Woodstown Friends Meeting’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. In April of 2016, the Woodstown Quakers were summoned to Washington DC where the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs awarded them a certificate of appreciation. According to the certificate, they had made “a direct contribution to the dramatic reduction in civilian deaths and injuries from landmines and unexploded ordnance.” The federal department went on to say that “Woodstown Monthly Meeting is helping farmers, schoolchildren, and other innocent civilians worldwide to walk the Earth in safety.”
Quakers are one of the traditional peace churches and their post-war efforts during World War 2 won them a Nobel Peace Prize. Mahon is proud to have contributed to this legacy. “People might expect Quakers to be involved with something like this, but it is vital that all nations that engage in war come to see humanitarian demining as their responsibility,” said Mahon.
Donations for Woodstown Friends Meeting’s humanitarian demining efforts can be made through WoodstownFriends.org, where you can also find a list of upcoming concerts in the Music at Friends series.