The Somerton Civic Association will celebrate the 10th birthday of the Delaware Valley Veterans Home as part of the civic group’s annual Community Day on Oct. 5 at Daniel Boyle Playground.
But the history between the civic group and the vets home is a lot older than that.
The relationship dates to 1987, in fact, when the late Vince Malatesta — a Penndel resident and World War II veteran — first approached the SCA to pitch the idea of a nursing home for aged, disabled vets. According to an article published by The Philadelphia Inquirer that Dec. 10, Malatesta attended the monthly SCA meeting and won the group’s “tentative support” for the nursing home idea. The old Philadelphia State Hospital (commonly known as Byberry Hospital) was still operating then, but its days were numbered. It was closed in 1990 following allegations of patient abuse and poor conditions.
Malatesta and his colleagues in the local veterans community fought for some 16 years to get state approval and funding for the project. Completed in 2003, the home accommodates up to 171 vets and their eligible spouses. Malatesta passed away in 2007 at age 85.
Speaking at the latest Somerton Civic meeting on Sept. 10, SCA President Dolores Barbieri promised a festive tribute to the home during next month’s Community Day. It will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and feature many activities, such as children’s games, face painting, balloon sculpture, a dunk tank, raffles, prizes and demonstrations by neighborhood organizations and businesses.
Entertainment will be provided by the MaST Charter School band and choir, Boy Scout Troop 226 drum and bugle corps, Conestoga Angels marching band, Celtic Flame Irish dancers and Fellowship Baptist Church band.
Residents will meet their local elected officials, while enjoying snacks and refreshments supplied by merchants such as Jim’s Pretzels, Wawa, Acme and Shop Rite. The local Lions Club will collect used eyeglasses for charity, while Farmer’s Insurance will collect school supply donations for distribution to the needy.
The nursing home will be celebrated with military ceremonies and personal recognition of residents, some of whom may attend. The annual merchant award will be presented to Michael Heise of Neli’s Deli for his support of the community. Admission and activities are free. But the SCA seeks volunteers to help plan and operate the event. Volunteers need not work the whole day, but should be available for an hour or two at least. Contact Barbieri at firstname.lastname@example.org to help.
• SCA Zoning Chairman Seth Kaplan reported that a developer’s plans to demolish a single home and build three new ones at Southampton and Worthington roads is moving forward. The civic association is unable to oppose the project formally because it meets all requirements of the city’s zoning code. Kaplan said the demolition work is slated to begin later this week.
Kaplan further reported that Cafe Lava at 13033 Bustleton Ave. has moved its outdoor seating from the front of the building to the rear after the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspection cited the business for a code violation earlier this summer. The rear seating does not violate the zoning code, Kaplan said.
In another zoning issue, Kaplan reported that a mural project planned for the Bustleton-Somerton Shopping Center has been delayed. The city’s zoning board postponed a hearing about it on Aug. 15. A new date is not announced. The mural would cover an exterior wall facing south toward O’Mare’s Irish Pub. The civic group did not take a position for or against the mural plan.
• Philadelphia police Capt. Joe Zaffino of the 7th district reported that Somerton residents should not be alarmed by the recent murder that occurred at a construction site on Northeast Avenue behind George Washington High School. It was not a random act. The victim knew his killer, and the motive was personal.
“Let me say this, if you were walking along Northeast Avenue at that time, you would not have been shot. He was definitely targeted,” Zaffino said.
Police are planning to see more burglaries in the district as summer ends. Contrary to popular belief, Zaffino said, burglaries are lower in the summer because a lot more law-abiding people go outside in the warm weather, and crooks fear witnesses. ••