The Holme Circle Civic Association hasn’t forgotten about last year’s Pennypack Creek drowning deaths.
Two boys died in unrelated summer accidents in which they went swimming in the fast-moving creek following heavy rainstorms, even though swimming was and remains illegal in the Pennypack. This spring, the HCCA will present assemblies at three area schools hoping to spread the word about the dangers of the creek.
During the March 26 HCCA meeting, President Elsie Stevens announced that assemblies will be held at Robert Pollock Elementary School on May 2, Father Judge High School on May 9 and St. Jerome’s School on May 20. Pollock and St. Jerome’s are both within the civic association’s boundaries, while Father Judge is the nearest high school.
Judge is also the school that 15-year-old Nicky Simonetti attended in 1996 when he and a friend, Chris Busse, drowned in the Pennypack under similar circumstances to last year’s tragedies. Simonetti’s mother, Beth Simonetti-Gallelli, will be one of three speakers during the assemblies, joining Lt. Andrew Napoli of the Philadelphia police Marine Unit and Drew Brown, the Philadelphia Water Department’s manager of public education.
Following the deaths of Brandon Boyle and Sebastian Sanon in separate incidents last summer, the Daily News reported that at least 16 people have drowned in city creeks in the last two decades, while police have rescued 19 additional swimmers in distress. Stevens has worked since then to coordinate the school visits.
According to the civic president, Napoli is a 10-year Marine Unit veteran. He will tell students about the difficulties of creek rescues because of the often remote locations. Witnesses often have trouble pinpointing locations to rescuers, who may have difficulty accessing the spots because of terrain. Meanwhile, Brown will discuss the potential health risks of the creek, such as remnants of wastewater that can cause illnesses in swimmers.
Simonetti-Gallelli will share her personal experiences with drowning tragedy. According to Stevens, she has long sought to honor her son’s memory by alerting other teens of the creek’s violent potential.
In other HCCA business:
• Stevens announced that the civic group will receive an award for an unrelated program it implemented last year. The Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia has selected the organization as the winner of its John Andrew Gallery Community Action Award in recognition of its restoration work at the Holme-Crispin Cemetery. The burial ground is the final resting place of William Penn’s surveyor-general, Thomas Holme, and his descendants. The HCCA will be honored during a June 4 dinner at the Union League.
• State Rep. Ed Neilson announced his candidacy for City Council. The Democratic City Committee selected Neilson as its nominee for the at-large seat recently vacated by Bill Green, who became School Reform Commission chairman. A special election will be held during the May 20 primary. The winner will serve the final 20 months of Green’s four-year term.
• Mary Bell of Catholic Community Services reported that her organization has been selected by the Department of Human Services as the new community umbrella agency for the 2nd, 7th and 8th police districts in the Northeast. CCS, a division of Catholic Social Services, has an office at 2990 Holme Ave. It provides services to at-risk youths and families in the community. Stevens serves on the advisory board along with other Northeast community leaders.
• Stevens announced that the owner of the “Stokes House” at 2876-80 Welsh Road has agreed to attend the April 23 meeting of the HCCA to discuss plans for the 19th-century stone farmhouse. Neighbors seek to preserve the house as a historic structure, but fear that the owner, developer John Parsons, is planning to demolish it and build new homes on the land.
• The HCCA will host a free rain barrel workshop on Wednesday, April 30, from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Torresdale Branch Library, 3079 Holme Ave. Participants will be eligible to receive a free 55-gallon rain barrel installed at their homes. The devices reduce stormwater that flows into local streams. Collected water can be used for gardens, washing cars and other outdoor applications. Call 215-609-1026 to register. ••