We salute our first-ever People of the Year 2013
Margo Davidson is the first Democrat, first African American and first woman to represent Upper Darby in Harrisburg as the state representative of the 164th District. Raised by a single mother, she overcame many of the obstacles attributed to growing up in Philadelphia as a young Black woman in a single parent home.
“As a little girl I just saw myself as championing the underdog and fighting the bullies,” said Davidson. “I wanted to do great things and my mother told me I could do anything. She was a young mother who was committed to her children and if there is one thing she instilled in me, it was that I could do anything.”
Davidson began her career as a broadcast journalist for WDAS radio, working in that capacity for several years and also producing work for WHYY and the Philadelphia Tribune.
Over time, Davidson began to realize that providing information through the news was not enough. She saw a need for what she describes as “direct service.”
“I’ve always had a passion for serving people in my adult life,” recalled Davison. “Serving people is how I approached journalism. The people needed to have the truth and if the people had the truth, then they could make quality decisions for their lives.”
Barb Boswell and Abby Lazar are founders of the BRVheart taskforce in Media. It takes a brave heart to tackle the issue of sex trafficking, especially close to home.
Initially, their focus was on how sex trafficking impacted children in Cambodia, so they primarily supported the anti-trafficking organization called Love146 through donations. In time, they learned that trafficking was also a serious problem in the US so they decided to focus more on how to address the problem closer to home.
“We raise money for Love 146, they do a lot of global work,” explained Boswell, “but now we’re becoming more and more locally focused.”
They also have recently formed the Delaware County Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition (DCAHTC), a planning committee working to establish a therapeutic residential program for minors coming out of sexual exploitation. They are pushing hard for an end to trafficking. The coalition is made up of various social service providers along with law enforcement, networking to tackle the issue locally.
They are working to create the first ever shelter/safe house for trafficked persons in Delaware County. Currently, no safe houses for sex-trafficked boys and girls exist in Pennsylvania.
“We are in the early phases of this project, and are building strategic partners for it, as well as identifying potential financial underwriters,” said Boswell.
Lifelong Lower Chichester Township resident Joseph “Joe” McGinn spent 10 years as sheriff of Delaware County. County Council accepted his resignation with regret last September as he reached his term limit according to the county’s Home Rule Charter. He now works as a homeland security specialist.
A former Lower Chi commissioner, McGinn was appointed sheriff in the fall of 2003, filling the unexpired term of Chad Kenney who became Delaware County Court of Common Pleas Court president judge.
McGinn was then elected sheriff to his own four-year term in 2005 and to a subsequent four-year term in 2009.
During his tenure, McGinn worked to improve child support collection, educated young people about the dangers of drugs, began a gun safety program to reduce gun violence, improved the county’s homeland security program, enhanced the training of deputies in the Sheriff’s Department, created a Delaware County K-9 explosive detection unit, acquired enhanced equipment for the Sheriff’s Department, and worked to educate homeowners about their rights in the event of foreclosure.
McGinn launched an educational program to make homeowners aware of their options under the law as well as state and federal programs.
He is the founder of the Sheriff’s Run for Scholarships and helped create the Southeast Pennsylvania Sheriff’s Caucus, which has helped reduce costs and improve services through the utilization of synergies across county lines. He was also a member of the National Sheriff’s Association Homeland Security Committee.
A veteran of the U.S. Army, McGinn was awarded the National Defense Service Medal with two stars, the Good Conduct medal and the Vietnam Service medal.
There is no question that Rev. Bernice Warren has gone above and beyond with her work at Chester Eastside Ministries (CEM), but the extra hurdles she had to clear in 2013 earned her a nod as one of our People of the Year.
The Presbytery of Philadelphia has funded CEM for years, but the ministry now receives far less than it needs to operate at full capacity. Even though Warren’s hand was forced into shutting its doors more often and reducing hours for staff members, she has managed to keep CEM afloat.
There’s no telling where some residents would be without the work of Warren and the rest of CEM.
More than 350 households throughout the city are provided food by CEM; emergency aid is made available to about 350 people every year and more than 4,000 receive clothes through the ministry.
CEM also helps students in the community, offering the only library on Chester’s east side where kids can go and complete homework with the help of adults. During the summer, day camp is also available for kids from six to 12 years-old.
“In light of the school district struggling, I think programs like our after-school program and others act as support,” Warren told the Spirit during the summer. “We help them with their math and their reading and ensure they do their homework.”
CEM opened its doors in 1985. We salute the spirit of determination by Warren and others to serve despite the financial setbacks.
Elected Delaware County district attorney in 2011, John “Jack” Whelan spent his entire adult life dedicated to the criminal justice system, law enforcement and helping others.
Prior to becoming DA, Whelan was chairman of Delaware County Council where he partnered with the DA’s office on several crime prevention initiatives including the Senior Exploitation Unit, Safe Schools Summit, and the Delco Alert system, which provides emergency notification to individuals through their mobile devices.
In 2010, Whelan helped establish the Delaware County Veterans Justice initiative that created a veteran’s treatment court to help veterans who end up in the criminal justice system.
Since becoming DA, Whelan has focused attention on various aspects of crime, but especially the damaging effects of heroin addiction among youth. He has sponsored several county-wide prescription drug take back events and had unwanted prescription drop boxes placed in various locations and municipalities. Whelan also formed a Heroin Task Force with hopes of taking the program into local schools.
According to Whelan, the program will incorporate a initiative first presented by Ridley Park Police corporals Robert Frazier and James Nasella. In addition, Whelan has either sponsored, or participated in, a number of panels and discussions related to heroin addiction in the county.
Whelan has also spent time going door-to-door in neighborhoods in an effort to fight crime.
He has been honored by several groups for outstanding leadership and public service, including the Delaware County Library System’s Outstanding Public Official Award, and the Delaware County Victims’ Rights Week Award, Child Advocacy Angel Award from CASA Youth Advocates of Delaware County, Citizenship Award from the Ridley Township Board of Commissioners and the Citizens Crime Commission Award for Bravery.
In 2011, the Delaware County Chiefs of Police Association honored Whelan with the George G. Weidner Award, for outstanding leadership and support of law enforcement and criminal justice.
It took Aston resident Tricia Stouch more than a year to even begin grasping the death of her 19 year-old daughter, Pamela. Her middle child, Pamela struggled with drug addiction for several years, was in and out of treatment facilities and programs, but succumbed to a heroin overdose. She was found dead in bed at the home of her grandmother on March 27, 2010 after a night of drug activity.
“It took me over a year before I could even think straight,” said Stouch. “I knew I could no longer go on feeling sorry for myself and realized that I had to do something in Pamela’s memory to help other kids and families who are struggling with the disease of addiction.”
For the past two years, Stouch has immersed herself into launching programs for local youths. She established the Pamela Stouch Drug Awareness Program and each year holds a calendar art contest at Sun Valley High School. She has sponsored several golf outings which finance scholarships for a graduating Sun Valley senior at the end of each school year; and she spearheaded an Al Ateen and women’s Al Anon program, which meets 7 P.M., every Thursday at St. Timothy’s Lutheran Church in Aston.
Stouch is also a member of the Delaware County Heroin Task Force.
Her newest venture is with an organization called Narcotics Overdose Prevention and Education (NOPE) She said she recently met with Sun Valley High School administrators and counselors and is thrilled that the school district has accepted the program.
Stouch said she always feared speaking in front of people, but since losing her daughter, the fear has diminished greatly.
“I don’t say ‘no’ to anything or anybody — ever,” she said. “If a group, school or organization wants me to speak, I will. If I can save the life of just one child by telling Pamela’s story, then I feel I have done something good. You know, drug addiction is a disease, but it’s not like cancer or diabetes. For way too long, parents have swept this under the carpet out of embarrassment. I have encountered parents who are so overwhelmed and embarrassed that they are totally in denial.”
She is ending her freshman term serving on the House Local Government & Finance Committee and the Tourism & Recreational Development Committee as she ambitiously pushes six House bills as a primary sponsor.
In her first term, she has authored and co-sponsored legislation that supports small business, public safety and aims to minimize the tax burden on middle class and working class families.