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No ‘I’ in ORCA

Civic elects new board, continues to focus on team-based approach

New faces, same old mission (from l to r): Nate Adams, Dan Martino, Don Gould, Rose Thomas and Matt Ludwig (not pictured) are the new board members for ORCA. The group remains committed to taking a team-based approach to tackling issues in Olde Richmond. MELISSA KOMAR / STAR PHOTO

By Melissa Komar

There’s a new civic board in town, but don’t expect many drastic changes.

Olde Richmond Civic Association nominated individuals in May and the new board members were officially announced and introduced at the June general meeting.

All board members were unopposed. Board members serve a two-year term.

A new face will lead ORCA, with three former board members returning and two individuals taking on a position for the first time.

Rose Thomas takes the reigns as president, with former four-year president Don Gould staying on as treasurer. Thomas most recently served as the group’s Clean Streets director and sergeant at arms.

Dan Martino, a Democratic candidate in May’s 177th Legislative District primary and the civic’s former secretary, will take on the role of vice president. Martino helped organize the neighborhood Town Watch.

Newcomers Nate Adams and Matt Ludwig will serve as secretary and sergeant at arms, respectively.

While there’s a new leader and some new members, the mission of ORCA remains the same: making Olde Richmond a better place to live.

“The thing about the board is we all work together,” Martino said. “So, specific roles are less important. It’s an all-hands-on-deck situation. When we have a project we want to tackle, we all do whatever we can to push it past the finish line.”

“Unless you’re Don [Gould], who does everything, with a smile on his face,” he added, laughing.

“But, he’ll never admit that,” Thomas added.

Gould is quick to chime in.

“I didn’t want to be quarterback anymore,” he said, the other board members laughing.

Gould has had his hand in virtually everything ORCA-related in the past four years, from the playground revitalization to Town Watch to beautification to zoning.

Everything except the group’s recent Bloom Your Block greening initiative, a partnership with Greensgrow, which encouraged residents to decorate their house fronts with plants and flowers. The first 60 participants received a $50 gift card from Greensgrow, and judges selected winners for different categories.

So, what does he see as his role now?

“To be part of the team,” he said. “And, the best two words are safe and clean. And, everything else will fall into place.”

Gould reenergized the civic when he became president four years ago and keeping the momentum going is key, according to Thomas.

“We want to continue what we’re doing and bring in more people to sustain what we’re doing because we’re a small group and this is a volunteer-led effort,” Thomas said. “And, we want to create a sustainable source of funding. Thinking about how to keep that energy going is critical. And, [Don’s] a big part of that.”

Martino agreed.

“Long-term, the goal is to keep the families who are here, here, make sure the schools are working and the streets are safe, so people aren’t thinking about moving away anytime soon,” he said. “We’re trying to build this community up, not that it was in bad shape. But, there’s always room for improvement.”

Adams and Ludwig are looking forward to being part of that momentum.

“The civic is where stuff gets done. This is where you find out what’s happening a block away from you that you wouldn’t know otherwise,” Adams said.

Thomas reached out to Adams about running for a position after interacting with him at meetings and cleanups.

“There are a lot of civics I’ve interfaced with over the course of reporting and being in the city, and a lot more neighborhoods would be lucky to have a civic like ORCA,” Adams said. “It’s a special thing going on here and who doesn’t want to be part of a special thing?”

“I am excited to be a part of a great group of people that are helping to foster a sense of community within the ORCA boundaries,” Ludwig said. “By creating opportunities like cleanup events, greening competitions, social events, and creating awareness of community resources, we are doing a bunch of small things that can make a big difference in bringing neighbors together. I want to be able to help build the momentum that others have already started, and be the best neighborhood in Philadelphia.”

The momentum for change in ORCA territory, like the board, includes a mix of old and new ideas.

The civic will continue with cleanups, another round of “Can It” trash cans will roll out soon, and a grant has been secured for cigarette receptacles to be placed throughout the neighborhood.

Regular movie nights, a home run derby, and generally, more community events, some fundraiser-based, are on the horizon.

And, while the board will be responsible for organizing major initiatives and making the public aware of what’s going on in the neighborhood, keeping the community’s interests front and center is first and foremost.

“The civic amplifies what the community wants and is the voice for the community,” Thomas said. “Being proactive and figuring out how to engage the community to maintain the space and help shape what happens so it’s not the same people in one room deciding all the time. The civic isn’t just talk. We’re taking what people say and making things happen.”

ORCA will hold its next general meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 28, from 7:30 to 9 p.m. at Cione Recreation Center, 2600 Aramingo Ave. For updates on the civic, visit the Olde Richmond Civic Association — ORCA Facebook page.

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