Tredyffrin resident Gwenn Mascioli gives back to our community in many ways. She's worked with several local volunteer organizations, personally befriended people she met on the street, and she made the time to talk with me one recent afternoon about the organizations and people she cares about. Gwenn is a T&E Care Everyday Hero because she cares and because she takes action when she sees a need. Through Social FUNdraising & Gathering she created a library for the students at Richard Wright Elementary School in Philadelphia. By following her heart, Gwenn finds the inspiration to help the people and communities around us.
I am from Bear Creek Village, a small community in Northeast Pennsylvania. Ironically my elementary school did not have a library. I remember one shelf of books above a desk in the Principal’s office. Growing up I thought that twenty-five was old. Now, at the young age of fifty-four, I know that our brains aren’t even fully developed until we’re twenty-six. I learned that from my work for ARCH (Area Residents Caring & Helping) another of my volunteer organizations. I love being 54. I’ve grown in so many ways and feel so much more secure with myself. After college I worked in the trade association business in Washington, DC, and Philadelphia. Trade associations function a lot like PTO’s. So I had more than a decade of experience managing volunteers, budgets, meetings, newsletters, and committees. When my oldest daughter started kindergarten I stopped working “outside the home.”
My first volunteer gig came when my kids got to Hillside Elementary. Back then I was new to the area, shy, and slowly feeling my way. I offered to help with the school newsletter. Over the years that became “my thing.” When the girls moved up to TE Middle my role of newsletter editor moved too. I created paper newsletters and blast emails for the schools, ARCH, and BPALL. I even did a few for Surrey Services. More than a decade of volunteer work introduced me to a lot of people – other moms and dads, community leaders, school administrators, even the police. Those connections definitely help fuel Social FUNdraising & Gathering collections and projects.
Social FUNdraising & Gathering (SFG) is officially “a bunch of do gooders with huge hearts, sharp minds, and thoughtful consciences.” We exist on Facebook and have more than 1,200 members. The creator, Bonnie Koss, and I met way before SFG – in 2004 when my youngest and her oldest were both in Mrs. Braun’s kindergarten class at Hillside. Our lives went in different directions, she moved from the district, and we lost touch. Fast forward more than a dozen years and we reconnected in a Body Pump class at UMLY. We became Facebook friends (of course ;) and I saw a post announcing that she was collecting books for a school in North Philly. With little more than the goal of helping MY friends with older kids clear out THEIR bookshelves I put out a call for gently used books. Dozens of boxes started piling up. That was four years ago. Today, along with Bonnie and several other volunteers, I’m happily enmeshed in the fabric of Richard Wright Elementary (RWE) well beyond the school library.
Note that Social FUNdraising and Gathering embraces a “TOGETHER we are stronger” approach. The ripple effect of what started in the library at Richard Wright has gone not only throughout that building but also spread to other schools in these food insecure neighborhoods.
I’m noticing an intersection of two of my volunteering passions. A decade of work with ARCH educated me on the disease of addiction. The stigmas. The family chaos it creates. The pervasiveness of the disease. The last few years at Richard Wright in Strawberry Mansion has educated me on some of the realities of poverty. The stigmas. The family chaos it creates. The pervasiveness of poverty and specifically how it impacts the schools in those communities. I’m passionate about both topics and meditating on how best to use what I’m learning for a greater good. A lot of people think that people who live in North Philadelphia are lazy and need to stop expecting handouts. That’s not what I see. Over the past four years I have learned to appreciate what it means to truly be “in need” of things. Things that I and many of my peers probably take for granted and would never dream of labeling as a luxury. Volunteering in the schools has taught me a lot about the bigger world. You know that I could have shared a very similar sentiment about drug addicts. I’m probably a little too consumed with how both communities are often misunderstood. The biggest challenge we face is moving outside our bubble, vacuum, echo chamber. One of my favorite phrases is that “you don’t know what you don’t know.”
I hope that there is snow for Christmas. I have to actively change the subject and lighten things up. I’m really not much fun to talk to at a cocktail party. My family is pretty cool. We have two daughters in college and I’m constantly amazed by how aware and engaged they are in current events. They are so much more informed than I was that their age. I’m very optimistic about our youth. My friends are pretty cool too. And, very generous. I always have fresh piles of donated items… college t-shirts, ties, Legos, books (hundreds of books!)… stacked in my garage, basement, family room, yadda yadda. My friends are creative as well. A few weeks ago a friend dropped off pumpkins that she made to look like Clifford the Big Red Dog and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. She offered them for display in the RWE library. After seeing similar pumpkins at TEMS she decided that the RWE kids would, could, should enjoy them too. A lot of people in my world have Richard Wright on their radar. I just adore my family and friends.
When I have a free minute I’ll work on a jigsaw puzzle. I’ve become a little obsessed with them and now have opinions about the shapes of puzzle pieces, the degree of difficulty, and lighting, blah blah blah. More proof that I can quickly kill a conversation at a cocktail party. If I could have any photo taken it would be at Richard Wright Elementary in Strawberry Mansion. Those kids and the school and the activity at the school… all so beautiful and full of photo opps. The last photo I took was of my dog who was sitting in the back seat of the car resting her head on the center console between our front seats. Millie is so cute. I’m constantly grabbing the camera. You have to love that we always have a camera in our “phone.” Don’t get me started on how phones are not phones – but devices that house cameras and the internet and oh my gosh… seriously – I’m really not fun to talk to at a cocktail party.
I was honored to meet T&E Care Everyday Hero, Samuel Cyubahiro, at his home in Wayne a few weeks ago. Samuel is a hard working Radnor High student who arrived in America just one year ago as a refugee from the Congo. Samuel lived through many very difficult experiences in the Congo, and is working hard to change his own life as well as the lives of those he's met along the way. In addition to studying hard for his classes, he makes the time to work after school, to financially help two teenage boys from his tribe who are still living in Africa. Samuel's spirit, attitude and heart are absolutely full of kindness and he's making a wonderfully positive impact on his community back home and in his new home here in Wayne.
I was born in the Congo. As a child I liked to spend enough time with my family and my friends, and to play soccer with my friends. I had fun with my family when my parents acted like kids. I was having a good time when my family, my mom, my dad acted like my best friend. When my parents acted as our age - so just playing together, making jokes - that was so much fun. My life started to change when I was 13 years old. There were different things starting to change in the school. Because, even if something was going on, in our normal life our parents was trying to hide it for us. They never wanted to tell us. They didn’t want us to be worried. They wanted to keep it to themselves. They wanted just to keep us happy. We started to see at school ourselves. Our friends and teachers started to show us what there is, what is going on.
I came to America in November 2016. I was 17. On the flight to the US during the beginning 15 minutes I was so nervous. I felt like I was going to fall down. But it was fun. I was having good time. I was super excited. My first week in America was super strange. I don’t know how I’m going to explain this, but it was really different because there was different things going on to see. It was super cold. It was really different. So other thing - I was without english and everybody we talk to, talked in english so it was really hard.
I got a job for a couple reasons. I like to do myself whatever I can. So whatever I can’t do, that’s when I’m going to ask help from someone else. But whatever I can I like to do myself. If I get a job, I can do more myself, more than to ask other people to help. I feel like I want to change my life. I am helping 2 boys and someone who takes care of them. I say that I’m going to help them because they were in the same situation I was in before, without parents, without family. And they really have a hard life. So before I leave Africa I told them "Whenever I get chance to get something, you will see". I promise them. I tell them I’m going to help you with whatever I can when I get the chance. They came from same place I was born. We grew up in the same place.
Something I like to do in my free time is to go to work out. But two months ago I wasn’t going because I had soccer almost everyday after school. But I’m going back on my normal life to work out almost every day. That’s what I like to do with my free time. My friends would say about me that Sam is a nice guy - that’s what I think. They will say, they never see me when I’m mad. They will say, I think they would tell me I’m a strong person. Because most of the time they tell me, what I come though and how I live my life everyday, not many people can do that. My biggest challenge at school is English. Because everything is in English. So even if you know some stuff, you don’t how to put in English. I’m going to say the language is a challenge for me. Homework is a lot. It is too much. To go to school you need to have something. There is something you learn when you are little kid. They learn how they can study. I never learn how to study. I don’t know how to study. I feel like there is some strategy to do school. I feel like I try to do my homework, but it is kind of tough.
If I could have my photo taken with anybody, I’m going to say - that’s a good question! Martin Luther King. If I think of celebrities there’s some soccer stars, but how they live outside of soccer, I don’t like that. My goal is to feel like I’ve done everything I’m supposed to be done in this world. I’ll be happy when I have someplace where there are orphans and widows and I say I’m helping the widows and orphans. When I see I’m doing something like that, then I’ll feel like I’m done. That’s my goal.
Photography and Interview by Emily Brunner Photography
To find out how you can help the refugee program at St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Wayne call 610-688-1313
To find out more about T&E Care visit www.tecare.org
Last week I met up with Mike Joson, the CEO and founder of Young Sports in Wayne. Mike shared some thoughts on youth sports and played a little ball with some of the most absolutely adorable athletes ever...
When I was growing up on the Main Line in the 80's, I enjoyed following the great Philly sports teams with my dad. As a kid playing sports I enjoyed being part of a team thru a season, the comradery and the working together to reach goals. As a Dad with kids I love spending as much time as I can with them.
I am always surprised that I have been fortunate to work in an environment that is all about fun! I love the range of creativity you can pursue as an entrepreneur. I hate the amount of screen time I feel the younger generation is getting consumed by more and more. I find inspiration in seeing children finding enjoyment and success in a program I created, Young Sports. I believe that coaching on the field should always lead to a positive rewarding experience for all involved and that teaching is a great responsibility.
Someday I would love to expand Young Sports into other towns.
Yesterday I was playing tag with my 5 and 7 year old boys at a playground. Tomorrow I look forward to many more simple moments thru life with them!
Photography and interview by Emily Brunner Photography
For more information about Young Sports visit https://www.young-sports.com/
I was thrilled when this beautiful family called me up to talk about taking some extended family pictures at Valley Forge Park. Their entire family had gathered from near and far for a long weekend and they thought it would be the perfect opportunity to take some new portraits. I was even more thrilled to meet everyone at Washington's Headquarter's on a Friday afternoon in late summer. Everyone from grandpa down to little sister was so kind, happy and full of fun! We posed the family for pictures and ran through the fields around the house where George Washington worked and lived during the American Revolution. Family photo session are always a fun adventure. This was definitely a case of "the more, the merrier"!
If your family is interested in some new family pictures and you live in or nearby the Main Line area, send me a note and we'll plan a session for you!
Fifteen years ago, I took my last photos on film with no fanfare or foresight to just how much digital photography would change how we take and use photographs. My last few photos were taken using a roll of Kodak T-max black & white 100 film shortly after I had moved from the cold winters of Chicago to the sunny beaches of Bermuda. My husband and I made the move in the late spring of 2002 and I began using a Canon Powershot digital camera which literally fell apart many years ago. After I started shooting with a digital camera, I never touched film again - until I discovered this undeveloped roll of film in an old camera bag just a couple of months ago.
I suspected that the images on the film would cover my last year of living in Chicago. I had no memory at all of the individual photos I had taken with it. I knew that I had a real, yet unintentional time capsule from my own life, 15 years ago! I took the film to Paoli Fotobar to have it developed and printed. I also expected the images to be damaged from sitting in a moldy, dark and humid sub-tropical attic for 3 years. Getting the prints back and seeing them for the first time was such a special experience! It turned out that most of the photos were from our early days of living in Bermuda. I expected to have many more from Chicago - I don't even remember using my old film camera in Bermuda! The most moving part of the experience was seeing a couple of photos of my cat, Tinker, who passed away early this year. It was really sweet to see the photos of her and very sad to know these were the last new images of her that I would ever see.
I am loving how in black & white and with the grain from a film camera, some of these images look much older than they are. The black & white images from my digital camera today are just so incredibly sharp and vibrant compared to these! I am also really enjoying seeing brand new images from my perspective 15 years ago. I'll have to figure out a way to leave myself another time capsule to be opened in the decades to come!
Last week I met up with Valley Forge Middle School teacher and TESD school board candidate Kyle Boyer for some after school shopping. We talked a bit about his past, his future and why he’s waiting for a phone call from Allen Iverson…
Something that might surprise you about me is that I am a huge Star Wars fan… I think it might be all of the philosophy and religion in Star Wars that has always intrigued me… I always try to end a day on a positive note. I never want to finish a work day or go to sleep on a negative note as it colors the whole day negative. I also never want to take more than I give. I want to make sure I'm contributing as much as I'm receiving, whether that's at work, at school, or with my family and friends.
When I’m driving in my car I'm usually listening to Google Maps to find the quickest route. I use Google Maps to go everywhere just because I know it will give me the fastest route. My typical grocery list includes by default eggs, yogurt, some form of salad greens – usually romaine and kale, and ground chicken. Everything else is a pile of variables… When I’m waiting in the checkout line I'm usually organizing my items for scan and bagging - my first job was as bagger at the Devon Acme!
If I could have my photo taken with anyone, I'd love to have a photo taken with Allen Iverson. To be honest I'm not sure why that hasn't happened yet… Next month I want to be meeting as many community members as possible in preparation for a school board election in November. In ten years I hope to still be making a positive impact on the community. And I want to have published at least two books!
To find out more about Kyle's awesome work in our community check out www.facebook.com/boyerfortesb
Photography and interview by Emily Brunner Photography
For all families, some years mark more milestones that others. For this family, this year was a big one. With two graduates, one from college and another from high school, they had a lot to celebrate! We met up in Valley Forge Park one hot evening in July. You probably couldn't tell from the photos, but just minutes before we arrived, a rainbow filled the sky above the park! Luckily the rain dried quickly and we had a great time taking photos and talking about summer vacations and plans for the big moves lying just ahead. As a family photographer, I love talking with my families and hearing about their lives, through all of the exciting adventures that unfold. I am sure that this family has many more amazing milestones ahead!
Summer ended today for my family. The kids are at school and I'm in my office, writing this blog post, procrastinating on catching back up to the pace of everyday life when school and work are in full swing. It was just one week ago, yesterday, that we returned from our vacation at LBI. We spent a week relaxing up in the dunes at Barnegat Light and then another week playing at all of the fun places in Beach Haven. I wanted to share some of my favorite memories form our trip. As you can see, we spent the majority of our time either in the water or at it's edge. Time just flies at the beach - we set up our spot after breakfast and before we know it, the lifeguards are blowing their last whistle of the day. I hope the winter months ahead will fly by just as quickly!
I guarantee you that there are tears at every summer swim meet. Some of the kids end up crying for a whole slew of reasons, the grown ups for another reason all together. A reason that we might not understand ourselves. Every time I hear the whole team shout "Idee, Idee, Idee, Oh" I tear up a little and I don't even really know what those words mean. The two months of the summer that my family spends at the pool for swim team are some of my favorite days of the year. I love seeing how the big kids take the little kids under their wings, how the little kids swim so bravely even when their goggles fall off, and how everyone screams and cheers for their teammates. I'm so lucky that my family is a part of an awesome swim club and team here on the Main Line.
I'll admit that I usually like to leave my camera at home on meet days. Swim races go by super fast and I really like to be in the moment, watching my kids swim across the pool for those few seconds. Watching the races from behind a lens isn't quite the same experience. However, I do love to go to a couple of meets a season as the photographer, rather than as the swim mom. There are so many amazing moments to capture at any given meet and I really love looking back through my photos in the cold weeks of winter to remind me of those endless summer days. There is no place I'd rather be in the summer as a swim mom and as a youth sports photographer!
It is so inspiring to witness beautiful moments. One of the best parts of being a family photographer is getting a front row seat to to some of the best times in people's lives. I feel completely blessed to have been a part of the Prudente family's reunion at Swarthmore College this June. The family had many things to celebrate: a 90th birthday, a wedding, a ball field naming and the perfect opportunity for the entire family to get together. The afternoon at Swarthmore started with a sweet wedding at the Friends Meeting House. Following the wedding, we moved outside to the gardens for some formal family portraits. Then we all made our way over to the baseball field for a toast to the newly named "Prudente Press Box" behind home plate. Grandpa, Coach Ernie Prudente, coached Swarthmore College's baseball team for many years. I can imagine how a beautiful weekend with his whole family must have felt as they celebrated his 90th birthday, his daughter's wedding and the naming of the press box in his honor. I am just so happy to have been a part of the festivities for a couple of hours. This is exactly why I am a photographer!
Hi there! I'm Emily and I'm thrilled that you stopped by!! I hope you can relax and read along, while I share a little bit about my work, life and love of photography. I hope you find some inspiration here to light your own life and share your own story!