Ready, Set, Sweat!

The New Year offers some trendy options to spice up your health and wellness regimen, but you still have to put in the work

The New Yorker recently published an article about a pill that seemingly eliminates the need for a workout: Just swallow it and get the same results as if you had exercised. One problem: At the end of the article, it’s revealed that none of the inventors had tried the pill—an ominous commentary on a supposedly miracle drug.

So, as we enter 2018, it seems there still is nothing that will take the place of sweat equity. But the good news is there are plenty of new and trendy health and wellness offerings to take your mind off the monotony of the typical gym—or home—workout. There are online challenges, innovative classes, “social” sports, fitness apps and clean eating.

Take the Plank/Squat Challenge

Planks and squats are two simple, basic exercises that have become the focus of online “challenges.”

The plank is a push-up like exercise with the body’s weight borne on forearms, elbows and toes. Its popularity has increased over the last decade or so, perhaps because it’s a total body workout, perfect for a toned core, requiring no equipment and only enough floor space to accommodate your body.

The squat has been around forever and is considered the king of lower-body exercises. The standard squat is done with a barbell resting on the person’s shoulders, but it can be done without weights.

Plank and squat challenges usually last 30 days, with participants tasked with gradually increasing the time in the pose every day or two. A plank challenge might start with holding the pose for 30 seconds and end a month later at three minutes. Like the plank, the squat challenge uses no weights, instead focusing its poses on the glutes, thighs and core. One online 30-day challenge starts at 50 squats and ends with 250.

Research suggests it takes an average of two months to make something a habit, so start now and you’ll be doing this on a regular basis by March.

Variety is the Spice of Life

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is one of the hottest exercises on the health and fitness scene—for good reason.

Classes, typically 30 minutes or less, toggle between high and low intensity for increased fat burning. Instead of relying on steady-state cardio exercises (where your heart rate stays at a certain threshold), HIIT’s on-again, off-again intensity can lead to rapid results.

Scott McCarthy, owner and personal trainer at Balance Strength & Fitness Center, recommends HIIT.

Scott McCarthy, owner and personal trainer at Balance Strength & Fitness Center near Fourth Street and Greenhill Avenue, added HIIT classes a year-and-a-half ago. “It’s become one of the fastest growing parts of our business,” he says. “It makes up 15 percent of our membership base.”

In addition to HIIT, small group training has become increasingly popular. The reason? “Clients want to show up, work out (efficiently) in a social setting, and get good results,” says McCarthy.

Trainers cap sessions at 10 participants, so they can actively monitor everyone’s technique.

Bodies in Motion

Another trend is “functional fitness”—classes dedicated to making everyday movements easier. Think walking up and down stairs, playing football with the kids, and picking up bags of groceries.

Says McCarthy: “It’s the antithesis of the CrossFit image, which sometimes teaches improper technique and could lead to injuries. Clients are now hyperfocused on (proper) movement, which can improve balance, strength, flexibility and coordination.”

Located off Kentmere Parkway and Rockford Road, FIT Delaware provides a full range of fitness opportunities, including personal and group training. Trainer Todd Brown says he has noticed a big shift in the industry from last year’s focus on “traditional exercises by body part” to functional training. Brown likes to change the angles of exercise every couple of days. By altering the angles, his clients work a different portion of the same muscle. He sees the most success by working different muscle groups multiple times a week.

“This summer,” Brown says, “I worked with a couple of college athletes to get them in shape for the fall season using this methodology. At the end of our time together, they all thought they were much stronger at the beginning of the season than in years past.”

Body-Weight Training

Body-weight training or working without weights has become another in-demand alternative to using cumbersome, sweat-stained exercise equipment.

Body-weight training allows you to work out at home, in the park or even at the gym without any equipment. Getting started is easy and can consist of a couple of different exercises like push-ups, planks, burpees, jump squats, lunges, box jumps and more.

Social Sports

As we age, being and staying active becomes an important aspect of our lives. We often build our activities around our most important relationships—family and friends. And that’s how social sports started.

Locally, the movement led to the creation of two organizations geared to adults of all ages: Delaware Sports League and Philadelphia Area Disc Alliance (PADA)—Delaware satellite league.

“People are starting to discover that health and wellness are vitally important within our daily lives,” says Bob Downing, co-founder and owner of Delaware Sports League, headquartered in Wilmington.

“There has been a renaissance of thinking, specifically with young professionals, who realize that how we spend our time with ourselves and others is extremely important to our well-being.”

The league creates a less intensive exercise environment for people that’s accessible to every person, not just athletes. Says Downing: “We’ve evolved quite a bit over the years. In 2018, we are refocusing our mission on pairing physical and mental wellness together.” 

For those looking for a new challenge (or sport), there’s also PADA. Founded in 1985, PADA provides “opportunities to learn, teach and play Ultimate (frisbee) while fostering community, character and competition within the greater Philadelphia region.”

In Delaware, PADA provides opportunities for nearly 300 players per year and—since a key feature is its inclusiveness—it always welcomes new players. The league attempts to ensure that teams are “fair and balanced to create a fun and competitive environment,” says Andrew Wisor, PADA Delaware council member of the Philadelphia-based association.

If you’re interested in joining, Wisor suggests the spring league. “It tends to be the most beginner-friendly league because it’s when we get the most new players joining. There’s always a lot of teaching going on, both on and off the fields, from captains and players alike.”

Fitness at Your Fingertips

Too busy for the gym?  Maybe fitness apps are for you. They allow you to view videos anywhere—phone, smart TV or computer—making working out easy, fast and convenient for those always on the go.

Fitness Blender, for instance, provides “workout videos for every fitness level—absolutely free.” It’s an ideal solution for the workout beginner or those who may be intimidated by the meatheads at their local gym.

There’s also Daily Burn, a free, 30-day trial app that reverts to an affordable monthly paid plan for those eager for a more tailored plan led by professional trainers.

Clean Eating

In addition to exercise, clean eating is essential to a healthy lifestyle. Clean eating follows a simple list of tenets: eat less refined foods (no donuts and bagels!), eat more whole foods (produce, grains, etc.), eat less meat and limit sugar and salt intake. BBC’s Good Food predicts that this year veganism and plant-based proteins will be the trendy options at your local restaurant or grocer.

Karen Igou, owner and operator of Delaware Local Food Exchange, has been a leader in the clean eating movement from her store in Trolley Square.

“People know the basics to clean eating,” she says. “It follows what our mothers and grandmothers taught us. However, [clean eating] is not easy. Most of the focus is on healthcare (the results) and less on eating quality food [to begin with],” says Igou.

Delaware Local Food Exchange provides a bountiful selection of local produce, snacks, sundries and meat. Igou sources the highest quality meat and vegetable-based proteins for her customers and in-house prepared foods. Most popular is the grass-fed chicken salad, which can sell out within hours after it goes on sale.

Says Igou, “I’ve noticed a lot of customers going vegan for both the environmental and the health benefits. To meet demand, we stock fun vegan choices like enchilada pie, tempeh chicken salad and lentil loaf.”

In addition to clean eating, Igou says that her “typical fitness routine—yoga, meditation, core strengthening exercises, and a gratitude journal”—keeps her healthy.

While you might opt to skip the gratitude journal, you have plenty of options to choose from as you plan your 2018 fitness regimen. Join a gym, hire a personal trainer, or take a brisk walk. Just remember to eat well and move around a lot.

Worth Recognizing: Community Members Who Go Above & Beyond

Isabel Hendrixson: A Caring Presence in the Final Moments

Seven years ago, Isabel Hendrixson was asked to volunteer for a job she thought she couldn’t possibly do.

For almost two decades, the 74-year-old has volunteered at local hospitals, greeting and directing patients, families, and visitors at the information desk, working at the gift shop, and helping coordinate hospital events. Yet when she was recruited for the No One Dies Alone program, the Wilmington resident felt unqualified.

An international program initiated by a nurse in Eugene, Ore., in 2001, and introduced at Christiana Care in 2010, NODA ensures that dying patients without loved ones close by do not die alone. These are patients who have out-lived loved ones or whose families and friends are geographically or emotionally distant and are unable or unwilling to be present. Most have 24-48 hours to live.

Hendrixson says that, at first, she wondered if her words and her touch would truly bring peace to the person. But time and again, when she entered the hospital room, something in her lit up and the doubts vanished.

“When you walk into that room, you’re a different person,” she says. “It’s no longer about you, but about the patient. You become very strong and you devote yourself to helping that person move on and be at peace.”

Although the patients are sedated, she learned during her three hours of training that hearing and touch are the last senses to go. From a bag provided by the hospital, she pulls out soothing CDs, and poetry and spiritual books to read, and she holds the patient’s hand.

In a journal that is available to family and friends, Hendrixson makes a record of her two-hour vigil, including any details about how the patient died, if that should happen during her shift.

Since joining the program, she has assisted more than 15 NODA patients. The youngest was in her teens, the oldest in his 90s.

Between one and three NODA patients die per month at Christiana Care, where there are 15 vigil volunteers, according to Margarita Rodriguez-Duffy, director of Visitor and Volunteer Services. “These extraordinary volunteers consider it a privilege to provide death with dignity to our patients,” says Rodriguez-Duffy.

Last October, Hendrixson, who retired from DuPont in 2002, received the Wilmington Award for her volunteer services at the former Riverside Hospital on Lea Boulevard, Wilmington Hospital and Christiana Care.

She says that although being part of NODA can be heart-wrenching, it’s also soul-filling. Every time you do something you think you can’t do, it builds your courage and confidence, making it easier to face life’s challenges, she says.

What’s more, she has learned through the program not to be afraid of death. “Death is part of life,” she says. “I’m glad I can help in some way.”


Cancer surgery took 20 percent of Kevin Reilly’s body, but it couldn’t take the former Eagle’s zest for life. In a new book, he looks back on his battle to survive—and thrive.

Kevin Reilly arrived for our interview at Hollywood Grill around 7:30, straight from attending morning mass with his 91-year-old father at nearby St. Mary Magdalen Church. It’s a ritual the father and son follow a couple of times a week. Indeed, faith is one of the bedrock principles of the Reilly family and one that has helped steer the Salesianum alumnus and former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker through the fires of hell.

Nearly 39 years ago, in New York City’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital, a surgeon removed Reilly’s left shoulder, left arm and four ribs. Earlier surgery had cost him his shoulder blade and collarbone—all in an effort to eradicate the cancerous desmoid tumor that had caused him excruciating pain and threatened his life. All told, when he was wheeled from the operating room on that chilly October day in 1979, he had lost 20 percent of his body. His road to recovery was marked by more pain, depression and, ultimately, victory, thanks to his tight-knit family, friends, his aforementioned faith, and the fortitude of a gritty athlete.

One of his first obstacles was created by the alleged “pep talk” he received a few days after the operation from a World War II veteran who also had lost his left arm. Explaining that he was there to offer support, the vet proceeded to list all the things the new amputee would be unable to do, including tie a tie or his shoelaces. He added that running—a regular part of Reilly’s workouts—without pain would be almost impossible because his body would be out of balance.

Today, the 66-year-old Reilly, a much sought-after public speaker, often ends his talks by demonstrating how he ties a tie. Since the operation, he has run the Caesar Rodney Half Marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon, and he currently logs about 8 or 9 miles a week, in addition to lifting weights. And he can drive a nail.

The intense Reilly was special teams captain with the Eagles. Photo courtesy of Kevin Reilly

Reilly details his recovery and much more in a candid, 205-page autobiography, Tackling Life. Published last month, the book discusses his career at Sallies, Villanova and the NFL, where he played for the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins in addition to the Eagles. He also touches on his divorce and his decision several years ago to give up alcohol. Now happily remarried, he dotes on his 10 grandchildren, babysitting at every opportunity, while pursuing a speaking and broadcasting schedule that takes him throughout the country.

He discussed the book and his remarkable life in an hour-and-a-half interview at the Concord Pike diner. Following are some highlights. 

The genesis for the book: “It had been in the back of my mind for a while,” Reilly says. “After almost every speech, there would be a line of 20 or so people who wanted to talk, and they would ask if I had a CD or a book.” He finally decided to start the project in March of 2016, after he made the kickoff speech to an audience of 1,800 at the Catholic Men’s Conference in Philadelphia. He got a rousing reception, and another speaker told him: “You could’ve sold 500 books today.”

Reilly’s friend of 40 years, John Riley, agreed to help, and they soon set up a routine: Reilly would write 15 pages or so in longhand (“I have good handwriting,” says the Sallies grad), then give them to Riley, who would massage the words. Reilly’s daughter-in-law, Erica, served as editor and advisor and helped to type the manuscript. The result is a good read whose early chapters contrast the traumatic operation and his recovery with his athletic career.   

Overcoming his limitations: In the book, Reilly credits Rocky Bleier, a mainstay of the legendary Pittsburgh Steeler Super Bowl teams, with helping him get past the deflating lecture from the WWII vet. At the hospital, Bleier, who was wounded in Vietnam and told by doctors he would never play football again, urged Reilly not to let other people set limitations on him. “Promise me you won’t quit on anything until you try it three times,” Bleier said.

Ever the over-achiever, Reilly tried some things many more times than three. He revealed that it took him about 20 tries to learn how to knot a tie one-handed. The secret, he says, “was when I finally learned to use my mouth. Then it was just a matter of figuring it out.”

The Salesianum alum held a well-attended book-signing at his alma mater in early December. Photo Anthony Santoro

Reilly’s father built the family’s home in Blue Rock Manor and Reilly himself worked one summer for a Wilmington contractor, so he knows his way around tools. Driving a nail was a challenge until he learned to start it by holding it between two fingers, placing the flat side of the hammer against the head, and pounding it into the work surface.

Linebacker humor, and some vintage Biden: Football players aren’t noted for their sensitivity, and an incident not in the book illustrates how a couple of former Eagle teammates—also linebackers—helped Reilly maintain a sense of humor about his handicap. When he and Bill Bergey were doing a WDEL broadcast at Stanley’s Tavern in North Wilmington, they were joined one night by Frank LeMaster, who played for the Birds from 1974-82. It was Christmas time, and Bergey and LeMaster surprised Reilly with a gift: The Clapper—the device that turns lights on and off and is activated by hands clapping. “How the hell am I supposed to use this?” Reilly laughed, whereupon Bergey grabbed Reilly’s hand and slapped him on the cheek with it.

Another helpful and equally less-than-gentle encounter occurred not long after he lost his arm to surgery. An old friend, then Sen. Joe Biden, came up to Reilly following a speech and imparted a Joe-being-Joe admonishment: “You’re fat. Get back to the gym!”—advice the workout addict promptly followed, with his usual fervor.

How he got his nickname: In the book, Reilly mentions his nickname, “Tick,” but doesn’t explain how he got it. It seems he has former Philadelphia quarterback Roman Gabriel to thank. By the end of the 1973 season, Reilly had played a total of 21 games (seven exhibitions with the Dolphins and Eagles and 14 regular season contests), and the wear-and-tear dropped his weight from 225 to 209. So in the offseason he embarked on a rigorous exercise and diet regimen to pack on the pounds, and he reported to training camp in ’74 at 228. “But it was all in my chest and shoulders,” says the 6-2 Reilly, which left his legs looking out of proportion. When he stepped on the scales, Gabriel was standing nearby. “Reilly,” he yelled, “what the hell happened to you? You look like a bloated tick.” The name has stuck with his ex-Eagles teammates.

How sales are going: “The book is exploding,” says the newly-minted author. “I just hired part-time help.” It’s available on Amazon ($20 paperback, $9 Kindle) or on the website: 

Getting Sidetracked

This was not the column I was going to write. Traditionally, I would use this space to introduce our annual Worth Trying Issue, then go on to make a few hopeful suggestions for the new year.

But a funny thing happened on my way to the next paragraph…

While I was composing, a good friend emailed me a link to a story in The News Journal concerning an outbreak of violence at a youth football tournament in Middletown in early December. The behavior resulted in one event (Big East All-American Bowl) being terminated mid-tournament and a second event, scheduled for the following weekend (National Youth Football Championships), being cancelled.

The events, wonderful opportunities for young athletes to showcase their skills—not to mention a significant boost to the local economy because many of the 40 teams expected were from out of state—got called off because of horrendous parent behavior (fights among parents, the assault of an official, and other threats and confrontations). One incident occurred during play in the age 7-and-under division, as an irate parent challenged an official to meet him in the parking lot after the game. Yes, the 7-and-under division.

As my friend and I exchanged impassioned give-and-take regarding the pros and cons of cancelling the tournament, the comments of a parent quoted in the story grabbed my attention:

There should have been more state police at the games because these teams come from all walks of life and you never know what you are going to see.

Now, I’m sure equating certain “walks of life” with bad behavior was not the parent’s intention; however, that is unequivocally how I interpreted it. I doubt I am alone. It’s the classic other-side-of-the-tracks stereotype, a reference that strikes a nerve with me.

For years, a guy I grew up with used to kid me about “doing all right for myself considering I came from the other side of the tracks.” No insult intended—in his mind it was a compliment —but his fundamental assumption was something I couldn’t reconcile. Implied in his statement was that people on his side of the tracks were superior. Implied in his statement was that those on the other side were not, because of where we lived.

Now, it’s easy to dismiss my reaction as being overly sensitive. Compared to the bias minorities face, it certainly is. But consider: 30 years later I’m still bothered by a little joke suggesting people from my side of the tracks are inferior. Imagine daily doses of it.

This is the slippery slope we traverse when we make hasty generalizations. Often, we don’t realize we’ve gone too far until we’ve gone too far. Then it’s too late.

Isn’t it ironic that we demand to be viewed as unique, yet are so quick to pigeonhole others? We assign behavior characteristics based merely on geography, income, religion, political affiliation, race. It manifests itself everywhere, from our political debate to the policing of our streets.

So, the real tragedy in Middletown isn’t simply that a football tournament got cancelled. It’s that good kids from the wrong side of the tracks got lumped in with bad ones and opportunities vanished—opportunities that don’t happen in daily doses.

We’re attracting the wrong crowd. These events draw a bad demographic. Let’s just pull the plug!

No! Evaluate the situation with the proper perspective: You were the unfortunate victims of bad behavior, despite commendable intentions. Bad behavior occurs in all walks of life. So, you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. You institute a code of conduct, require a refundable deposit based on sportsmanship, beef up security.

Or, put another way, you throw out the bad apples. Please don’t cut down the tree.

As for the introduction of this issue, I can introduce it in a sentence: Welcome to our eighth annual Worth Trying Issue, in which our esteemed staff and contributors share opinions on people, places and things they deem worthy of your time. Enjoy.

The War On Words

Media Watch

• Both Sen. Al Franken and the president seem to have tactile problems. Various media quoted Democrat Franken thusly: “I feel badly” about grabbing a woman’s butt at the Minnesota State Fair a few years ago. Likewise, the (nominal) Republican in the White House says he “feels badly” for his buddy, Gen. Mike Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. Attention, politicians and everyone else: when feelings/emotions are involved, you feel bad . . . or good. To feel badly is to have problems with your sense of touch.

• From an email by the president of the National Federation of Press Women: “There’s only 41 days until we will celebrate the New Year.” Such a mistake—using there’s, the contraction for there is, where there are is required because of the plural noun —is rampant, but particularly egregious when committed by the leader of a national organization of communicators.

• Lindsay Schnell, in USA TODAY: “If you don’t think East Coast bias is real, come take up residence on the West Coast for awhile.” Should be a while, a noun phrase that means “a period of time.” Awhile has a similar meaning, but it’s an adverb and is used in such sentences as “she rested awhile.” This can be confusing, but in most cases a while will be your best choice, and always when preceded by “for.”

• Josephine Peterson, in the Wilmington News Journal: “But the same tenants of the constitution . . .” Tenants are occupants of houses or apartments. The word needed here is tenets, meaning principles or beliefs. And Constitution should be capitalized, since the reference was to the U.S. Constitution.

• Derrick Gunn, Comcast sports guy, called the Eagles-Cowboys game “a backyard brawl.” No, it’s not. Backyard denotes proximity, so a Pittsburgh Steelers-Cleveland Browns game qualifies, or University of Pittsburgh vs. West Virginia. But Philly and Dallas? A little too far apart.

• A radio report on the shortage of Christmas trees included this from a tree farmer: “There was a glutton of them a few years ago.” He meant glut. Glutton, of course, describes someone who overindulges in food.

• Finally, courtesy of a reader, another from a NJ story about a fire in Richardson Park: “Her, along with other neighbors, ran out to help.” Her ran out? Really? That should be she, of course.

From the Hard to Believe, Harry Dept.

Reader Walt DelGiorno reports that on a trip to Oregon he and his wife stopped at a restaurant with this sign on the door: “We know longer serve breakfast.” And the menu offered a “Ceaser” salad.


I recently came across two instances in which “dear” (a term of affection) was used where “deer” (the animal) was correct. One was on Facebook (not surprising at all), and one in USA TODAY (semi-surprising).  That got me thinking about words that sound alike, differ slightly in spelling, and have entirely different meanings. Here are a few:

alter: to change, amend.  altar: the structure in churches where offerings are made.

hanger: a device used to hang clothes.  hangar: where planes are kept.

stationary: unmoving. stationery: paper products.

ladder: a structure used for climbing. latter: situated or occurring nearer to the end of something than to the beginning.

complimentary: denoting a compliment, praise.

complementary: completing something else or improving it.

exercise: physical activity, or, as a verb, to use or apply.

exorcise: to drive out or attempt to drive out, especially an evil spirit.

baloney: nonsense. bologna: a large sausage; or, capped, a city in northern Italy.

Department of Redundancies Dept.

• Reader Janet Strober calls out this sentence in Foreign Body, by Robin Cook: “Neil got his key card, left his room, and descended down to the lobby level.”

• And two utterances I head on local radio: “adult woman,” and “15-year-old teenager.”

Need a speaker for your organization? Contact me for a fun PowerPoint presentation on grammar:

Follow me on Twitter: @thewaronwords

Word of the Month:


Pronounced BA-fuhl-gab, it’s a noun meaning obscure, pompous, or incomprehensible language, such as bureaucratic jargon.

Seen a good (bad) one lately? Send your candidates to

The Question: WhyFly?

The answer: Yes, please, as more users sign up with this start-up that provides ‘gluten-free internet’

Do a Google search for “WhyFly” and the first things that pop up are testimonials from pilots about the joys of flying an airplane. After that come websites that give you tips on the sport of fly fishing (it’s all in the wrist). Finally, you find it—WhyFly, the start-up internet service provider that’s located in the small city of Wilmington and is ready to take on the big boys of cyberspace.

WhyFly’s approach has been simple and, so far, profitable: They offer more for less and they do it with a neighborhood vibe that has convinced many residents and businesses to sign up with them instead of internet giants like Comcast and Verizon.

WhyFly is the brainchild of Mike Palita and Mark Thompson. Palita is from Oxford, Pa., and worked for Capital One Bank as director of data center technology before leaving to start WhyFly, and Thompson is from Newark and left his founding post with Media Analytics, located in West Chester, Pa., to join Palita in the new venture.

The real motivation for WhyFly came when Thompson moved to Wilmington in 2016 and was dismayed at the state of internet connections in the city. He and Palita decided to start their own company and eventually set up shop in the Nemours Building, where they also won over their first significant customer—The Mill, another young start-up company that rents co-worker office space to various clients, including WhyFly. The Mill has about 200 clients and one of the first was WhyFly, which also wired The Mill and all its resident businesses for the internet.

“With the current providers out there, they [The Mill] were getting some pretty high rates and they still weren’t getting enough band-width to support the needs that they had,” says Nick Sabean, director of marketing for WhyFly. “The internet is basically a commodity at this point—people need this service, they need to connect to the internet. So, they gave us a shot.”

Robert Herrera, who owns and operates The Mill, found kindred spirits in the WhyFly gang, which is one of the reasons he gave them that shot. But Herrera admits he was initially skeptical when he gave the newly-hatched company the critical job of supplying internet service to his offices.

“It was definitely a big risk at first,” Herrera says. “Now it seems like it was a long time ago, when you see how well they’re doing. They really had a vision—to supply superior internet service at reasonable prices—and they made it happen with hard work and determination. They’re the perfect poster child for what The Mill is all about and they’re a great addition to the City of Wilmington.”

WhyFly can offer better rates because it’s focused on the internet and not on television and all the hassles and expenses that come with cable. And with more and more people—especially younger people—cutting the cord to their cable services, WhyFly has found its market. They like to call it “gluten-free internet” because of its simplified format.

“We launched the residential production in June,” Sabean says, “and were able to deliver service that has no contracts, costs $55 a month and is able to give you anywhere from 75 to 120 megabits [per second] of upload and download speed, and low latency [the amount of time between a given command and its response], which is actually the biggest issue about connectivity.”

Another big selling point for WhyFly is the fact that it’s local—if you call for technical service, that call is answered by somebody a couple of blocks away instead of a couple of continents away. Even in today’s high-tech world, that local touch is appreciated by WhyFly’s customers. That includes Loretta Walsh, a long-time member of Wilmington’s City Council. She switched to WhyFly and was so pleased with her choice that she even placed a rave review on the company’s Facebook page.

“After an hour-and-a-half on hold and being transferred repeatedly to agents with my past provider, I called WhyFly Wilmington,” Walsh says. “Kevin [Kriss, vice-president of operations] answered my call and within three hours two installers were at my home. These gentlemen were smart, courteous and had my new Wi-Fi system set up in less than two hours. I now have high-speed, no-hassle service from a local start-up in Wilmington.”

Sabean says WhyFly already has more than 2,000 businesses and residences wired up and that number is growing every month as word of mouth spreads and one local business after another hops on board. In fact, Sabean says that WhyFly offers an incentive for that word of mouth: They will give a month of free internet to anybody who refers them to another customer. One customer already has 18 months of free service coming his way.

A small business that recently switched to WhyFly is Lou’s Pawn Shop on North Market Street. They negotiated with Verizon and Comcast and weren’t happy with what they heard, so when WhyFly came calling they decided to give the new, upstart company a try.

“Suddenly, these guys were on the scene with a great offer and we couldn’t be happier,” says Matt (who didn’t want his last name used), the manager of Lou’s Pawn Shop. “We’ve had no problems at all with them. They’re always checking with us to see how the service is and you don’t get that kind of individual attention from the big companies. They’ve delivered everything they promised and more and we’re very happy with the service they’ve provided.”

WhyFly has grown so much, so quickly, that it’s moving most of its operations to a new headquarters on 6th Street between Orange and Shipley. Sabean says that should give the company more sidewalk visibility and strengthen its reputation as a friendly neighbor that you can count on.

WhyFly also has plans to expand to Newark and Rehoboth Beach and after that, the company will investigate moving into Pennsylvania and beyond, although they always want to keep that small-town feeling to their operation.

After that, well, who knows?

“In five to 10 years I see them hitting a lot of mid-size cities that have a similar demographic to Wilmington, and being as successful there as they are here,” Herrera says. “And the beautiful thing about it is that Wilmington will always be their hub.”

Forty Years of Service to the Poor

Led by the indefatigable Brother Ronald Giannone, the Ministry of Caring has spearheaded dozens of charitable projects aimed at the under-served. This month, it launches another: The $22 million Village of St. John.

Brother Ronald Giannone established the Ministry of Caring in Wilmington in 1977 with a house, purchased for $5,000, that became a shelter for homeless women.

But that was just a start. Giannone has always been a big thinker, and over the intervening 40 years, he has grown the ministry into a charity that runs 20 programs in 29 buildings throughout Wilmington, with an annual budget of about $11 million.

Childcare, dining rooms, emergency shelters, long-term and transitional housing for the homeless, for senior citizens, for men and women suffering from AIDS and HIV: If there’s a need, the Ministry of Caring is there to fill it. Throughout those four decades, Giannone has been guided by the ministry’s basic principle: “The poor should not be treated poorly.”

This month, the charity will launch another massive project—the transformation of the former Cathedral Church of St. John, a landmark in Wilmington’s Brandywine Village for more than 150 years, into a residential complex designed to serve moderate and low-income seniors and the working poor, age 62 and older.

Early in December, the ministry will go to settlement and close the deal to purchase the cathedral complex from the Episcopal Diocese of Delaware for $651,800—a steep discount from the original asking price of $1.7 million. A grant from the Longwood Foundation will cover the purchase price.
Following a groundbreaking ceremony Dec. 15, construction will begin, says Priscilla Rakestraw, the ministry’s director of development. The project, dubbed the Village of St. John, now carries a $22 million price tag, and all but $2 million has been raised, primarily through a combination of grants from foundations and businesses, the state, Wilmington and New Castle County governments, and a variety of tax credits available for developing low-income housing and restoring historic sites.

Ready by 2019

Repurposing the former Cathedral Church of St. John, which is more than 150 years old, will be key to the new project. Photo by Moonloop Photography

The goal, Rakestraw says, is to have 53 apartments—a combination of efficiencies and 1- and 2-bedroom units—ready for occupancy by about 80 residents by December 2019. Seventeen units will be created within the church and the adjoining dean’s house. The other 36 will be in a new three-story building on the southwest side of the 2.6-acre property.

The project represents not only a repurposing of a 19th-century structure to meet 21st-century needs, but also an opportunity to spur a revitalization of Brandywine Village, which has battled a steady decline over the past 40 years.

“I can’t tell you how exciting it is to be part of this project,” says Kevin Wilson, a principal of Architectural Alliance, which has handled all the design work. “We’re preserving history and we’re anchoring the neighborhood.”

Brandywine Village had a history as a bustling neighborhood dating to the Revolutionary era, when the Green Tree Tavern occupied the corner of Market Street and Concord Avenue. In 1856 Alexis I. du Pont, son of the founder of the DuPont Co., chose the corner as the site for a new Episcopal church. A year later, as construction was beginning, du Pont suffered fatal burns while trying to rescue workers from an explosion at his family’s powder mill on the Brandywine. While on his death bed, Rakestraw says, he changed his will to ensure that there would be sufficient funds to complete the church.

Construction projects in 1885, 1919 and 1952 added a parish hall, a parsonage and a spacious kitchen as the congregation grew and the complex became the headquarters of the Episcopal Diocese of Delaware.

A Neighborhood in Decline

More recently, the neighborhood, once home to trendy restaurants and hardware and paint stores, fell into decline. Its most prominent businesses now are a Dollar General, a couple of fast food outlets and some liquor stores. Meanwhile, the church’s membership declined, and the shrinking congregation didn’t have the resources to maintain the aging buildings. Church members eventually joined other congregations, the diocese moved its offices to Brandywine Hundred and the complex was put up for sale.

Eighty-five-year-old Edie Menser, a longtime parishioner who remembers first visiting the church when she was 4, recalls “Christmas Eve services with trumpets blowing” and choir members heading across the street to Hearn’s Restaurant for breakfast between the two services on Easter morning.
“I was married here, my children were married here, my great-grandchildren were baptized here. Those memories are precious,” she says. “I would have loved for the church to have stayed open, but it’s going to be used, and that’s important.”

With the apartments bringing new residents into the area, existing businesses in Brandywine Village should benefit, and others should be encouraged to locate there, Giannone says. “If you put $22 million toward a project, you’re going to change the neighborhood for the better.”

The restoration and renovation project will preserve both existing buildings’ exterior, including the stained glass windows in the cathedral and chapel. The new building, Wilson says, “has been designed to be harmonious with the church,” using the same stone and the same finishes, “but its massing will be simpler” so it won’t diminish the prominence of the church.

While matching the church’s early Gothic style, the new building will incorporate contemporary features to maximize its energy efficiency, including rooftop solar panels for heating hot water.

Since the granite for the church was quarried in nearby Alapocas, finding matching stone proved somewhat of a challenge, Wilson says. A local supplier, the Delaware Brick Co., located not only a dark gray granite that matches most of the existing church but also some oxidized stone that looks much like portions of the church exterior that have acquired a reddish tint over the years.

Changes on the Inside

“We met with both the state and the city historic preservation folks, and they all agreed it was a good match,” Wilson says.

Also being preserved are two engraved marble plaques, honoring Alexis I. du Pont and his wife, Joanna, for their roles in the church’s construction.

But there will be significant changes to the interior.

While the small chapel will be maintained for interdenominational worship, the cathedral’s sanctuary will be transformed into a common area, a wide-open gathering space for residents to meet, relax, play cards and enjoy group activities. The hand-carved pews in the cathedral are in excellent condition, and the ministry hopes to find a church in the area that could use them, Rakestraw says.

The large kitchen on the main floor will be ripped out and replaced by a combination kitchen/café.
The greatest challenge will be in repurposing the numerous classrooms and offices that line the hallways on the west side of the cathedral.

Some of the rooms are large enough to be envisioned as two-bedroom units with an open design. “I’d want this one for myself,” Rakestraw says as she guides visitors into a bright and airy second-floor space that once was used for choir rehearsals.

But the size and placement of many of the offices and classrooms can lead to design challenges or surprising results. “We have to carefully design spaces to keep their unique architectural features, like the ornate woodwork in the ceilings and walls,” Wilson says. In several places, stone fireplaces surrounded by wood panels will become the focal point of a new resident’s living room.

In addition to the changes inherent in transforming offices into apartments, structural improvements are also needed. For example, century-old leaded glass windows will be removed and replaced with energy-efficient frames and glass.

The construction of the new building will create a more or less triangular courtyard in the area between the structures, a place Rakestraw expects to become popular with residents as a picnic ground or for outdoor conversations.

24-hour Security

As part of the purchase, Rakestraw says, the ministry is acquiring a parking lot on the north side of

The altar area of the former Cathedral Church of St. John. Photo by Moonloop Photography

Concord Avenue that runs from the rear of businesses on Market Street west to Tatnall Street. Residents and visitors will be able to use the lot, and there also will be a group of handicap parking spaces along the semicircular driveway at the Tatnall Street entrance to the complex.

“The best part of this,” Rakestraw says, “will be the security—24 hours a day, on site. It’s not going to be a place that people can run in and out of.”

The construction marks a continuation of the ministry’s steady growth under Giannone, whose leadership has led to more than a score of projects aimed at housing, feeding and employing the poor.
It began in early 1977, when Giannone, recently assigned to the St. Francis Priory off Silverside Road in Brandywine Hundred, confessed his disappointment to his superior that work at the retreat house didn’t give him the opportunity to help the poor. “What’s stopping you?” his superior replied, and soon he was on the phone and knocking on the door of state social service agencies trying to find out where help was most needed.

He learned of homeless women sleeping under bridges in Wilmington and grandparents caring for infants and toddlers because their parents were in prison.

“That was my baptism by fire to conditions on the East Side of Wilmington,” he says.

He found a home for sale for $7,500 on North Van Buren Street, talked the price down to $5,000, rounded up donations to pay for it, enlisted the support of volunteers and other religious orders, and opened the Mary Mother of Hope House for homeless women. Since then the Capuchin Franciscan friar has built an operation that, among other things, serves 170,000 meals a year at its three dining rooms and provides care for 153 at-risk children at three centers in the city.

The Mary Mother of Hope House was followed by the first Emmanuel Dining Room in 1979 and the second three years later. In 1983, the ministry opened the Mary Mother of Hope transitional residence for single women and Mary Mother of Hope House II, an emergency shelter for homeless women with children.

Two years later came a job placement center and House of Joseph I, an emergency shelter for homeless employable men. The third Emmanuel Dining Room opened in 1987, followed in 1989 by a distribution center, which provides free clothing, home supplies and furniture for people in need.

The St. Clare Van, a health services outreach collaboration with St. Francis Hospital, was launched in 1992, the year the first childcare center opened.

In 1995, three more programs were launched: St. Francis Transitional Residence, providing housing for homeless women and their children; a dental clinic and a Samaritan Center, which helps the poor and homeless with housing referrals, case management, hygienic services and other supports.

From 1997 to 2000, four more housing initiatives were created: House of Joseph II, a permanent residence for homeless people living with AIDS; Nazareth House I and II, transitional housing for families; and Sacred Heart Village I, 78 one-bedroom apartments for the elderly.

Next came Bethany House I, in 2002, providing long-term housing for women with disabilities, and Il Bambino, in 2003, an infant care program for the poor, working poor and homeless.

In 2007, the ministry opened Maria Lorenza Longo House, a long-term residence for single women, followed in 2010 by Padre Pio House, a long-term residence for men with disabilities.

The Mother Teresa House, providing affordable independent housing with supportive services to low-income men and women disabled by HIV/AIDS, opened in 2011, along with the Josephine Bakhita House, a residence for recent college graduates dedicating a year to service of the poor and hungry.
Bethany House II, also serving women with disabilities, opened in 2014.

The ministry’s most recent venture, Sacred Heart Village II, opened earlier this year to provide housing for low-income seniors on Wilmington’s East Side.

Many of those projects, Giannone says, had significant support from MBNA, one of the first banks to prosper in Delaware after passage of the Financial Center Development Act in 1981, and the generosity of the late Charles M. Cawley, who started the credit-card bank in 1982.

Cawley “wanted the bank to have a social conscience,” and one of his early moves was to hire Francis X. Norton, a former leader of social programs in the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, and then “assigned him to work with me,” Giannone says.

“Charlie became very hands-on. I would tell him how much money we would need, and he would support us,” Giannone says.

That relationship led to, among other things, construction of the Guardian Angel Child Care on Wilmington’s East Side and the development of Sacred Heart Village I on the grounds of a former Catholic Church in the Trinity Vicinity neighborhood.

In addition to funding multiple projects, Cawley instilled a culture of community service at MBNA that generated a stream of dependable volunteers for the ministry, Giannone says.

Now 67, the Bronx native shows no signs of slowing down—and neither does his ministry.

“I’ll be here as long as God gives me life and my superiors allow,” he says.

And the Village of St. John, with its strong foundation and granite walls, will be around even longer.

Ongoing Needs

The Ministry of Caring has ongoing needs for volunteers, including assisting at its childcare centers, helping with food preparation and service at its dining rooms, helping with activities for senior citizens and sorting donated clothing or assembling hygiene kits at its Samaritan Outreach Center.
Details on volunteering are available at

The ministry is currently running a drive for food and necessities that are essential to serving the poor. The Emmanuel Dining Room needs large family-size containers of vegetables, pasta, spaghetti sauce, fruit, cereal, beans, pancake mix, syrup, oatmeal and tuna fish. DART prepaid passes enable the ministry’s shelter residents to seek employment, and gift cards from local grocery stores enable the dining room and shelters to purchase emergency provisions. The shelters for homeless men, women and women with small children need canned/packaged nonperishable foods and paper products, as well as new or gently used coats, towels, twin-size blankets and sheet sets. Monetary donations are also accepted.

To arrange donations, contact:
ReeNee at 652-3228
( or Priscilla at 652-5523

Giving the Gift of Experience

Some creative ideas for every personality type on your holiday list

This holiday season, let’s be a little more creative in our gift-giving. Instead of buying essentially inconsequential things, let’s think about creating memories. Here’s a list of fun, local experiences that the various personality types in your life will be sure to remember.

For the Art Enthusiast

Painting with a Twist has taken Delaware by storm with its mantra: Sip. Paint. Relax. Four locations in New Castle County offer a fun night out with step-by-step painting instruction from local artist instructors. Classes include all materials—easel, paint, and mat—as well as complimentary adult beverages and soda.

In addition to its typical lineup, Painting with a Twist Wilmington owners Stephanie and Jay Pomante host two recurring special events—Paint Your Own Pet (PYOP) and Painting with a Purpose.

PYOP allows you to submit a quality picture of your dog or cat (or other pet) to have it pre-sketched on your canvas by one of the instructors before you arrive to the class.

Bi-monthly Painting with a Purpose classes raise funds—50 percent of the sales—for a specific nonprofit organization. The 2018 February and March recipients will be, respectively, the Pennsville Community Arts Center and the Alzheimer’s Association.

1812 Marsh Rd., #409, Wilmington, 746-2907,

For the Nature Lover

Longwood Gardens is “anything but dreary” during the winter months, says Patricia Evans, communication manager. New next year, in tandem with its Winter Blues Festival (to be held in March), Longwood will have blue flowering plants throughout the main conservatory.

“It will be filled with plants like poppies, hydrangea, cornelius,” says Evans. “The Conservatory will be a picture-perfect setting for amateur and professional photographers.”

In addition, there will be blue-inspired workshops and lectures like “Fabric to Dye For,” where participants will be able to make their own indigo dye vat.

Evans recommends purchasing a membership to save on food and classes. The best part about membership levels two and above is that “you can be flexible in who you want to bring to visit the Gardens,” says Evans. So bring your mom, dad, friend or significant other with you as you explore the great outdoors, indoors.

1001 Longwood Rd., Kennett Square, Pa., 610-388-1000,

For the Handy(wo)man

NextFab’s Woodshop. Photo courtesy of NextFab

NextFab is Wilmington’s newest makerspace, where artists, woodworking enthusiasts, computer whizzes and entrepreneurs can learn, grow and make things. Located in the West Center City neighborhood of Wilmington aptly named the “Creative District,” the third NextFab (there are two in Philadelphia) occupies 10,000 square feet in a former photography studio.

Says Laate Olukotun, director of marketing: “November and December are the busiest times in the space because people (members) are making gifts for their family and friends.”

Plus, to get you into the holiday spirit, NextFab will offer “…a handful of holiday workshops like ‘Make Your Own Electric Snowflake,’ where you will solder and work with circuit boards,” says Olukotun. This class is open to members and non-members ages 10 and up.

In addition, new this year, NextFab will offer four woodworking class (gift) packs, which will include a fully guided experience through a series of discounted classes and include a NextFab membership. Here are the options:

$50 – Make Your Own Cutting Board
Pilot Membership:
• Access to classes for one month
Included classes:
• Orientation
• Shop Safety
• Wood Preparation

$150 – Learning the Lathe
Pilot Membership:
• Access to classes for one month
Included Classes:
• Orientation
• Shop Safety
• Intro to Lathe
• Bowl Turning

$250 – Woodworking Foundations
Community Membership:
• Three days/month for two months
Included Classes:
• Orientation
• Shop Safety
• Wood Preparation
• Table Saw
• Finishing Basics
• Hand Tool Basics

$500 – Complete Techniques
Community Membership:
• Three days/month for four months
Included Classes:
• Orientation
• Shop Safety
• Wood Preparation
• Table Saw
• Finishing Basics
• Hand Tool Basics
• Intro to Lathe
• Bowl Turning

503 N. Tatnall St., Wilmington, 477-7330,

For the Sports Fan

The 2018 Wilmington Blue Rocks offer entertaining minor league baseball. Instead of splurging for full or half-season packages, try one of the more affordable Mini Plans. There are three packages: 6, 9 or 12 games; day of the week, and the flex plan. All Mini Plan holders receive: A member gift (next year will be a Blue Rocks cap), an invitation to the member appreciation picnic on July 24, tickets to fireworks or giveaway games, and a flexible ticket exchange policy (and much more). In addition to those holder benefits, “each plan provides customers with a dedicated sales representative,” says Stefani Rash, director of ticket sales.

If the Mini Plan is not enough, give a full-season plan so your recipient not only receives a commemorative booklet, but also a plaque with his or her name on their season seat.

801 Shipyard Dr., Wilmington, 888-2015,

For the Aspiring Writer

Have a budding writer in the family? Whether they’re bloggers, poets, fiction or nonfiction writers, the 2018 Bay to Ocean Writers Conference hosted by the Eastern Shore Writers Association has something for them. The Saturday, March 10, conference at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills, Md., will have hands-on learning workshops focused on the “craft of writing,” specific genres, publishing and marketing, and social media for writers. The keynote speaker will be critically acclaimed author Christopher Tilghman, author of five novels who teaches at the University of Virginia.

Register by the end of the year for the early-bird price of $95. Regular price is $120 for non-members; $95 for members; and $55 for students with valid ID. The registration cost includes continental breakfast, lunch, afternoon snacks and all sessions, including the keynote.

Chesapeake College: 100 College Circle, Wye Mills, Md.,,

For the Beer and Wine Aficionado

The Dogfish Head From Grain to Glass two-hour tour leads you through off-limit parts of the brewery for a more in-depth look at the brewing and distilling process. The tour costs $30 per person with a maximum tour capacity of 20, so register early. In addition to the beer and cocktail tastings, you’ll walk away with Dogfish Head pint and shot glasses.

During the off-months, tour times may vary, so call ahead to ensure tour start times. Tours are booked on a first-come, first-served basis and are for those 21 or older.
6 Cannery Village Center, Milford, 888-dogfish,

Total Wine & More offers more than just libations and gifts. It also hosts various beer, wine and spirits classes for the serious enthusiast at its Claymont location on Naamans Road. Topics range from introductory wine classes to an advanced class focused on refining one’s palette (I hear Super Tuscan wines are quite fine). Total Wine & More also arranges private wine or beer classes for a minimum of 14 attendees up to the capacity for the room. Visit their website for a list of upcoming classes.
Northtowne Plaza, 691 Naamans Rd., Claymont, 792-1322,

For the Rock Fan

Firefly 2018 pre-sale passes are now sold out, so why not head to Wilmington’s darling theater, The Queen. Now managed by Live Nation, The Queen has “turned it up to 11” with its rock-heavy lineup thanks in part to Talent Buyer Christianna LaBuz, who has brought more regionally and nationally known acts to the historic venue. Here’s a short list of notable upcoming performances:

February: The Wailers (2/8); Less than Jake (2/16);
Blues Traveler (2/22)

March: Anders Osborne (3/15); Drive-By Truckers (3/28)

Still interested in attending Firefly? It will be held at Dover International Speedway on June 14-17, 2018.
Or if your recipient loves all types of music genres, consider a digital music subscription to one of the popular streaming sites like Spotify, Pandora or Apple Music for an on-demand, ad-free experience.
Firefly: 1131 N. Dupont Hwy., Dover, 855-281-4898 (ticket support),

The Queen: 500 N. Market St., Wilmington, 730-3331,

For the Athlete

Open from late November through February, the Riverfront Rink is the perfect place to bring the family or your significant other for a leisurely skate. The ice rink holds up to 350 guests and admission is only $8 for adults and $5 for children. Skates can be rented for $3 per person. Open skate is available Monday through Thursday from 4 to 9 p.m. and skate sessions (1.5 hours minimum) are in effect Friday through Sunday at times posted on the website. The Riverfront Rink will be open through March 4, 2018. If you’re feeling extra generous this holiday season, the rink can be rented for private parties for 150 guests starting at $2,500.

308 Justison St., Wilmington, 650-2336,

For the Home Cook
(who takes pictures of all their food for Instagram)

Delaware Technical Community College (DTCC) offers a wide range of personal enrichment courses for those who want to expand their knowledge or technical abilities. All courses are hands-on and led by a strong network of adjunct instructors.

“This spring, there will be a range of culinary classes including vegan cooking, dumplings and tapas, samosas and flatbreads, and sushi,” says Lisa C. Hastings-Sheppard, senior special programs director in the Office of Workforce Development and Community Education.

In addition to its culinary classes, says Hastings-Sheppard, “we offer three photography courses—introductory, intermediate and advance—which allow budding photographers to learn about technique, composition and most of all, how to capture a great shot.”

And to complement all the photos you’ll be taking, DTCC will provide a Photoshop class, where individuals can learn how to enhance and edit their work. The DTCC Continuing Education spring course catalog will be out soon, so make sure to check your mailbox.

George Campus, 300 N. Orange St., Wilmington, 830-5200; Stanton Campus, 400 Stanton-Christiana Rd., Newark; 454-3956,

Putting the Personal Touch In Online Giving

Experts explain how they use it, and provide safety tips for donors

Generosity is part of the fabric of the holiday season. Thanksgiving is about showing gratitude and Christmas is now celebrated with gifts worldwide.

Given the convenience of satisfying that altruistic urge at the click of a mouse, it’s natural that more of our giving is moving online. Nonprofits have taken notice, and are enlisting their supporters as digital evangelists.

It was in this capacity that Jennifer Archie sat down at her computer a few months ago and wrote about her husband, Tim, and his 21-year battle with multiple sclerosis.

Archie revealed that Tim, who uses a wheelchair and has difficulty speaking, nonetheless “rides out this disease with humor and charm and grit day in day out, parenting his boys and backing me every day.”
She also wrote about the other parts of her “crappy year,” including the deaths of her sister, Tim’s mother and a friend.

The point wasn’t to elicit pity. Archie wrote that she would be participating in Bike MS: Bike to the Bay, an October ride from Dover to the beach that raises money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and she asked her friends and colleagues to donate.

Before her ride, Jennifer Archie is joined by her husband, Tim, and their sons, Duff, 21, and Ben, 17. Photo Chris Snyder

They did. Within three weeks, she had raised more than $30,000 from 112 donors.
Though it utilized a modern medium, Archie’s fundraising effort reveals something eternal about giving. Its power was drawn from the personal relationships she and her husband had cultivated over the decades. In other words, the people who gave were the ones who already cared about her family, not strangers drawn in by a generic online pitch.

“I do think there was an accumulated pool of empathy that I tapped into,” Archie says. She believes the effect was magnified by the request’s novelty, since she and her husband had never asked for money—or rarely sought sympathy—in the past.

Archie’s example is instructive for nonprofits seeking to harness the potential of online giving.
Nationwide, online fundraising grew at a clip of 8 percent in 2016 at a time when overall giving was virtually flat, according to the Blackbaud Institute for Philanthropic Impact.

Still, this is not a digital gold rush. There are downsides for both nonprofits (Face-to-face solicitation is more effective) and donors (Is the organization effective and is my identity secure?).

The medium: The message

There’s a guiding principle in fundraising: People give to people.

“The No. 1 reason people give is because someone they know asks them to,” says Stuart Comstock-Gay, president and CEO of the Delaware Community Foundation.

Central to that relationship is trust, which is difficult to establish online but can still be leveraged by social media, he says. It is rare, nowadays, to donate online without a suggestion that you share news of your gift on social media.

“You’re still looking for people who can endorse your message and reach out to their friends,” says Comstock-Gay.

There is another option: Craft a compelling Facebook campaign with a ready-made tug on the heartstring to pull in new donors. Certain nonprofits, such as pet shelters, have messages more suited to this tactic.

That can work, Comstock-Gay says, but social media does not typically create the bonds with strangers necessary for them to donate. The key, again, is to foster authentic relationships based on trust.
The gold standard, he says, remains the same: “Can I get people who know us to stand up?”

Targeting is key

The YMCA of Delaware chiefly relies on about 500 volunteers to directly ask members to donate, says Matt Clements, the Y’s director of philanthropy.

“There’s a higher response rate and you tend to get a larger gift when you ask face-to-face,” he says.
That’s not to say online fundraising doesn’t have a role, though it is most effective when the pitch is tailored to a specific group. For example, to raise money for “Giving Tuesday” —a movement to dedicate the Tuesday after Thanksgiving to charitable giving — the Y will email members who haven’t given yet this year.

The email pitch includes specific beneficiaries: low-income families who can join the Y thanks to these donations.

“The biggest thing is just segmenting your message,” Clements says, meaning the request is as tailored to an audience as possible.

One disadvantage to online giving is the cost of processing online donations; a small portion of each donation typically goes to the company that handles the transaction. For a nonprofit, losing, say, 3 cents off each dollar might be a loss worth taking, compared to getting nothing, to acquire a new donor. But if an existing donor is moving from paper checks to a website, a nonprofit is effectively losing money.
“At the Y, we use it, but even for us it’s a financial barrier,” Clements says of online transactions. “I can imagine for smaller nonprofits it’s a larger barrier.”

While online donations account for less than 5 percent of the Y’s donations now, that is set to grow. That’s because, in general, older people give more to charity.

“As current millennials grow older, the use of digital technology will increase,” Clements says.

Giving safely online

With thousands of charities at your fingertips, how do you know what’s safe and what’s not?

Furthermore, how can you separate the legitimate charities from the (relatively few) frauds?

Kelly Sheridan, who administers college scholarships for the Delaware Community Foundation, does all her personal giving online and has some advice.

First, to limit her exposure to identity theft, she never uses a card connected to a bank account. That way, if her data falls into the wrong hands, the thief can’t simply empty her account.

Sheridan vets a charity by exploring its website and finding the group’s mission statement and sources of funding.

“I don’t usually look hard at their financials as much as their mission statement and a listing of who else has supported them,” she says.

If you’re the type of person who does want hard data, check out to find free financial information, including the compensation of top employees.

Technical reminders on giving safely online come from Jamila Patton Anderson, the Y’s director of public relations: Look in your browser’s address bar and you’ll see most website addresses begin with “http.” Secure websites, ones that are protecting your data, have an “s” at the end: “https.” Also, the address should have a small picture of a lock next to it.

Building real connections

Though Archie lives in Alexandria, Va., the Delaware beaches hold

Jennifer Archie and her husband, Tim, eat at the Rusty Rudder in Dewey Beach in 1987. She biked back to the beaches in October to raise money for multiple sclerosis research. Tim was diagnosed with MS in 1996. Photo Chris Snyder

a special place in her memory. In the ‘80s, she and her friends would share beach house getaways. And that’s where she met Tim, who consistently made her laugh.

“It was definitely a ride for the memories of Dewey Beach,” she says of her October bike ride.

Aside from the huge financial success, perhaps the most unexpected part of her fundraising campaign was the emotional lift it gave her and Tim. Her first foray into online giving re-connected them to old friends, all thanks to her decision to share an authentic story.

“Every day, I would come home from work and read Tim the names and the thank-you notes,” Archie says. “This really lifted him up…It really is sustaining, I have to say.”

Worth Recognizing: Community Members Who Go Above & Beyond

Gertrude and Tommy Abel: Every Christmas is a shopping spree—for others

Since 1992, Christmas for the Abel family of Greenville has not been the same. That year they refused to get consumed by the commercialism, the buying and taking, the accumulation of things.
Instead, on Christmas morning they delivered furniture, linens, toiletries, pots and pans, clothes, food and toys to a mother and her child who had moved into an apartment from a homeless shelter in Wilmington. The Ministry of Caring, which provides support services for those living in poverty, brought the two families together.

“It became a Christmas tradition,” says Gertrude Abel. “We wanted to give moms committed to getting out of poverty a boost, a little bit of help by saving them the expense of purchasing these items themselves. It made us happy to make someone else happy.”

Friends and family wanted to help too, so in 1994 they also began to donate.

Twenty-five years later, more than 250 mothers have received help through some 250 volunteers who take them on shopping sprees for the best deals at Kohl’s, Walmart or Target. About $700 is spent on each mother.

“Gert” Abel and her son, Tommy, made the Christmas tradition official in 2006 by creating the Clif Abel Children’s Fund in honor of their late husband and father, who died that year. Its purpose is to buy household items for mothers, under the guidance of the Ministry of Caring, who move out of shelters into rented apartments, and who typically hold jobs or are in job training programs.

The Abel family became acquainted with the Ministry of Caring because Clif Abel oversaw the building of the ministry’s first homeless shelter for women with children. The shelter opened in 1983 on North Jackson Street in Wilmington. Clif ran the construction department at MBNA, the bank formerly headquartered in Delaware.

Last year, the Abels changed the focus of the fund from a holiday shopping program to an all-year support effort. Says Tommy Abel, an entrepreneur and business owner: “Christmas tends to highlight an awareness of those who are less fortunate, but poverty is not a seasonal problem, it’s a year-round problem.”

In Delaware, 35,000 children live in poverty, according to data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count project. And a single mother heads about one in three families with young children.

Jennifer Treen, a 41-year-old with an 18-month-old son, says shopping with Gert Abel five months ago turned out to be more than a buying experience. “She’s the kind of person who will give you the shirt off her back,” says the Wilmington resident. “My mom passed away 17 years ago. It felt good to be with Gert; she reminded me how it is to be with family. I’m so grateful for what she did for me.”

Year round, the Abels buy sheets and towels for the Ministry of Caring women’s shelters, toys for the birthdays of children in the Ministry’s daycare centers, and bus passes to help the mothers get to job training programs. They also sponsor two scholarships a year to elementary students, one for St. Peter Cathedral School in Wilmington and another for Serviam Girls Academy in New Castle.