The following remarks were given by Louis Appell Jr. at York County Community Foundation’s 2013 Donor Appreciation event on October 3 where he and his wife, Jody, were honored for their generosity and dedication to York.
“Thank you, Bill, for a very generous and thoughtful introduction. The fact is that Jody and I are here today because Bill is a very articulate and convincing persuader. This, of course, is quite a good thing because it fits him well in his role as head of the Foundation, a position which Jody and I consider to be among the very most important in the entire County, public or private. I hope the reasons we say this will become clear in a few minutes.
To begin, a couple of words about us. Jody and I consider
ourselves to be two very fortunate people. First and foremost we have each other. We have enjoyed pretty good health all our lives and, considering our longevity, we continue to. We are still spry enough to enjoy gathering up chestnuts and apples in the glorious fall weather we’ve been having. If this were still baseball season after this event we would likely head off to the Stadium to take in another Rev’s game. Tomorrow we look forward to going downtown to experience the fun and excitement of First Friday.
In addition to good health, we have been fortunate in many other ways. For example, we are grateful to have lived our entire lives in a county which is almost an ideal blend of urban, suburban, and rural environments. Having been born in the decade of the 1920’s, we have had the privilege of living through much of the most dynamic, momentous period in the entire history of mankind.
Added to this bit of personal history is the fact that we have been active in community life all our adult lives, so it would seem that we have a unique ability to paint for you a picture of how the York area has evolved from the post horse and buggy days to the present time.
To begin to paint this picture, we would like to take you on a short trip down memory lane, in this case, the first 5 or 6 blocks of South George St. Understand that in our early childhood and virtually up until World War II, those blocks were essential as they had been at the turn of the 20th century. It was a compact area of middle-class residences interspersed with a wide variety of retail establishments: butchers, bakers, (we don’t recall any candlestick makers) but there were ma and pop grocery stores, a jewelry store, drug store, doctors’ offices, a music store and, believe it or not, a maker of harnesses for horses. Paradoxically, its proprietor was one of the
very first Yorkers to own and fly his own airplane. In those days, South George St. was a close-knit, neighborly, environmentally friendly, efficiently functioning community.
It is important to remember that all these small retail establishments were locally owned. If they didn’t serve your requirements, you only had to walk another couple of minutes to Continental Square where there were 3 large department stores, a collection of specialty stores as well as several banks, nearly all owned by Yorkers.
Today South George Street is unrecognizable from its pre-war self, and, of course, it is a microcosm of the entire City. White flight has taken place, the retail stores have been replaced by big boxes out in the suburbs and the banks, like the retail stores, are virtually all owned out of town. It is obvious that this has had a huge impact on our local economy. Prior to the second World War profits generated by the transactions in our locally owned establishments stayed in the community. Today they are exported to such needy locations as Wall St. and Bentonville, Arkansas of all places.
Equally dramatic has been the change in our manufacturing community. As recently as 40 years ago, locally owned firms provided the majority of employment for our skilled work force. Today that is no longer true and the majority of the profits produced by the labor of our fellow Yorkers flow far beyond our borders instead of being reinvested here. Germany, Great Britain, Scandinavia and, of course, Milwaukee, Wisconsin are the beneficiaries.
Of course, like everything else, there are exceptions, as Jody pointed out to me. As a community we are fortunate to have many successful locally owned manufacturers some of which are represented here today. We all wish you continued success.
It is of special importance to remember that all those local establishments of decades ago were owned and managed by real people. The owners and executives of these manufacturers, retailers and banks were a tightly knit group. They all knew each other, were members of the same clubs, played golf or bridge together, sat on each other’s boards, frequently had lunch, dinner and even breakfast together and yes, occasionally enjoyed a convivial martini. It constituted a solid core group which cared deeply about our community and provided the impetus and the financial support for progress. If a member of the group had a favorite charity, the others opened their desk drawers, pulled out their check books and anteed up. You might call it philanthropy by cronyism.
Here are two examples of how it worked. My first fund drive experience occurred when the York Junior College Trustees recognized that they had run out of space at College and Duke Streets and decided to purchase the property where College now stands and move the Campus. So the Chairman of the Trustees, Mel Campbell’s father, convened a group of about 50 or 60 of us. We met at the far end of this very room. Mel, Sr. outlined the plan, told a couple of his famous jokes, we were divided up into teams, given our assignments and off we went to make our calls. The whole thing was wrapped up successfully in 2 or 3 months. Contrast that with today in which a similar campaign will stretch out 12 to 18 months and assume untold hours of staff and volunteer time.
Two or three years later, two leading manufacturers, George Gladfelter’s grandfather Phil and Jody’s cousin, Henry Schmidt, John’s father, hosted a lunch for 25 or 30, presented their idea and within an hour and a half a firm foundation had been laid for York’s Junior Achievement Chapter. Would that scenario be likely to be repeated today? I don’t think so.
And, of course, the reason is that this solid core group of business leaders no longer exists. It gradually dwindled as more and more of York’s business assets became controlled and owned outside our borders. If you are looking for evidence of this withering away you have only to consider the long, slow painful demise of the Lafayette Club, once the unofficial headquarters of York’s business leadership.
Clearly over the last 50 or 60 years, we Yorkers have lived through a remarkable period of dynamic economic change. No longer do the dollars we spend for goods and services predominantly remain in the community. No longer do the majority of our manufactured products create local wealth; no longer is there a large cohesive group of business entrepreneurs and executives to provide community leadership.
This afternoon we are concerned with philanthropy and well we should because the changes just described above obviously have had a dramatic negative impact on this part of our society. The disappearance of this group of business leaders has created a huge void in community philanthropy.
Should we be concerned about that? Of course we must be because we as a nation have long ago embraced the conviction that private giving is a far more effective, efficient, manageable way of dealing with society’s needs rather than having an intrusive government play Santa Claus 365 days a year. Of course, today there is very little chance of that happening since in both Washington and Harrisburg a loud minority is forcing cuts in funds for even basic human needs. Inevitably this shifts the burden to private philanthropy.
So we Yorkers are fortunate to have an active, progressive Community Foundation under Bill Hartman’s dynamic leadership to help take up the slack. Perhaps, you can now understand why we consider the head of the Foundation to hold one of the very key leadership roles in the entire County. However, we were not always fortunate to have a dynamic Foundation because for 30 years after its founding it was largely a passive entity. Then in 1991, inspired by Carolyn Steinhauser’s far-sighted leadership, a group including Bill Anstine, Bill and Cornie Wolf and Tom Norris authored a long range plan which advocated the idea that the Foundation could and should play the leading role in Community philanthropy. As a result the Foundation’s growth has exploded both financially and in its ability to influence Community issues. Not only does it do an outstanding job of providing services to its donors, it is becoming a leading advocate for constructive progress. Bill Hartman deserves our thanks for spearheading the conception and implementation of this forward-thinking leadership role for the Foundation.
If this minute we were to ask each of you to name the York area’s greatest need, the answers would be diverse, of course, but I have the suspicion that more than a few would mention the need to support the revitalization of the downtown, or at least a response that indirectly includes that idea. So it’s not surprising that the Foundation has recognized that a healthy Center City is essential to the social and economic well- being of the entire County.
Now, I think we would agree that this is not a concept that all York Countians, or even most of them, would support because a person has to be more than casually aware of the emerging sociological changes that are underway to be able to make the relevant connection. These societal changes are occurring to a marked degree in the generation that is in their 20’s and 30’s. They are different in significant ways from their parents and grandparents. They tend to marry later, have fewer children, to be more health and environmentally conscious. The American dream shared by their parents generation of a 2 or 3 bedroom house on a ½ acre in the suburbs, a family of 3 or 4 children and a similar number of pets is no longer as attractive or as attainable as it was only 10 or 15 years ago. They are a generation which finds ownership of a car less necessary, which drives fewer miles and would prefer to walk or bike to work or to leisure activities. Many are hitched all day to an inanimate, impersonal computer screen and therefore crave after hours social contact with their peers and don’t want to travel a distance to get it. In short, they want and need an urban environment and feel very much at home in that setting.
So that is why a vital, vibrant downtown York is necessary for the health of the entire County. It is necessary if we are going to keep our promising youth here at home, if employers are going to be able to attract qualified personnel, if we are going to provide an environment where entrepreneurship and creativity flourishes, if we are going to attract new companies to locate here.
We must remember that this generation is more mobile than its predecessors and even in these economic times more selective in considering job opportunities. They recognize that the community in which they choose to live will greatly influence their career opportunities and their social future. Downtown York has to provide what this generation wants and needs or else the entire County will find itself falling behind economically and socially.
Interestingly there is another cohort at the other end of the age spectrum which is discovering the attraction of urban living. They are in their pre or post retirement years and are finding the American dream in suburbia not quite what it was a decade or two before. Their children have left home, the dog is dead or dying, the roof is leaking and weeds have taken control of the front lawn. Physically they are still healthy and lead an active life. Recent research has confirmed what we have all suspected: that a person in this age group is likely to enjoy better health and be able to look forward to more years of a rewarding life than was the case only 20 years ago.
Assume you are one of these people and that you are physically active and mentally alert and don’t want to move to some retirement community. Doesn’t Downtown York offer a very attractive alternative? There you will have the stimulation of associating with people of all ages and backgrounds and have within walking distance a variety of restaurants, the Strand Capital, the YM and YWCA, the Library, the Stadium, Central Market, the Rail-Trail, a selection of churches and a number of opportunities for volunteer work. A wide variety of interesting part-time jobs would be close at hand. A pretty attractive picture if you’re still full of vim and vigor and tired of suburban living.
It is a good thing that much has been done in recent years to make our City a place where persons in these two generations at the opposite ends of the age spectrum will want to locate. But we have not yet reached a point where we can feel confident that is the case. It is very timely, therefore, that the project Michael referred to known as Moving Plans into Action is getting up steam. Implementation will be the responsibility of Downtown, Inc. under Sonny Huntzinger’s leadership. They will be supported and guided by a volunteer committee led by Tony Campisi. Having two strong leaders like Sonny and Tony doesn’t necessarily guarantee success, but it’s certainly a great way to start.
Well it’s time to bring this to a conclusion. I’ve rattled on much too long and certainly far beyond what Bill had in mind when he encouraged us to say a few words. But it’s difficult to be brief when there is the chance to talk about two of our passions. It was an opportunity not to be missed.
I hope we have made the case that a healthy, prosperous York County needs a successful Community Foundation to take the lead in philanthropic giving. In turn, the Foundation’s success can be assured if all of us in the room, if all of those in the County who have the wherewithal, offer it support. In particular, a gift to the Fund for York County is especially meaningful as it provides the Foundation valuable discretionary funds.
A few last words about the City, our other passion. For years we, along with most of you in this room, have cared for it because we wanted to feel a sense of pride in our County Seat, to be able to show it to visitors feeling sure that they would be favorably impressed. Today that view of the City’s role is not good enough. We as citizens of York County must recognize that in the world as it is today the City is perhaps the key element in securing a positive economic and societal future for the County.
In order to play that role, the City must accommodate for the generational changes that are happening. It must be a place where people want to live, to work, to be entertained, to shop and to dine. Fortunately, there is a strong foundation already in place but much more is required.
It is also fortunate that there is a growing recognition of what must be done. There is a growing groundswell of support for the need to have the City live up to its potential. It is heartening to see how broadly based this groundswell is. It is comprised of people from all segments of the community not only city dwellers, but also residents of the suburbs, young professionals, business leaders, young entrepreneurs, artists and artisans, doctors, lawyers, literally the whole spectrum of society. What is particularly significant is the increasing evidence that the leaders of our large non-profits want to offer their support which will be invaluable.
Consequently, the future of the City and its central core looks brighter than at anytime since our leading retailers either closed up shop or moved to the suburbs. The recognition of the City’s importance to our entire region is taking hold and producing results.
Many of you here today are active participants in this renaissance. All of us in all kinds of ways can help move the ball to the goal line. Please think how you can be a participant in this exciting groundswell of support. For example, it could be as simple and direct as increasing your patronage of downtown establishments and convincing your friends to do the same. But one way or another climb aboard the downtown express which is destined for success.
To conclude, Jody and I want to express our sincere thanks to the Foundation for granting us this great honor. And to all of you, we thank you for your presence, your patience and especially for all you do for York.”