St. Bernard's will house a new school for autistic children
By Tom Waring
Times Staff Writer
The recently closed St. Bernard Elementary School will soon have a new tenant.
Autistic Endeavors Learning Center will move into the building, at 7340 Jackson St., which closed in June because of low enrollment.
Dave and Barbara Butkiewicz, of Tacony, have been looking to open a school that offers one-on-one instruction to children with autism. Their 8-year-old son, Brian, is autistic and made great strides at Elwyn, a non-profit human-services organization in Delaware County.
However, such early intervention programs end by age 6. The children then typically attend autistic-support classes in public schools.
Dave Butkiewicz, who spoke at last week's Mayfair Civic Association meeting, explained that only one-on-one attention can help kids achieve their potential.
That's what he promises at Autistic Endeavors. He is finalizing the lease and hopes to open by April. He will start modestly, with five children in kindergarten through fourth grade.
"We want to get the doors open first," he said.
In year two, the school will accommodate children up to eighth grade, with high school-age kids arriving in the third year. Ultimately, vocational training will be offered.
The students also will study to receive the Catholic sacraments.
The funding will come from private and government grants.
For more information, call 215-360-1569 or visit autisticendeavors.org
In other news from the Nov. 24 meeting:
¥ The civic association and Mayfair Business Association have made a bunch of recent decisions in zoning cases, including two at last week's meeting.
Interim president Joe DeFelice of the civic association and president Mike Scotese of the business association work in tandem.
Nicole DiZio, owner of Wit or Witout Cheesesteaks, appeared with attorney Joe Beller. DiZio opened the shop, at 7352 Frankford Ave., in January and has already won a "Best of Philly" award from Philadelphia magazine.
DiZio is looking to erect a one-story addition, connecting an existing two-story building and one-story garage, to use as a preparation area. The local groups had no problem with the plan.
Officials of another flourishing business, Mayfair Tire & Service Center, were on hand to discuss general renovation and expansion plans. The shop is located at 6740 Frankford Ave. (at Knorr Street). It has been there since 1986.
The company presented petitions of support from residents of the 3300 block of Knorr St., AAMCO and the Knights of Columbus hall. The groups gave their OK, once the company agreed to add landscaping.
Also winning favor was Uncle Rich's, a water ice, ice cream and dessert shop at 7336 Frankford Ave., in the site of the former That's Nuts & Coffee. The owners live on nearby Teesdale Street.
The civic and business groups have sent a letter to the state Liquor Control Board, opposing a proposed beer distributor at Ryan Avenue and Leon Street, in the former post office and Clover Carpet building. One of the reasons for the opposition is that the property is so close to residences.
The groups are also rejecting a bid by a furniture rental store to open at 7257 Frankford Ave. (at Cottman Avenue), in the rear of a new AT&T office. The store is not necessary, they argue, because Rent-A-Center is nearby.
DeFelice said he wants to lower the number of vacancies along Frankford Avenue and attract businesses, but won't accept just any offer that comes along.
"We want to have good businesses," he said.
¥ The civic association is off to a relatively slow start in raising the $50,000 necessary to buy equipment for Mayfair Memorial Playground.
The group has about $1,000 in a new account at Beneficial Bank. Most of that money was raised during a benefit at SmokeEaters Pub.
"We have forty-nine thousand to go," DeFelice said.
The School District of Philadelphia in April 2008 shut down the playground, which is located at Rowland Avenue and Vista Street on the grounds of Abraham Lincoln High School. It made the move out of safety concerns, since the equipment was worn and a toddler had been injured in a fall.
The school district has agreed to install new equipment, maintain it and assume the liability. The civic association must pay for the equipment.
The association is seeking grants, including one from Home Depot.
Also, it will deliver fund-raising envelopes to residents of the 3300, 3400 and 3500 blocks from Cottman Avenue to Rhawn Street, along with businesses on Frankford Avenue in that stretch.
By the spring, DeFelice hopes to raise $10,000 - enough to start installing the first piece of equipment.
The civic leader wants the playground, which is dedicated to the memory of firefighter John Redmond, to be open before the second annual Fallen Heroes Run, scheduled for May 15. The run will be dedicated to Redmond, a resident of the 3400 block of Vista St. who died in 1994 while fighting a fire at a South Philadelphia church.
Proceeds from the run benefit Hero Thrill Show Inc., which provides college scholarships for the children of police officers and firefighters killed or disabled in the line of duty.
¥ DeFelice continues to try to unload a 25,000-square-foot plot of land at 7315-33 Crispin St. that the civic association acquired in 2006. The blighted ground sits in the rear driveway of homes on the 3400 blocks of Cottman and Ryan avenues.
The property was bought years ago by a man to give his daughter a place to play. The family moved from the area but kept the land. The daughter, now living in New Jersey, sold the land to the civic group for $10.
Now, DeFelice wants to sell the land to existing homeowners for $1 apiece. The homeowners, though, would have to share in the cost of legal fees and land surveying, estimated at $9,100.
Some neighbors are willing to buy the ground. Others are balking because of the potential of higher property taxes and homeowners' insurance policies. Also, they worry that the city will condemn the decaying back driveway and force them to pay for its repair.
A bunch of properties are owned by absentee landlords, and the civic group will post "for sale by owner" signs to alert tenants.
¥ The police department will keep the camera it installed at the intersection of Frankford and Cottman avenues to monitor disorderly conduct after Phillies celebrations.
Neighbors hope the department removes the bright blue light attached to the camera.
¥ Mayfair Town Watch president John Vearling said his group has recruited 35 members after re-forming about a month ago.
To join the Town Watch, contact Vearling at 215-758-6396 or email@example.com
¥ Mayfair Civic Association's next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 26, at 7 p.m., at the John M. Perzel Community Center, at 2990 St. Vincent St.
For more information, contact Joe DeFelice at 215-292-3926 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or email@example.com