I always thought that The Delaware County Press Club should be a household name by now. Because members work in public relations, newspapers, magazines, broadcasting, social media, blogging, television and other fields of communication, one would think they would have gotten the word out 10 times over about this gem of a club right in our midst! After all, that’s their business and what they do best!
However, The Delaware County Press Club is one of our county’s best kept secret treasures. Founded in 1979, the club will soon be four decades old! The club’s mission is to provide networking and continuing education for professionals in the field of communications, keep current with industry trends and newsmakers, as well as encourage excellence among future communicators.
As legend has it, the idea for starting a press club hatched through a casual conversation over tea among Barbara Ormsby, Janet Shay and Dorothea Reynolds in the basement of the Delaware County Courthouse. The first planning meeting also included Dr. Margaret Mary Kearney of Neumann College, Christina Parker of Town Talk Newspapers and public relations specialists Charles Crist and Joyce Ellis. Barbara, who is still an active reporter for all Delaware County newspapers and an integral member of today’s Press Club, became the very first president when the club, modeled after the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., was born.
According to the club’s archives, the very first meeting was held at Cavanaugh’s Bar and Restaurant in Pilgrim Gardens. From there, it moved to It’s About Thyme in Media and then to the Towne House. Since then, the club has rotated locations, from the Diamond Club at Harrah’s to Springhaven Club, the former Edgmont Country Club, Concordville Inn and several other locations before settling in last year at DiFabio’s in Upper Providence.
Since that very first year, the club has steadily grown in numbers and blossomed. Through the club, countless friendships and business contacts have developed, scholarships were awarded to dozens of students in communications majors and members and guests have expanded their knowledge of business and of life. Most members in the club have not only built countless professional relationships but lifelong friendships with many, as well.
I’m not trying to “sell” the Press Club because member benefits and word of mouth already do that and there’s never a shortage of eager members, bonded by their love of the written word. Instead, I am going to write about my experience with the club, in case any reader in the communications field or student going into the communication field thinks that they may want to learn more about the benefits of membership.
I’ve been a member of the Delco Press Club for two decades. Through that time, I served as a general member, a committee member, a board member, a recording secretary, a vice president and president. While in the club, I’ve met cherished friends, as well as hundreds of business contacts who have helped me progress in my career. I can’t even put a number on how many story ideas and leads have sprung from conversations and connections there.
The club has a monthly luncheon at noon on the third Wednesday of every month where the speakers have always been phenomenal. Over the years, interesting, informative and entertaining speakers have included legendary attorney F. Lee Bailey, Wawa CEO/President Chris Gheysens, Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian, the invincible Vince Papale, Ground Zero engineer Joseph Viscuso, Peter Nero when he was with the Philly POPS, Jane Pepper of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, Sharon Pinkenson of the Greater Philadelphia Film Office, Broadway’s Andrea McArdle, rock-and-roll legend Charlie Gracie, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross, the late Harry Kalas, former Gov. Ed Rendell, the legendary Sally Starr, talk show host Dom Giordano, the late baseball legend Tug McGraw, former Philadelphia DA Lynne Abraham, former Gov. Mark Schweiker, Phillie Phanatic Tom Burgoyne, Mike Lemon of Mike Lemon Casting and mafia expert/author George Anastasia, and that is, really, only the tip of the iceberg of luncheon speakers that we’ve had through the years!
Speakers have also included a myriad of local TV news personalities, including Larry Kane, Lu Ann Cahn, David Murphy, Don Tollefson, Dawn Stensland, Bob Kelly, Pat Ciarrocchi, Jim Donovan, Glenn “Hurricane” Schwartz, Lynn Doyle, Tracy Davidson, Kate Bilo, Lou Tilley, Sue Serio, Joe Pellegrino and Steve Levy.
Many other speakers have been of intense local interest for members, including the memorable Upper Darby police Chief Mike Chitwood, Swiss Farms CEO Scott Simon, Delaware County Daily Times Editor Phil Heron, Philadelphia Inquirer Editor Stan Wischnowski, Sen. Ted Erickson, Sen. Dominick Pileggi, DA Jack Whelan, Chick-fil-A owner Gene Ontjes, St. Joe’s basketball coach Phil Martelli and many other authors, CEOs and newsmakers.
The club has moderated political debates; held high school newspaper contests, adult celebrity spelling bees and golf outings; and members even had the distinction of dining at Philly’s legendary Le Bec Fin on its final day in operation in 2013.
One of the extra perks of membership is The Delco Press Club’s reciprocal affiliation with the National Press Club. The club has taken several very memorable road trips down to Washington to tour the national club (very impressive!) and attend the luncheons, which were broadcast live nationally on C-Span. The speakers we saw on our trips there included Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, Dolly Parton and actress Goldie Hawn. We were also able to attend the meet-and-greets, and yes, we even posed it up to get pictures with them. On one trip, we even fit in a fun side trip to the Newseum in D.C. (You can imagine how Press Club members loved that!).
The Press Club hosts several field trips, open to members and their guests, and also hosts local excursions as well. In addition to one cool trip that took members to the Franklin Institute’s King Tut exhibit, following a cocktail party on the 57th floor of Two Liberty Center (What? You thought the club was all-work, no-play?), other memorable behind-the-scene tours have included PPL Park (now Talen Energy Stadium) before it opened to the public, Sun Center Studios, Channel 3, the under-construction Lansdowne Theater, Channel 10, the Chester Waterfront, Citizens Bank Park with entrance to the press room and a Phillies game and, just last month, the club toured the new state-of-the-art TV/radio station at Neumann University where it held a networking event. Periodic after-work networking events are held for those who can’t always get there during the Wednesday lunch time slot.
The club also hosts educational panels and professional development workshops on topics such as how to get your cause or information into the news, how to self-publish a book and how to make social media work in your career. The workshops are another lifeline to communicators, just like the overall club, to enhance careers and broaden knowledge, where participants can share talent, skills and ideas.
The Press Club is also about encouraging and mentoring young people who desire future careers in the media. In addition to offering a very reasonable student membership rate so young people can join to network and learn in the club, the Press Club also fundraises through a 50/50 monthly drawing, special events and a holiday basket raffle to award educational grants to a student studying in the field of communications. The award rotates through all of the Delaware County schools of higher education so that every six or seven years, a student at one of the schools gets an award. Endowed scholarships are also awarded in memory of former members, including the Robert Finucane Memorial Scholarship and Ed Berman Scholarship at Penn State Brandywine, the Jack Steck Scholarship at Temple and the Charles Crist Scholarship at Delaware County Community College.
Some of the “fun”-raisers that raised the money for those earlier scholarships included the Wine on the Brandywine and the Juleps at the Mint (Kentucky Derby Day at the former Franklin Mint). Other memorable Press Club hosted events include a 2½-hour tribute to the late legendary broadcaster Jack Steck (“This is Your Life, Jack Steck”) that was emceed by the late Dick Clark of “American Bandstand” fame and the club’s still-talked-about production of “An Off-White Christmas,” which drew 300 people to a performance at the Log Cabin Inn (now there’s a blast from the past).
Last week, I reflected back on everything that the Press Club has meant to my career and my life when we welcomed in the 12th president of the club, Tracy Price of the Delaware County Bar Association. Tracy’s executive board will consist of Andrea DiFabio of AD Communications, Vinyl Revival and the Community Art Center as first vice president, Paul Kotrotsios of Hellenic News of America as second vice president, Anita Sayers of The Radnor Hotel as recording secretary, Chris Farias of Eastern Business Software Inc. as corresponding secretary and Joanne Armstrong of Yoder and Armstrong Printing as treasurer. All the newbies will be officially installed at the September meeting.
Outgoing President Bill Tyson of Penn State Brandywine finished out the year as president, going out with a bang hosting Sun Center Studios owner Jeff Rotwitt and his daughter, Julie Rotwitt Golembiewski, who talked about the future plans at the Aston film studio and concert venue.
Outgoing board members included myself as immediate past president, Lisa Cadorette, Amanda Bruton, Doreen McGettigan, Marianne Kirby Rhodes and Emily Harris. Last year’s board, president and executive committee worked really hard to make it another great year for the club. Everyone rotating off the board is leaving it in better, more organized and more purposeful shape than when they came on and you can’t ask for better than that.
Joining current board members Charlie Tomlinson of Main Line Today Magazine, Jennifer Hoffman of Delaware County Chamber of Commerce, Mike McDade of Penn State Brandywine, Mary Wascavage, of Crozer Keystone Health System and Jen Boyett of Comcast will be new board members Dave Sibley of On Video, Ken Knickerbocker of PIVOT, Anne Neborak of Delco News Network and Delco Times, Paul Bennett of Community and Spirit Newspapers, Adriene Irving of Delco Intermediate Unit, Sean McDonald of Neumann University Communications Center and Lorraine Ranalli of Franklin Mint Credit Union.
With the seats on the board always evolving and changing and different people signing up to help with the committees, fresh blood and new ideas are always flowing through the club, keeping it vibrant and interesting. The list of luminaries who have been members through the years is staggering—it truly is a club of “Delaware County’s who’s who.”
Sometimes when I think of all the members, and all the places they’ve worked for, volunteered for and represented, I am in disbelief! I think every entity in Delaware County has come through our club in one way or another. Members join throughout the year so there are always new people to meet, contacts to make. Another benefit of the club is getting to promote your company and your projects and causes among the members.
Another nice feature about the Press Club is that people can attend as a guest. This way, prospective members can try it out before joining to be sure that it’s a good fit. Once a guest discovers the Press Club can serve him or her well, he fills out an application and the board votes to approve their membership. Compared with other organizations in our area, the membership fee is one of the most modest.
The Delaware County Press Club is truly a unique organization that has always attracted the doers, thinkers and movers in our county to join, to visit, to speak, to teach and to learn. I’ve yet to hear any professional who joined the Press Club say that they were sorry to belong. It’s quite the opposite. Once they take the plunge, people always inquire about how to get even more involved.
Hundreds of journalists, reporters, editors, photographers, bloggers, marketers, public relations specialists, videographers, social media influencers, publishers, writers, correspondents, web publishers and diverse communicators of every genre have networked, exchanged information, learned, expanded and grew professionally and personally through their club membership. Members are comforted to know that whenever they need information, help or advice, there’s always a fellow club member available.
The Delaware County Press Club breaks for the summer, but under the new leadership, the club will kick off stronger than ever, ready to begin the new season at noon on Sept. 20, the customary third Wednesday of the month. Along with old friends and new and many professional colleagues, there will likely be lots of familiar and not-so-familiar faces, eager to grasp the many exclusive Press Club opportunities.
I want to express a great big “thank you” to Bill Tyson and all of last year’s board members for their never-ending hard work and determination, and I wish President Tracy Price and her board members — new and returning — a successful and prosperous 2017-18 Delaware County Press Club season! I want to also thank the club’s founders, all its past leaders, past and present members and all of those who have realized through the years the value, importance and impact of having a press club in our county.
Three cheers (times a thousand) to the Delaware County Press Club, its leadership and its myriad of benefits and opportunities!
For more information or a membership application, visit thepressclubpa.org.
Readers can reach Peg DeGrassa at firstname.lastname@example.org.