Around Town

Mario Lanza Museum Christmas Party on Saturday

The Mario Lanza Institute will host its annual Christmas party at the Mario Lanza Museum, 1214 Reed St., on Dec. 2, from 1-4 p.m.

The event will include a lunch of pizza and other goodies, a special memorabilia donation and a video presentation commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Maria Callas. 

The special memorabilia donation will be made by Steven Sacks of a booklet of sheet music used by conductor Ray Sinatra for Mario Lanza’s 1951 Christmas album for RCA Victor. It comes from the collection of his late Uncle Manie Sacks who was a vice president of RCA, RCA Victor and NBC and also worked for Columbia Records. Emanuel “Manie” Sacks had a long working relationship with many stars including Frank Sinatra, Dinah Shore, George Burns and Jack Benny. He passed away in 1959 at the young age of 56. Steven Sacks gained interest in broadcasting through his father, his Uncle Manie and also Herman Rush. He has had an extensive career in local television in the Philadelphia area for many years and now serves on the Board of Directors for the Pioneers of Philadelphia Broadcasting. 

Maria Callas was one of the greatest and most controversial opera stars of the 20th century. Known as “La Divina” by her fans and noted for her distinctive voice and acting skills, she helped revive many Bel Canto masterpieces that had been seldom performed and was equally at home in the operas of Verdi and Puccini.

Mario Lanza was an ambassador for all good music. Through his films, concerts, recordings, radio show and television appearances, he brought great enjoyment to all who experienced his wonderful and exciting talent and introduced many to the world of opera for the first time.

The Mario Lanza Institute, a 501c3 nonprofit, was founded to help perpetuate Lanza’s dream of aiding young aspiring opera singers through scholarships. To date, the Institute has awarded over 300 scholarships.

Tickets for the Christmas party are $25 per person. Seating is limited for the event and on a first-come first-paid basis. To order tickets by credit card, call the Mario Lanza Institute at 215-238-9691. Checks for attending as well as donations may also be sent to Mario Lanza Institute, 1214 Reed St., Philadelphia, PA 19147. Visit for more information and make an online donation. 

Deck the Ave returns to East Passyunk

East Passyunk Avenue Business Improvement District is celebrating the holiday season with the return of its annual Deck The Ave, a host of spirited events, entertainment, shopping and more, including photos with Santa, the Christmas tree-lighting ceremony, Hanukkah menorah lighting and the second annual Hot Chocolate Crawl.

East Passyunk Avenue’s annual Christmas tree-lighting ceremony will be held at the Singing Fountain (East Passyunk Avenue and Tasker Street) on Nov. 29 from 5-7 p.m. This beloved kickoff to the holidays brings together a crowd of locals and visitors of all ages to witness Santa Claus himself lead the tree-lighting ceremony while taking in the celebratory sounds of student singers from Fanny Jackson Coppin School, Quaker City String Band as well as a new, fun holiday singalong led by Hire Musicians LLC, featuring singers from the Union League Voices. In addition to the excitement of the ceremony, the massive 14-foot tree is adorned with vibrant 20,000 LED lights, aimed to colorfully visualize the joyous sounds of holiday music within the surrounding area.

“Moreso than ever before, East Passyunk Avenue is the destination for holiday celebrations, welcoming everyone from across the region,” said Rebecca O’Leary, executive director of East Passyunk Avenue Business Improvement District. “Visit the Avenue for an immersive holiday experience on our unique commercial strip of independent businesses. Expect new pop-up events with nighttime entertainment, family friendly activities on weekends and public art activations before the end of the year.”

Another fan-favorite East Passyunk Avenue tradition is photos with Santa, encouraged for both human and furry, four-legged children alike, starting on Nov. 29 at the Christmas tree lighting located at the Singing Fountain. Folks can bring their camera and take photos with Santa at no cost with additional opportunities on Dec. 3 from 3-5 p.m., Dec. 14 from 5-7 p.m., Dec. 16 from 3-5 p.m. and Dec. 17 from noon to 2 p.m.

Additional holiday happenings during Deck The Ave include:

  • East Passyunk Punch Card – Through Jan. 1, shoppers will receive a punch for each $10 spent at participating businesses. Once 10 punches have been received, submit the completed card to one of East Passyunk Avenue’s businesses and be automatically entered into a prize raffle for a gift certificate.
  • Second Annual Hot Chocolate Crawl – Various hot cocoa and boozy-alternative chocolate creations available at numerous local restaurants, bars and cafés (Dec. 9; pay-as-you-go, further details to come in weeks ahead).
  • Hanukkah Happenings – The South Philadelphia Shtiebel will lead the community in celebrating the festival of lights with the annual Hanukkah menorah lighting at the Singing Fountain (Dec. 7; sundown).
  • Letters to Santa – All are invited to drop off letters to Santa at East Passyunk Avenue’s North Pole Mailbox located at the Singing Fountain starting after the Christmas tree-lighting ceremony.
  • Pop-Up Music/Entertainment – Local musicians and carolers will perform throughout the duration of Deck The Ave around the Singing Fountain and Mifflin Triangle, plus up and down the Avenue on weekends. Stay tuned for more details in the weeks ahead.
  • 13th Annual Ornament Show – Presented by Nice Things Handmade, this beloved annual ornament show will showcase more than 50 local artists and their handmade ornament submissions for sale running through Jan. 12.

Celebrate the holiday season on South Street

Get festive during the most wonderful time of the year with family and friends on South Street while supporting local businesses. The South Street Headhouse District is hosting its annual South Street Tree Lighting, Santa Meet & Greet and Mrs. Claus Holiday Market on Dec. 2 from noon to 4:30 p.m. and a Headhouse Festival of Lights and ceremonial menorah lighting on Dec. 11 at 4:45 p.m. Both events will be located at the Headhouse Shambles (2nd and Pine streets). For people looking to get a head start on their holiday shopping, they can shop small with the South Street Holiday Haul, running through Dec. 24. Shoppers will have the opportunity to win big prizes from SSHD businesses including Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, Repo Records and Queen & Rook Game Cafe.

Scanlon legislation would send mental health pros to 911 calls

Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon joined Reps. Katie Porter, Ayanna Pressley and Tony Cárdenas in introducing the Mental Health Justice Act to empower state and local governments to send trained mental health professionals in response to 911 calls when an individual is experiencing a mental health crisis.

The Treatment Advocacy Center estimates that one in four fatal police encounters involves someone with a severe mental illness. Additional research estimates that more than one in five 911 calls involve someone experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis.

The Mental Health Justice Act establishes a grant program to pay for hiring, training, salary, benefits and additional expenses for mental health provider first responder units. Upon establishment, mental health providers would be the first on the scene to assist an individual experiencing a mental health crisis and help them to access appropriate community resources.

“The American people and law enforcement agree — individuals experiencing a mental health crisis need to be connected with trained mental health professionals, not thrown in jail,” Scanlon said. “But all too often, we see the tragic consequences of interactions between people in crisis and police officers who lack the necessary training to care for them. I’m proud to lead this common-sense bill alongside Rep. Porter to keep our communities safe by providing the resources needed to care for our most vulnerable and meet the needs of our over-extended law enforcement.”

The Mental Health Justice Act will further support proposed policies and existing programs to assist in de-escalating engagements with those experiencing a mental health crisis. For Fiscal Year 2022, Scanlon secured $650,000 for Delaware County’s Crisis Co-Response Program through Community Project Funding. Currently operational in Haverford and Upper Darby, additional funding would be critical in expanding services for extended hours and additional locations.

New exhibitions at Da Vinci Art Alliance

Coming up on display at the Da Vinci Art Alliance will be both Gary Grissom’s “An American Family” and the fifth annual small works member show “Perennial Visions.”

Derived from a synthesis of reference photographs and firsthand encounters with his family in both the United States and Korea, Gary Grissom’s An American Family offers a nuanced exploration of his familial journey through his distinctive approach to patterning, surface detailing and color variation.  

Perennial Visions V celebrates the creativity flourishing within Da Vinci Art Alliance. The exhibition, a harmonious convergence of diverse artistic voices, proudly unveils the collective brilliance of membership. 

These exhibition will be on view at DVAA from Dec. 2-17 with an opening reception on Dec. 7, from 4-7 p.m. and a closing artist talk on Dec. 17 from noon to 2 p.m.

$125K in grants offered by Black Music City

A total of $125,000 in grants is being offered by Black Music City, the project that awards annual grants to Philadelphia-area black creatives for new artistic works that honor Philadelphia’s black music heritage. Local black creatives working in any artistic medium are encouraged to apply for individual Black Music City artistic grants from $1,500 to $5,000 each. 

Applications can be made at through Jan. 31. Past Black Music City grantees are also eligible to apply for grants to build upon their previous projects.

A selection committee of black Philadelphia professionals prominent in the arts, media and business communities will review the grant applications, from which 30 recipients will be selected. The 2024 Black Music City grant winners will be announced in March. 

In addition to the grant money they receive, each recipient is offered informational and support sessions before the completion of their new works. The creators and their new works are featured in videos, and celebrated online and in special events held during June, which is celebrated as Black Music Appreciation Month.

Established in 2020, Black Music City has increased the amount of available grant funds each year, awarding a total of $263,000 in grants to 99 recipients in its first three years. Lead support for Black Music City 2024 is being provided by the William Penn Foundation through a two-year Creative Communities grant.

Black Music City’s three founding partners – Philadelphia public radio music stations WXPN-FM and WRTI-FM, and REC Philly, a place for creators – administer the project and help promote the grant recipients and their new work to the broader Philadelphia arts community and beyond.

WXPN General Manager Roger LaMay said, “A goal for the Black Music City partners going forward is to not only continue to increase the amount of available funds, but also to increase opportunities for promotion and exposure of the selected artists and their work.”

Full information about available grants, eligibility and submission process is available at

$112K in PA Farm Bill grants for schools

The Philadelphia House Delegation announced that $112,239 in grants has been awarded to schools in the city. The funds, distributed through the PA Department of Agriculture in coordination with the Farm-to-School Grants program, will support projects aimed at facilitating access to healthy, local food and improving nutrition awareness for children in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

The School District of Philadelphia received a $15,000 grant and South Philly institutions Caring People Alliance and the Children’s Playhouse Early Learning Center were also among the recipients who were given $15,000 grants.

“We are thrilled to welcome these grants for Philadelphia schools. Farm-to-School grants are a remarkable investment. It would help create a solid foundation for a healthy today and future for students,” said chairwoman Morgan Cephas.

Funded projects connect local farmers to schools to supply fresh, in-season products to be served in cafeterias, expanding market opportunities for farmers. Other projects support school gardens, field trips and other hands-on agriculture education, enriching early awareness of career opportunities.

Free help available during holidays

For the 13th year, International School of Coaching’s Master Coach Paula Michele Boyle and her team of trained Life Coach specialists are reaching out to support the community for those feeling frustrated or unsatisfied with their relationships, careers and wellness. Enjoy a free opportunity to figure out where you are and where you want to go. The session you will receive with a certified Life Coach is available through New Year’s Day. There is a 10% discount to those who want to become certified as a Life Coach to help others in need. To register or learn more, visit ••

Parkinson’s support group

Temple University Hospital – Jeanes Campus is offering a Parkinson’s disease support group for those who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and their families. The group will meet on the second Wednesday of every other month from 6-7 p.m. at the Cheltenham Friends Meetinghouse, 7604 Central Ave. The schedule is Dec. 13 (holiday party) and Feb. 14. The group is led by nurse practitioner June Ro, and will include guest speakers. To register, contact Ro at 215-707-2619 or ••

Trip to Bethlehem

The Polish American Cultural Center Museum is sponsoring a trip to Bethlehem, “The Christmas City,” from Dec. 14-16. The tour includes two night accommodations at The Windcreek Hotel and Casino; two $20 vouchers; $70 slot play; a visit to Pines Dinner Theater to see Holly Jolly Christmas, with lunch (BYOB); a tour of “The Lights on the Parkway;” a free day to gamble and shop at the outlets; a visit to the Christkindlmarkt (Christmas shopping and artisans craft markets); and round-trip motorcoach. The cost is $525 per person double occupancy or $700 single. For information and reservations, call Theresa Romanowski at 215-922-1700. ••

VFW looking for members

Bustleton-Somerton/CTR1 Michael J. Strange VFW Post 6617 meets on the third Wednesday of every month at American Legion Post 810, 9151 Old Newtown Road. Meetings start at 7:30 p.m. If you are a military veteran who served in a designated combat zone, you are eligible to join the VFW. Contact Commander Israel Wolmark at 215-725-0630 if you would like to join the post. ••