Roots of Revitalization

Social Change Through Action In Pottstown PA

Community Cohesion January 10, 2012

Filed under: Quality of Life Issues — roots of revitalization @ 9:44 am
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By Anya Rhoads -Lafferty

  • We live in America—the land of freedom—the land of opportunity—the land of choices. Many different facets make America the great country it is; however, along with these freedoms and opportunities and choices sometimes comes hardship, tragedy, and poor decision-making, not just on the part of individuals, but also families, businesses, corporations, and government.The current economic strife America is facing is affecting everyone from individuals, families, local businesses, large corporations and, most importantly, our government. Across the board we all have had to make changes and sacrifices in order to survive on a day-to-day basis. No one likes change (good or bad), as we are creatures of habit, but sometimes we are forced to make changes because of outside influences (such as the current economic state of our country).

    Sometimes individuals, corporations, and government make poor choices that only serve to continually affect us negatively. Maybe it is because we just made the wrong choice, or maybe we chose to make the wrong choice. Whatever the situation is, we still have to continue to find a way to survive and stay strong.

    With a town like Pottstown, which continues to struggle financially and cosmetically, drastic change needs to occur. In Pottstown (the 19464 zip code), we have the borough of Pottstown and we have all of the Pottsgrove communities which surround it. On the outskirts of these two towns we have cities to our North—Gilbertsville, Bechtelsville, and Boyertown. These latter three towns most recently merged their fire departments together. Merging of businesses and companies can save one from being shut down completely, can save money, and brings people together. In the aftermath of 9/11, America came together in the wake of tragedy. In the wake of our current economic strife, we need to come together as a community. Pottstown and Pottsgrove need to follow in the footsteps of the fire departments in Gilbertsville, Bechtelsville, and Boyertown and merge to make ONE town.

    I can understand that the citizens residing in the Pottsgrove communities do not want to take on the financial burdens of the Pottstown borough. All towns and cities have their issues—no town or city is immune. As a whole, Pottsgrove appears to have their affairs in order and take care of their communities. Maybe our borough councilmen do not have the proper means to save the borough and maybe they do. If Pottsgrove and Pottstown were to come together and become ONE community—it would save our schools, save jobs, save the town, save money, and bring Pottstown (as a whole) back to life. With the Department of Education cutting funds for students, it only makes sense to merge these two school districts together. Why do we need two school districts in the same zip code anyway? If you look at our neighboring districts—Owen J. Roberts, Boyertown, Springford, Phoenixville, etc.—you see they do not have more than one school district within their towns. The best example is the Gilbertsville, Becthelsville, Boyertown cities (all of which have different zip codes) but they have ONE school district. Those towns are as close together as Pottstown and Pottsgrove. It makes no sense to have two school districts. If the Department of Education continues to reduce funding, they will either force school districts within a specified radius to merge, or we as a community will be forced to merge.

    I think of the powers that be in Pottstown were to enforce laws (i.e. hold slumlords accountable, enforce codes and laws, terminate water service to those who do not pay their bills, and escalate recuperating tax funds that are overdue in a more timely fashion to the extent of the law) that maybe Pottsgrove would be more agreeable to a merger.

    It is very difficult to take steps to make differences when people put up a barrier and don’t think of others. It is time for us as Americans to work together and be there for each other and stop asking “what’s in it for me?” Change is difficult…coming in to help clean up a mess is difficult…these times are difficult, but if we work together as a people, a community, and a country, think of the wonderful changes we can make! Pottstown and Pottsgrove should set the standard and make changes before they are forced upon us. By working together, we could make other communities stand up and say “hey—look how great that town is—how they worked together…we want to be like them!” Think about it…let’s come together and make positive change and make others turn their heads to us in jealousy and see the good we have done and they will follow suit. This can help change the world one town at a time and bring us together. Our children need to learn this valuable lesson and work together as a community. We need to get our kids out of the house, off the couch, out from in front of the television and video games. Third world countries work together each and every day (physical labor) to have the very few means they have, including food. If we get up and get moving, we also would be changing the obesity issue in our country. Let’s make big change together!

    Everyone takes the time to forward e-mails and text messages…let’s take it a step further. Let’s make big change that reverberates across the states. How far can we get our message sent and create change? Are you up for the challenge?


    Anya Rhoads-Lafferty

    Anya Rhoads-Lafferty

    Anya is a life time resident of Pottstown, PA and teacher at Antonelli Medical & Professional Institute . She studied Medical Secretary/Secretarial Sciences at Pennsylvania Business Institute, and is a member of  Phi Theta Kappa through MCCC.

     

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The “Rites” Of Learning To Read And Write! October 5, 2011

Filed under: Family Friendly Activities — roots of revitalization @ 2:44 pm
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By, Alan Jensen-Sellers

Parents and children were at the Pottstown Middle
School last night at 6pm, and sports had nothing to do with it!  It
was Family Literacy Night, a free program presented by the Pottstown
School District to teach parents the tools they need to help their
children learn and improve literacy skills outside the classroom.

Open to children from preschoolers (age 4) through 1st
grade and their parents/guardians, it is a series of six sessions, each
focusing on an aspect of literacy learning. You can join at any time,
while the sessions build on each other, they can also be learned as
individual classes.

The main part of the program is based on the TeachMe To Read At Home System   (http://www.sbsl.org/)

produced by Step by Step Learning.

The teachers gave out  classroom materials that outline this learning theory.

The 1st gradeportion of the Family Literacy Night was developed
entirely by Pottstown School District Teachers. The first part of the program

  begins with the kids going off to another room to do some fun activities,
while the parents separate into several groups. This portion of the
course is geared towards explaining the concepts and implementation
to the parents; along with some demonstrations of materials the
teacher had found to be particularly helpful. (Did you know pipe
cleaners are now referred to as chenille sticks?)

The children rejoined their parents in the second
half of the event, which was a practical demonstration of the
activities that were discussed. This also afforded an opportunity
for parents to see how the students might be handled in a classroom
setting.

Our group was taught by Mrs. Treena Ferguson, who teaches kindergarten at Edgewood Elementary. After the class portion was done we all
adjourned to the cafeteria for snacks and the door prize raffle.
There were books on all the tables which children could take home.
Door prizes included gift certificates for local restaurants,
fitness centers and stores for the adults, and books and book bags
for the children.

This program is supported by Step By Step Learning, who provide most             of the educational materials. Other costs are covered by donations from local business, and fundraising activities.

The teachers and staff volunteer their time because of their dedication to education at PSD.

Some of the Pottstown School District administrative employees that  were present were Assistant  Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Sparagana , and Barth Elementary School Principal Mr. Ryan Oxenford.  What a great opportunity for our local children, to be shown that education can be  fun and interactive!

Active parental involvement and communication with teachers is a major indicator of whether students  will have a successful educational career! The next class is scheduled for October 25th. Registration opens at                                           5:30pm. For further information check out the PSD website! http://www.pottstownschools.com

 

Pottstown Downtown Improvement District Authority’s Upcoming Events- September 5, 2011

Filed under: Family Friendly Activities — roots of revitalization @ 9:25 pm
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                                         (http://www.downtownpottstown.org/) 

The Pottstown Downtown Improvement District Authority (PDIDA) has moved in to their new space  at 17 N Hanover St.  Sheila Dugan the PDIDA Director wishes  to “thank the volunteers who helped the office move, we are also on our way to becoming  POTTSTOWNS VISITORS CENTER! As the boxes are unpacked, we are busy planning various events that we hope will bring people into the downtown and recognize the wonderful shop space and events we have here. This season we are working with the school district, other community organizations and merchants for the  OPEN DOORS event on September 10. Stores will be open, fun things will be going on throughout the downtown and at the high school. It is the start of several events, that have many different organizations working together to PROVE Pottstown is a  fun, safe place that many great people call home!

Sheila Dugan Director of PDIDA.

Super Sunday Events:

                                                                               

                                                                    

on September 18th the annual The Carousel of Flavors will return. Local eateries will dish up yummy bites to support the restoration of the Victorian Merry Ground they have been fundraising for, the last several years. (http://www.pottstowncarousel.org/events.htm ) Crafters and cooks alike who are interested in participating in this festival should call Jill Burbank at 610- 970-0624.

On September 24th A Pet Expo is underway for the 24thas well as a community yard sale – The Pottstown Arts Cultural Alliance and Bill Sharon from the Borough Codes Department are working on this great event. (http://www.pottstownarts.org)

On October 23rd the annual Halloween Adventure will be celebrated downtown. We will have Alpacas there for the children to pet, music, scarecrow making, face painting and more at beautiful Riverfront Park. (http://pottstown.org/departments-parks.htm)

November 27th is the kick off date to the Hometown Holidays Season.  All through December family friendly events are being planned, which in years past have included: Christmas Bands and Sleigh Rides. In 2011 a group or an organization that would like to win $500 in the tree
decorating contest should contact the PDIDA Office at 610-323-5400 for details. Mrs. Dugan is also planning a “Vintage Holiday Theme” to help promote the Tri Pac’s December play “A Christmas Story”.  (http://www.villageproductions.org/index.htm)

Mrs. Dugan also stated that as “we roll into December, we will be having Santa arrive on Dec. 2nd (starts at  630) down High Street to his Santa house where you can have photos taken. More activities will be going on throughout the various shops in town. On Saturday the 10th, we will have a spot for your pets to be photographed with Santa, as well as the regular Santa House photo opportunities for your family. Choirs are being scheduled to sing throughout town and other special activities which will be going on from noon to 6pm. We are also planning  the second PDIDA Holiday Ball which was a popular success last year, and the date is Friday December 9th!”  This fundraising event supports many community/family friendly events, the litter clean up program, and the  marketing for our downtown area.

The PDIDA Director Groovin at last years Holiday Ball in Dec. 2010

Want to help PDIDA? VOLUNTEER  at the new Visitors Center/Office at 17 N Hanover St. PDIDA is hoping to have the center open from 10 to 2,  and would love to have enough volunteers to be open every day of the week. The second thing you can do is go to www.fastsigns.com to VOTE for the PDIDA sign to win the $10k make-over. The  entry is number 375. You do have to register, but click the bottom where it says view next 20 then you will get tour no 375. Click on it and press MORPHIT…it can be done once a day everyday by everyone. This would help us tremendously!!! Feel free to contact Sheila Dugan for further details on how you can help make downtown Pottstown a better place!  Call 610-323-5400  to volunteer or buy tickets for upcoming holiday ball!

 

Simple tips on preparing your child (and yourself) for their first year in Kindergarten… August 5, 2011

By Nicole Matregrano

Getting ready for any new adventure can be challenging, especially when it is a momentous occasion like the first day of grade school.  Most of us remember our first day; stepping onto the bus with feelings of anticipation, nervousness, excitement and even fear.  So, why not make this important transition a little smoother on not only the child, but the parent as well?  Even if you’re a seasoned professional, there are some tips I’d like to offer (as a Kindergarten teacher) that may keep your child on track during their academic career.

I’d like to start out by saying, “Keep it simple!”  Nowadays, parents are inundated with new techniques in learning, special toys, expensive videos and technology aides, etc.  I say as long as you are active and consistent in your child’s development, they will survive!  Children with academic and developmental needs will have different approaches, but as long as you follow the appropriate guidelines and enjoy yourselves, they will be okay.

Now, the first tip I like to give to parents with children entering Kindergarten is READ to them.  Read, read and then read a little more.  I cannot stress the importance of literacy at a young age.  It is tough as a teacher, to watch students who are behind the other students because they aren’t familiar with simple concepts of print.  Anytime is a great time to read, and to make it more exciting for your child, allow them ‘to read’ to you every once in a while.  Oh, and please don’t correct them if the story is a little off.  You want to make reading a positive experience, so remember to let their imaginations take over!!

My next tip in preparing your child for their Kindergarten experience is  allowing them to get more involved in their own learning, especially regarding writing. More and more I see students entering into the classroom environment worrying if they are correct, or too afraid to try because their parents always did everything for them, this is unfortunate!   Give your child some crayons and let them go crazy!  While you are making dinner or cleaning, ask your child to sit down and draw or write.  Scribbling is a form of writing, so again, please do not correct your child’s work; encourage creativity.  The only time I encourage parents to help their child learn how to write a word in a more traditional form of writing, is when they are learning to write their name (which teachers love to see on the first day of school).

My third tip, is preparing your child for a structured environment.  Although I see instances where students have been so restricted, that they have a tough time ‘letting loose’.  Howevever, I see more students who been given free reign over their home environment.  As a teacher, let me tell you that this not only makes for a difficult and disruptive learning environment, but it could even hold your child back from learning.  Kindergarten may seem like a simple day of playing, learning the ABC’s and drawing.  There is a method to a Kindergarten teacher’s madness and each activity has a purpose.  When those activities are disrupted because Johnny doesn’t want to clean up the blocks he played with during “Free Choice”, or Suzy doesn’t understand why she has to listen to the teacher when asked to not talk during the “Read Aloud”, it not only takes time away from the other students, but prohibits the larger life lesson in self-accountability.  So, go ahead and say “No” to your child when they need to hear it.  Trust me, they will survive.

Finally, I’d like to share some things with you that most teachers would like their students’ parents to know, but may not feel comfortable or even be at liberty to say to parents.  Firstly, get involved in the classroom activities, because what kid doesn’t like to watch one of their parents walk through the classroom door to help the teacher with a project?  Next, listen to what the teacher has to say and trust that although you may know what’s best for your child, they may know a thing or two as well.  I can’t tell you how difficult it was to watch one of my students struggle through first and second grade, because his parents thought that retaining him in Kindergarten was unnecessary.  It is much easier to hold a child back in Kindergarten than doing it after several years of bonding with classmates.  Lastly, the social development that takes place at this grade level is sometimes underestimated, but is such a large part of the Kindergarten experience.  Make play dates with other families, attend school activities and give your child a sense of accountability through cleaning up after themselves and maybe even by helping you cook and clean a little.  It may even make the dreaded teen years a little less painful when they already know they have to clean their room before they go out!

Enjoy these years with your child and get them involved in their learning.  Ask them to count the apples you put into your grocery cart, or have them measure out a cup of flour during dinner time.  Plus, what grandparent (or aunt and uncle) doesn’t like a homemade card for a holiday?  Thank you for taking time to listen to the ranting’s of a teacher and remember to not sweat the small stuff and know that everything little action you do has such a big impact in your child’s life!

Nicole Matregrano is from Limerick, PA and holds a Masters in Education fom Temple University and is departing in August to teach English at a school in Abu Dhabi.

 

Lincoln Legacies: two generations of family to attend Pottstown school! July 15, 2011

Filed under: Family Friendly Activities — roots of revitalization @ 4:52 am
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Lincoln Elementary School of Pottstown, PA

 By Patty Fetterman

   I’m honestly not sure who was more scared that first day of school on the steps of Lincoln Elementary – me, my daughter Claire or my 5 year old twins, Lily and Henry. Claire, who is shy and sweet and skinny as a wisp, was just starting her first year in Pottstown public schools, after spending kindergarten through 4th grade at a small Catholic school near our house. All the twins knew of school was the 4K dynamic duo at Barth, Mrs. Swanson and the beloved “Gramma C.” This was entirely new territory for them, or maybe it was just new for me. I last stood on the steps of Lincoln in 1980, giving Ms. Barkley a tearful goodbye after what turned out to be my all-time favorite year of school. The four of us held hands, looked at each other and marched forward, reassured by the sign stating “this is a Magical Place.”

Claire and Patty Fetterman

  Earlier in the summer, I wrote to Claire’s new 5th grade teacher, Mr. Koman, looking for tips on how to help Claire through what I was sure was going to be a traumatic transition. Are there nice girls she can play with before the year starts? Is there a back to school night? Can we see the classroom? Mr. Koman gave us good tips to make a smooth transition and assured us that start of the school year would be great. We went to back to school night, Claire was nervous but fine, and I was a terrified mess. What do you mean, exactly, by inclusion classroom? That kid over there with the neck tattoo can’t actually be in 5th grade, right? While my primary focus was on Claire, I also wondered how the twins were going to hold up since the 4K teacher suggested we separate the twins to help encourage independence.

  We survived the first few weeks of school. At dinner one night, we were able to have a heart-to-heart conversation with Claire about her first few weeks at Lincoln. Just as luck would have it, Claire’s classroom was split into pairs and her assigned seat was next to, yes, that kid, the reason it’s called an inclusion classroom. Tommy 1 was a big, loud kid who didn’t seem to have a good sense of physical boundaries. He was the kind of kid that perpetually pings around from person to furniture to tree with weighty abandon leaving objects one inch to the left of its original location. Using our sound parental judgment, we instructed Claire to be “nice, but not too nice” and “not to talk to him since he talked too much.” We told her it was probably best just to ignore him and focus on her work. She pretty much shut us up when, after thinking over our advice, replied, “yeah, but he’s my friend and he’s really nice.”

  Lily and Henry were having a fine time in kindergarten. As painful as it was for me to watch, their separation really did expand their personalities and help them (okay, help Henry) find his voice. I think it was also a bit humbling for Lily when the other kids in her class didn’t follow her detailed instructions word for word. We all made the adjustment to the full day schedule and eating lunch in a new cafeteria. Claire was very happy in her class, making new friends every day.

Patty and Jake Fetterman

  Since I work Monday through Thursday, I often went to Lincoln on Fridays to help out. I would sometimes help with parties in the classroom, sometimes in the computer lab, and sometimes in the kitchen for the ever popular “Ice Cream Fridays.” It was a great opportunity for me to walk the halls of what used to be my elementary school. It has not changed much. The office is still the office and the library is still the library (except the librarian is one of my old Lincoln buddies!) I did get this strange out-of-body experience to see the whole building shrink before my eyes. Besides the third world-ish modular’s that were wrecked the outdoor kickball court, the only other significant change was the teachers. Mr. Eby, Mrs. Suzinski, Ms. Barkley, Ms. Missimer have been replaced by younger, fresher faces. With one noticeable exception – the lunchlady! Mrs. Hillegas IS STILL THERE!!! Words cannot express my shock when I saw Mrs. Hillegas in the cafeteria one day. My brothers and sisters and I thought she was on the verge of retirement when we were there over 30 years ago! I actually had to step out in the hallway to catch my breath and call my mom when I found out she was still at Lincoln. Totally love her! No one can manage a caf full of antsy kids with a handclap like Mrs. Hillegas.

  The teachers that I met at Lincoln are hard-working and dedicated to their students. Sadly, they teach in a time when public school teachers are under-valued and under-appreciated. I was amazed at their ability to lead a classroom of students with such a wide range of abilities and personality types. There were a few times during the contract negotiations that I felt so ashamed and embarrassed at how teachers were being treated, caught in the cross-hairs of the public education funding debate. I mean, these people are helping to raise our children. The recent budget passed by our republican state leadership is appalling in how much it hurts an already struggling school district.

  I often wondered as I walked the halls of Lincoln, is this still the great place it was when I was here? What would I change? It’s different for sure; it’s not the “Wonder Years” community that I remember from the 1970’s and early 80’s. My parents, who are both retired and help a lot with my kids, have an opinion on this. They are easily bothered by visible body piercings, tattoos, and they have this thing about foul language in front of small kids (hey, they’re old school.) They have a tendency to hyperventilate when they come to school assemblies. One day, after seeing a school mom wearing one of those “Phuck the Yankees” t-shirts, she asked my husband and I if our kids could live at their house in the country so they could go to school there (she was serious). In the t-shirt mom’s defense, the Phillies were playing the Yankees later that same day, and I gave her a high-five on the shirt.

Henry and Lilly Fetterman with their Mom and Dad, Patty and Terry.

  I can be loud, and opinionated, so my modus operandi this year was to support my kids and be quietly helpful to the teachers. I admire the residents of Pottstown who run for school board and attend all those evening meetings. They really put their heart and soul into making Pottstown a better school district. We probably do not say it enough, but Pottstown is a great school district. All four of my kids have grown socially, academically and in ways we can’t even measure through their experiences at an urban district like Pottstown. My children are being prepared for the world and the diversity of people with whom we live and work. I am proud to be a Pottstown parent, and praise the school and staff every chance I get. If people look past their pre-programmed perception problems, they will see a vibrant and amazing district in Pottstown. Claire said it best half way through her 5th grade year at Lincoln, after I asked her to compare her old school and her new school. “Mom, it’s like this. St. Al’s is where I learned how to be nice, but Lincoln is where I get to practice it.”

1 Not his real name.

 

PDIDA: Working With Students To Better Pottstown! July 10, 2011

Filed under: Kool Kids,Student Art Work — roots of revitalization @ 4:18 pm
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By, TJS

     The Pottstown Downtown Improvement District Authority (PDIDA), has

several new internship programs underway with local teen students according

to Sheila Dugan the Chairman of The Board.

Sheila Dugan Chairman of PDIDA

Lindsay Hayver, a junior at Pottstown High

School is responsible for a clean-up crew

that meets every other weekend to gather litter in

the borough. Havyer manages the work schedule and

recruits fellow students to help.  She will be working with

PDIDA as her senior project for the

next two years. Perhaps you  have seen these kids

wearing their yellow PDIDA shirts while they are tidying up

town? The clean up crews range in size from four to

ten people all dedicated to making Pottstown a  more environmental place.

Havyer is also working with local businesses and church volunteer groups to

help PDIDA meet one of their main objectives “keeping the downtown clean,

safe and well managed”. Dugan commented on Havyer, “Lindsay is taking her

own initiative in a  responsible manner that is rare in teenagers today. She is

truly giving back to her community!”

Lindsay Havre Clean Up Crew Managing Intern for PDIDA!

Some of the PDIDA Volunteer Litter Patrol!

The second aspect of the mentoring program utilizes young artists such as

Jaira Kurtz who is a senior at Pottstown High School. Kurtz will be working with

local businesses and designing murals as advertisements as a way to market

downtown Pottstown. One of her first murals will be doing her own version of

the Grumpy’s logo at the sandwich shop located within the Pottstown Farmers

Market.

Jaira Kurtz Artistic Advertising Intern For PDIDA!

Kurtz commented on her senior project intership, “I

lovePottstown and I feel like local students and citizens

don’t get enough credit. We always get the short end of

the stick when it comes to  everything and I  would just

like to bring more positivity to the town so others can

see what good things can come from Pottstown and the

people who inhabit it. I’m also the

drum major of PHS band and spoke at the past board

meeting about just making this town a better and happier place. It kills

me to see how some of the borough and board members are cutting and taking

away the things that affect this town in positive ways.”

Dugan further discussed how much talent she has seen from young people in

Pottstown, and that past students were responsible for both of the outdoor

murals at the Farmers Market and MCCC’s Riverfront Center.

 

Pottstown Community Garden Project Underway! June 25, 2011

                          The Mosaic Community Land Trust of Pottstown, Pennsylvania http://pottstownclt.wordpress.com/announced on May 25th, 2011 the transfer of 423 Chestnut St. from the Pottstown School District to the CLT for use as a community garden! The vacant lot had been a school playground decades ago and has been rotting in disrepair for the last several years. The community garden that is being developed will be a place where families can rent ground to grow fruits and vegetables. Not only is gardening as a family a wholesome ecological activity but it also teaches children environmental respect. Growing your own healthy food can save money on the grocery bill and gives urban residents access to fresh produce!http://www.houselogic.com/articles/save-money-your-edible-garden/

                                                                                              

      Master Arborist, Alan Jensen-Sellers of Davey Tree Experts located in King of Prussia (http://www.davey.com/home.aspx) organized a crew of five accredited tree professionals on Saturday, June 25th to start preparing the garden.  The Davey Volunteers grinded stumps and mulched wood which will be reused in the planting process.  The tree crew also trimmed the large shady oak tree that is in the northwest corner of the property, where a bench will be placed providing a nice shaded area. The CLT envisions the garden as a project that will increase neighborhood pride, and as a community gathering place, foster friendships among neighbors.

     The Department of Agriculture developed a food pyramid specifically for children in 2005 . The United States Department of Health  highly recommends that kids eat four plus serving of fruits and vegetables a day! Growing some of your family’s produce sets a good nutritional example! Garden plots should be available for Fall plantings!

(http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/dietaryguidelines.htm)

Check out this link to watch a video of the community gardens blueprints and long term plans for the Pottstown community!

http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=hp#!/video/video.php?v=2146157818290&oid=143005392432651&comments