Friday, November 02, 2007

Moravian College Community Orchestra concert this Sunday

Come out and support your NET Vice President, Wendy Gerlach this weekend at Moravian College Community Orchestra concert.

Concert includes:
  • Ludwig van Beethoven - Coriolan Overture, Op. 62
  • Franz Schubert - Symphony in B minor, D. 759 (Unfinished) - After clicking the link below go to samples 5 and 6
  • Antonio Vivaldi - Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra in D Major, RV 9
  • Guest Performer: James Schultheis, guitar, Winner of the Moravian College Instrumental Concerto Competition for Orchestra
  • Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky - Andante Cantabile (from String Quartet No. 1, Op. 11) - Listen to excerpt number 6 towards middle of page
  • Smetena - Three Dances from The Bartered Bride
The concert is on November 4 at 7:30pm in Foy Concert Hall at Moravian College. Tickets are $10.

So you think you can putt?

50/50 Puttle Tournament - Winner takes half!

$10 Entry Fee/18 & Older
Unitarian Universalist Church of the Lehigh Valley
424 Center St.
Bethlehem, PA

Saturday 10 am - 2 pm
November 17
December 22
January 19
February 23
March 22
official rules and scorecard of puttle

Contact: Ko Kleppert at 610-504-8031 for more information

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Affordable Housing: Number Crunching

One of you out there asked what the median income is in our area. I'm working on finding out. In the meantime, chew over this post.

Average young professional income:
  • The median income for families headed by people aged 20 to 29 was just under $28,000 in 2004, according to Federal Reserve statistics. Adjusting for 3% inflation each year this may be more like $30,500 now.
  • The median income for families headed by people aged 30-39 was $48,000. Perhaps $52,500 with inflation.
  • One-third of twenty-somethings made $20,000 or less.
Average young professional debt:
  • The average debt load for a bachelor’s degree hovers around $19,000. Additional $31,000 for a grad degree.
  • Americans age 25 to 34 tend to carry a balance of more than $4,000 in credit card debt according to Demos, a research firm in New York.
Average cost of housing:
  • The average cost of an existing home in Lehigh and Northampton counties in September was $217,000 according to statistics from the Lehigh Valley Association of Realtors
Number crunching: Is housing affordable?

The FHA says most people can afford to spend 29% of the annual gross income on housing costs, which include mortgage payments, property taxes and other regular costs.

Annual Gross Income 29% of Gross Income Monthly
20k 5800 583
30k 8700 725
40k 11600 966
50k 14500 1208
60k 17400 1450
70k 20300 1691
80k 23200 1933

Typical mortgage payments for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage:

Mortgage Amount 6.5% 7% 7.5% 8%
100k 632 668 699 734
150k 948 998 1048 1100
200k 1264 1331 1398 1468
250k 1580 1663 1748 1834
300k 1896 1996 2098 2201

So therefore the average “affordable house” for a single 20-29 year old is $100,000-150,000.

Average “affordable house” for a couple aged 20-29 years old is $200,000-250,000

Average “affordable house” for a single 30-39 year old is $200,000.

(NOTE: Women are now first marrying later in life. In the early 1960s, 80 percent of women had been married by the time they turned 24. Today, most women have not yet been married at age 24, and it is not until age 32 that 80 percent have been married.)

Again, the average housing cost in the Lehigh Valley is $217,000.

Housing developments in the area that target young professionals have priced themselves out:
  • Riverport Condos, Bethlehem: the low $200,000s to $400,000 making it only “affordable” to households earning $60,000 or more.
  • The Farr Lofts, Allentown: $1,000-1,500 a month to rent making it only “affordable” to households earning $40,000 or more.
  • Estonian Condos, Easton: the high $200,000s and up making it only "affordable" to households earning roughly $75,000 or more.
Clearly there is a disconnect between what yps want and what we can afford.

However, there is some assistance available:

Pennsylvania Housing Financial Agency offers a lower interest mortgage for first-time homebuyers who fit within income and purchase price limits.

For a 30-year fixed mortgage rates are:
KHL 0 pts 6.25%
KHL 1 pt 6.125%

Lehigh and Northampton Counties Limits:
Maximum purchase price - $289,000
Maximum household income
1-2 members - $65,900
3 or more members - $75,700

FHA loans benefit those who would like to purchase a home but haven't been able to put money away for the purchase, like recent college graduates, newlyweds, or people who are still trying to complete their education. FHA home loan - 203(b) finances up to 97 percent of a home loan. It is the only loan in which 100 percent of the closing costs can be a gift from a relative, non-profit, or government agency.

Insurance on FHA mortgages are often rolled into the total monthly payment at 0.5 percent of the total loan amount which is roughly half of the price of mortgage insurance on a conventional loan. The maximum amount for an FHA loan in Lehigh and Northampton Counties is $305,666.

Confession from your president

So I have a confession to make. I have a sickness, an obsession really for all things retro. So as you can imagine I was especially saddened to hear that the Sunrise Diner in Jim Thorpe is closed. I frequent Jim Thorpe this time of year, and usually grab a piece of pie at the diner. It's a truly classic, retro gem complete with the chrome highlights and retro colors. It seems the property was bought by adjacent restaurant owners who want to expand their existing business. They are offering the diner up for sale in hopes to save the structure, just at a different location. I hope it finds a new home soon.

Check out the yp candidates in today's Morning Call voter guide

Check out the young professional candidates in today's Morning Call. Regardless of your party affiliation it is important to support candidates that represent our demographic to serve as a young professional voice in our region. NOTE: I designated "young professional" as under 40. NET in no way endorses these candidates as their views are wide and diverse, but it is important to engage these individuals on issues you care about.

Peter Schweyer is running for Allentown City Council. Previous blog post about him.

Jeff Warren is running for Easton City Council. Previous blog post about him.

Peter Melan is running for Easton City Council.

Bill Timmann is running for Easton City Council.

William Reynolds is running for Bethlehem City Council. Previous blog post about him.

Stephen Barron Jr. is running for Northampton County Controller.

Jake Hammond is running for Magisterial District Judge in District 31-2-02 which includes North and South Whitehall.

Daniel Corpora is running for Magisterial District Judge in District 03-2-06 which includes Southside Easton, Glendon, and Williams Township.

Yvonne Falcone is running for Magisterial District Judge in District 03-2-08 which includes Nazareth, Bath, Stockertown, East Allen and Upper Nazareth.

There are a few others running for various municipal and borough councils and area school boards. Please consult the voter guide out today for more details.

Rep. Freeman, Champion for Smart Growth and Urban Revitalization

I had the opportunity to sit down with Rep. Robert Freeman last week. He is the state representative for the Easton area of our region. I found out very quickly that Rep. Freeman is very yp-friendly. His two biggest issues are smart growth and urban revitalization, so he gets it. He serves on the board of Renew Lehigh Valley, and authored the Elm Street bill. The Elm Street program provides funding for areas surrounding downtown main streets for things like facade improvements and greenscaping. We blogged about Bethlehem and Tamaqua taking advantage of this program.

He introduced House Bill 1280, to promote traditional neighborhood development as an alternative to sprawl, was approved unanimously in the House of Representatives and now is sitting in committee in the Senate for review.

“Traditional Neighborhood Development is an excellent alternative to the type of sprawl development that consumes vast amounts of farmland and creates traffic congestion nightmares,” Freeman said. “TNDs are a more compact form of development that use less land, are pedestrian-friendly and provide for a mix of uses and housing options that foster a greater sense of community than conventional suburban developments. A TND creates an actual village or neighborhood rather than a subdivision.”

In the 1999-2000 session of the legislature, Freeman authored the Traditional Neighborhood Development provisions, known as Article VII-A, to the state’s Municipalities Planning Code. Since then, a number of communities pursued the TND alternative, but provisions in the 2000 law proved somewhat cumbersome to implement.

Freeman said H.B. 1280 would make significant changes to the TND provisions to make it easier for municipalities to use as an alternative to sprawl. Under current law, a TND that is in the form of a new development must be in the form of an overlay zone rather than a designation “by right.” The bill would allow municipalities the option of either designating a TND “by right” or to continue to offer the overlay zone approach.

“By allowing municipalities to make an outright TND designation in their zoning codes, it would be a lot easier to create TNDs,” Freeman noted. “Municipalities could ensure that this more compact form of development would be utilized, rather than simply suggesting it to a developer as an alternative. With this added tool in their planning toolbox, local officials would be in a much better position to manage growth more effectively, preserve more open space and reduce people’s dependency on the automobile for everyday needs.”

The bill also would allow municipalities to incorporate a design guideline manual for TNDs as part of their zoning and subdivision and land development ordinances in order to ensure quality design.

Rep. Freeman is just one of many legislators I meeting with in coming weeks. I encourage you to contact me about issues you care about, and more importantly engage local government as I am to help them understand yp issues.

Your president,

Vanessa Williams

Did you know?

If Pennsylvania was a country, it would have the 17th largest economy in the world.

Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act Passes PA House

Yesterday, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed House Bill 110, the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act, legislation that would create a global warming strategy in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania alone contributes one percent of the heat-trapping pollution that causes global warming, more than 105 developing nations combined. We are also third worst in the nation, behind only California and Texas, for production of greenhouse gases.

The bill still needs to pass the Pennsylvania Senate.

Please take a moment to thank (or chide!) your state representative. You can use Penn Future's Action Center to send a quick message or to get the contact information you need to make a quick phone call.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Celebration of Samhain: Mystical Bellydance Event this Saturday

Gather to Celebrate the Final Days of Autumn With "A Celebration of Samhain"


Join us on November 4th, From 1:00-4:00 pm (Doors Open 12:45)

The Day's Inn Conference Center

1151 Bulldog Drive

Allentown, PA 18104

(Near the Intersection of Routes 22 & 309)

Advance tickets - $12.00

Tickets at the door - $15.00


For tickets and info. Go to

Takeover Lehigh Valley at Crowne Plaza on Nov. 9

From Takeover:

We are excited for our next takeover where we swing back to Allentown to go back to one of our original venues way back in January of '06. Crowne Plaza is thrilled to have us back to their cool and relaxed Geo Spirits Lounge serving up drinks and casual American cuisine where they assure us they will have plenty of bartenders and servers. The Geo Lounge is an upscale but cozy bar with plenty of tables and our own jute box so we control the music! And, if you want to make a night of it just around the corner the Stonewall will be serving up our official after party with free cover, and go-go boy upstairs just for us, while downstairs is Latin night so we can shake the night away! For those out-of-towners it may be a good occasion to stay the night at the Crowne Plaza while you enjoy both Takeover and the Stonewall! See you there.
Date: Friday, November 9th
Time: 6:30pm

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

NET Volunteer Positions available

NET Volunteer Positions

Thank you to all of you who have stepped up to the plate to contribute your time to the NET. As a result, the NET is becoming a more active, vibrant organization. Through partnerships with the Appalachian Mountain Club, Rotoract, United Way, and Lehigh County Bar Association - Young Lawyers Division we are able to offer more events to our members. If you know of an organization that would be interested in partnering with the NET please contact myself at

Please consider donating your time. If you want to start out small, NET needs event hosts. Event hosts, do just that, host events. Usually, all that is required is your e-mail to RSVP and
for you to show up at the event. Some more complex events require reservations or site/presenter coordination, but usually only a few hours of your time are needed. If you are interested in hosting or organizing an event please e-mail Wendy at

* NET Independent Film Club

NET is seeking one individual to host a NET Independent Film Club on a Tuesday once a month at 19th St. Theatre. Please contact Wendy at if you are interested in hosting and/or joining the NET Independent Film Club.

* NET Book Club

NET is seeking one individual to host a NET book club on a weeknight once a month. Please contact Wendy if you are interested in hosting and/or joining the NET book club.

* Sports Committee Volunteers needed

NET is creating several leagues and various other sports activities for the next year. If you're interested in helping out with this endeavor contact Cory Crawford, Sports Chair at

Lehigh Valley Disc Golf

I just came across a new website geared at disc golf in the Lehigh Valley area. Disc golf is very similar to regular golf, but instead you use small frisbee-like discs and throw them at chained baskets. Of special importance, the website lists and maps all the disc golf courses in the area. NET has beginner disc golf packages available which includes a putter, a driver, and a bag for $25 for NET members, or $30 for non-members. Please contact me for more information on

Vanessa Williams

Thanks Sec. Yablonsky

On Friday, I attended a luncheon where Sec. Yablonsky, head of Pennsylvania's Department of Community and Economic Development spoke about his plan for Pennsylvania. To my pleasant surprise he brought up a point I had made to NET's board a day earlier - young professionals move to an area because of quality of place, not for a job like previous generations. I publicly thanked him for this acknowledgment.

It is refreshing to know that someone in as powerful position as he is gets it. Please give his office a call to thank him sometime at 717-720-1355.

Vanessa Williams

Monday, October 29, 2007

Celebrate Diwali - Nov. 17th

Presented by the Indian American Association of the Lehigh Valley

5:00pm - Dinner
6:30pm - Local entertainment
8:30pm - back by popular demand - Film songs by Sunita Kapur!

In addition to an exquisite dinner and talented performances from local artists, this year we are going have a special entertainment program given by Sunita Kapur and her music group. Sunita Kapur is a famous singer from Bollywood, who has performed on stage with stars such
as Sonu Nigam, Anu Malik, Sudhesh Bhosle, Laxmikant Pyarelal, Kalyanji Anandji, Abhijeet, Kumar Sanu, Kavita Krishnamurthy, Alka Yagnik, Shaan, Vinod Rathod and many others. Check her website at for more details.


Adults - $18 (Advance purchase only); $20 at the gate
Kids and participants - $12
Please call Nitin Laud (610-351-4984) to get your tickets today.

Learn about the Neighborhood Partnership Program this Wednesday

The Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce (GLVCC) and the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) will hold a Community Breakfast on October 31 to inform the business community about The Neighborhood Partnership Program – a significant tax credit program that fosters the development of private, non-profit, public and neighborhood civic groups to improve the quality of life in distressed communities.

The Neighborhood Partnership Program (NPP) is offered by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development as a new tool to help communities build and sustain development efforts and adapt to changing economic and social conditions over the long term. The NPP provides tax credit incentives to private, for-profit businesses that have significant state tax obligations and make substantial long-term contributions to community development projects. The program also promotes business growth and provides employees with the opportunity to volunteer in the community and have a hands-on role in neighborhood improvement.

It is the mission of GLVCC and LVEDC to promote economic prosperity throughout the Lehigh Valley, and one of the most important efforts in reaching this goal is through the marketing and revitalization of our urban cores, including the more impoverished neighborhoods. As community partners responsible for ensuring that our businesses in the Lehigh Valley thrive and continue to prosper, LVEDC and the GLVCC encourage your attendance to learn about this important component to the health and success of the Lehigh Valley.

The breakfast will be held from 8 to 9 a.m. at the Northampton Community College, Fowler Center, 511 S. Third Street, Bethlehem. For more information, contact: Taryn Heisler at 610.266.2217 or

LVEDC's Urban Opportunities Tour shows investment opportunities in Lehigh Valley's downtowns

New York architect Kathy Sekowski was impressed. The urban designer making her first visit to the Lehigh Valley expected to find its urban zones just starting to move out of the post-industrial malaise and instead found three cities far along the path to revitalization.

“There’s a huge disproportion between the image and the reality,” she said after a lunch break on the 2007 Urban Opportunities Tour conducted Oct. 18 by the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation.

The goal of this year’s tour was to reach out to developers and real estate professionals across the Valley and beyond to introduce them to the potential for redevelopment in the urban areas, and the tour attracted almost 30 of those professionals from as far away as New York City and Connecticut. For some, it reinforced what they already knew and provided further insight on the efforts the city’s have been putting forth to rebuild their tax base. For others, such as Sekowski, it was an eye-opening day.

“I never realized how much development was going on, how much architectural wealth there is, and how much charm there is in these cities,” she said after listing to Easton Mayor Phil Mitman’s luncheon presentation on his city’s four-year effort to prioritize cleanliness, economic development, public safety and residential and investor confidence. “I will definitely come back.”

The third annual Urban Tour gives the developers and real estate professionals a chance to interact with city Community and Economic Development leaders and visit a variety of sites that display the potential of urban properties. Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan and Easton Mayor Phil Mitman will give presentations on their cities as the tour visits each municipality, and the developers will have the opportunity for follow-up meetings with the mayors and city officials on Friday to learn more about specific sites of interest.

“The revitalization of our cities has been and remains one of our top priorities,” said Robert Weed, interim President and Chief Executive Officer for LVEDC. “By providing the opportunities for developers to learn more about the cities and the potential these sites offer for creative and substantial use or re-use, we encourage increased investment and the continued restoration of an important economic platform for the Lehigh Valley.”

The tour began at the Banana Factory in Bethlehem at 8:30 a.m. Thursday with a presentation by Mayor Callahan, followed by a bus tour of selected sites in that city.

Callahan outlined the $1.6 billion in redevelopment already underway in the Christmas City and explained the committed urban planning process that has guided the city as it sets the pace for redevelopment across the Valley.

“While Bethlehem has see a tremendous amount of growth and good things, there are still a lot of opportunities here,” Callahan said before the group began its tour of his city. “You are going to see some projects that will take some vision, but we are here to help.”

Mayor Mitman said Easton has seen a resurgence in residential investment over the past four years, and that has helped spur increased commercial and office development interest. Referring to the Bank Street Annex where the group stopped for lunch, Mitman explained its reuse over the years.

“We are going to see several buildings in Easton that offer the same potential,” he said as the group prepared to board the bus for the post-luncheon tour.

Mayor Pawlowski told the professionals that while Center City has seen some strong projects brought to fruition over the past several years, they are only a small portion of a renaissance going on across the Valley’s largest municipality. The focus now is on rebuilding the residential neighborhoods surrounding the downtown to provide a stable platform for continued growth, he said.

“We have some great potential. This is a place for opportunity,” he said during a presentation at the Baum School of Art. “Allentown is at the tipping point (of a solid revival).”

Sites visited in each city included a mix of office, retail/commercial and industrial buildings and developable sites without existing structures, such as the Calo building on Front Street and the former Pennsylvania Department of Transportation District 5 office on Lehigh Street in Allentown; the Miller Wholesale/Christmas City Bottling facility on Monocacy Street and the former D’Huy Engineering building on Main Street in Bethlehem; and the former Lipkin’s Furniture store at 3rd and Ferry Streets and a vacant manufacturing building on Lincoln Street in Easton.

Unique grassroots movement promotes tolerance for LGTB community

I first heard about the "gay? fine by me." T-shirt project last year when my sister mentioned it occurring out at Millersville University's campus.

The Gay? Fine By Me™ T-Shirt Project sprung from a dinner conversation between ten friends, both gay and straight, at Duke University in the spring of 2003. In January 2005, two of the founders of the original T-Shirt Project, Lucas Schaefer and Leila Nesson Wolfrum, established Fine By Me, Inc. to give voice to the friends and supporters of LGBT Americans. In June 2005, Fine By Me became a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation.

Through the organization you may purchase an inexpensive T-shirt which simply states "gay? fine by me." It is one way to promote tolerance for the LGBT community regardless of your sexual orientation. The movement has spread virally across primarily college campuses with several thousands of T-shirts purchased and distributed nationwide.

To learn more visit

Why the Lehigh Valley needs a regional Health Bureau

Last week, I met for the first time with NET's Board of Advisers to discuss my plans for the upcoming year. Steve Bliss, a representative from Renew Lehigh Valley, was there to alert NET for the need for a regional health bureau.

Why is this an issue? Currently we have two health bureau's in this area, one in Allentown, and one in Bethlehem. Anyone who live outside of those areas may have an official here and there, but are grossly unprotected. These groups and scattered officials for the most part do not communicate on a regular basis. What does this mean? That in the Lehigh Valley we are seriously lacking public health services like immunizations. And if were ever to have an large outbreak of any kind, or bioterrorism, there is no central entity to take charge, and take action. A Lehigh Valley Health Bureau would coordinate response to such emergencies.

Some officials are wary of a regional health bureau because they are afraid that it will tax the existing fragmented system. However, by creating a regional organization, state funding for the area would increase by $3.2 million. More than double what our region receives now - $1.4 million.

What can you do? Express your support! Voting is coming up in both counties on the issue.

I live in Lehigh County...

I live in Northampton County...

Together we can create a safer, healthier region.

Vanessa Williams

"Priced Out" says Morning Call; the Affordable Housing Crisis in the Lehigh Valley

An article appeared in Sunday's Morning Call about the affordable housing crisis in this area. This is a topic NET has been speaking about for over a year now. We know that it is one of the biggest hurdles facing young professionals in this area. And I know first hand as I am currently in the housing marketing.

The article followed the Telesha family who are looking for a home under $125,000. Not surprisingly, they only found homes which were in bad neighborhoods, or in dire need of repair. In my opinion, however, they are the extreme. Most of you have expressed "affordable housing" as being between $150,000 and $200,000. This is still a struggle as most of us, as the article touched upon, are ineligible for any sort of assistance program.

Vanessa Williams

The article reported:

"In the past five years, home prices have risen more than 55 percent, hitting a record high last year of $228,000. Prices are even higher now, with the average cost of an existing home up 3 percent from a year ago.

Median incomes in the Valley, meanwhile, have risen at less than a third of that rate in the same period, according to the U.S. census.

Lehigh and Northampton counties deem the lack of affordable housing a growing issue and are planning to convene a first-ever summit on the issue.

''You have young professionals who are almost becoming the working poor,'' said Chris Bennick of Habitat for Humanity of the Lehigh Valley. ''It's a crisis.''

Some fear that the growing failure of people to make the jump from rental housing to owning a home will undermine the Valley's economic boom.

The dearth of affordable housing threatens to affect employers -- particularly hospitals and schools that may not be able to attract essential employees. A bi-county study published this year found teachers, policemen and others can no longer afford homes in the Valley that cost the median price.

On the heels of the report, the two counties have taken some steps to address the problem. Both counties have put aside money to pay for a regional housing coordinator to develop a strategy to boost the number of affordable units.

Lehigh County has re-established its housing trust fund, which will pay for the construction and rehabilitation of houses for low-to-moderate income families, and hopes to begin disbursing funds by the end of the year.

Other initiatives also provide a measure of hope. The Housing Association and Development Corp. announced last week an ambitious plan to build and repair 26 homes in Allentown, many of which will be sold for less than $100,000. In Bethlehem, Habitat plans to build 26 affordable homes near the top of South Mountain.

The number of people in the Valley who need help, however, is growing. And few assistance programs target people who are not low-income. For example, only families earning 80 percent of the median income or less will be eligible to buy homes in the HADC project."


"Participants in the Valley's recent study on affordable housing, completed in May, recommended creating a revolving loan pool to provide financing to nonprofit developers of low-cost housing.

They also recommended waiving some fees and providing incentives for private developers that commit to building affordable housing. That's an idea embraced by housing advocates across the country.

''In order to meet the demand for affordable housing, we have to mobilize the private sector,'' Pam Patenaude of the Urban Land Institute, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group.

Florida is addressing the problem aggressively after a housing summit galvanized the state, Patenaude said. The state has created a pilot program to build ''work force'' housing for those making between 60 to 120 percent of the area's median income. Florida is also using density bonuses to encourage private developers to build more affordable units.

The Valley's bi-county advisory committee has taken steps to make affordable housing a permanent issue. It will meet at least four times a year, organize an annual summit and produce annual progress reports.

Experts say it's wise for the two counties to take the long view because the availability of affordable homes in the Valley is unlikely to change soon."

Gaydar Magazine Holiday Party to Benefit Fighting AIDS Continuously Together and Pride of the Greater Lehigh Valley

Don’t miss this kick off to the holiday season!

Date: Thursday, November 29th

Place: Lee Gribbens on Main

198 Main St., Emmaus, PA

Time: 8-11PM

$20 admission includes this menu and your first cocktail


Mini Tarts filled with Raspberry, Almond & Brie

Stuffed Mushrooms with Crabmeat

Mexican Pie with Chips

BBQ Shrimp wrapped in Bacon

White Bean Feat & Bruschetta

Roasted Sweet Potato Pancakes

Fruit & Cheese Kabobs

Strudel with Wild Mushrooms & Goat Cheese

Open-faced Tenderloin Sandwiches

Bring friends and give back to these non profits who work hard all year

to make this a better community for all of us

RSVP to Lee Gribbens on Main by calling 610.967.4409

Preorder tickets at

All proceeds benefit FACT (Fighting AIDS Continuously Together)


Pride of the Greater Lehigh Valley

Gaydar Magazine: Together, we put the fun in fundraiser!

Nervous about public speaking? Join Toastmasters.

From a humble beginning in 1924 at the YMCA in Santa Ana, California, Toastmasters International has grown to become a world leader in helping people become more competent and comfortable in front of an audience. The nonprofit organization now has nearly 220,000 members in 11,300 clubs in 90 countries, offering a proven way to practice and hone communication and leadership skills.

At Toastmasters meetings participants practice and learn skills by filling a meeting role, ranging from giving a prepared speech or an impromptu one to serving as timer, evaluator or grammarian.

There is no instructor; instead, each speech and meeting is critiqued by a member in a positive manner, focusing on what was done right and what could be improved.

Experienced professionals and beginning speakers alike can benefit from our practical, face-to-face learning program. Whether you're speaking to the board of directors, your customers, your co-workers or your kids, Toastmasters can help you do it better. You'll learn and practice in a friendly, comfortable environment with people who are there for the same reason you are—to become better communicators.

The Lehigh Valley is part of District 38 and has several clubs that meet at various places and time of day.

Young professionals can learn to live on less, save more

Sometimes the standard prescription for trimming a budget doesn't produce the desired results. So what do you do if you're still broke after fewer lattes and no more Chinese takeout?

It's a question that a lot of young professionals seem to be asking themselves. A recent survey from brokerage house Charles Schwab Corp. found that people born between about 1960 and 1985 are struggling with both paying down debt and saving for a first home and retirement.

With banks becoming stricter about how much money they will let home buyers borrow, and fewer employers offering pension plans, it is all the more important to be able to tackle both sets of goals.

One obvious solution is to make more money. Unfortunately, that's not always feasible, and sometimes even if you do land a raise, the money still goes and goes and goes.

In reality, it is going to take some creative and disciplined action to achieve all that you want, no matter what your salary is. Here's what you need to do:

Log your spending. The first thing is to track where your money goes. In order to direct those precious dollars to the places you really want them to be, you need to follow your spending. One of the best ways to do this is to buy a small notebook, something that will easily fit in your purse or coat pocket, and write down everything you spend for a month, including the change you might pump into a vending machine.

If you use a credit card or debit card, don't forget to consult your monthly statement and add those items to your notebook. Include any bills, such as your mortgage or rent payment, utilities and cable.

Reduce your fixed costs. After a month of logging your money's movement, you'll probably notice some obvious places to cut back. Extraneous purchases, such as that daily $3 latte, add up. But you also should consider ways to reduce your most expensive bills, such as rent, credit card interest and car payments. If you shave off $200 from rent by moving to a cheaper apartment or finding roommates, you'll pocket $2,400 a year.

Get creative. Even after you have traded in for a used car or cut your rent bill, other measures might be needed to not only tackle any debt but also to start building some wealth. If you need help on that, head online. Personal-finance blogs are veritable gold mines of budget-slashing tips, and every week a number of those ideas are compiled into a blog carnival, somewhat akin to a magazine or newsletter, called the Festival of Frugality (

One blogger, for example, offers tips on how to put together a cheap Halloween costume. Another talks about saving money by not buying bottled water.

There are also suggestions on how to stick to a budget.

Stephanie Appleton, 36, is a stay-at-home mom in Ona, W. Va., who blogs at . Since she first started budgeting seriously for her family about 10 years ago, Appleton has made cutbacks gradually.

''You have to do one thing at a time and adjust to it first,'' she said. ''I wouldn't want to cut my bottled water, steak and ice cream all at once.''

Save those reclaimed dollars. Be sure to save the newfound money. Make it easy on yourself by having the sum you're supposed to accumulate automatically transferred to a savings account. As your balance grows, you'll miss the steak and ice cream less and less.