By Eric Devlin, The Mercury
POTTSTOWN >> As part of her welcome to town, the new head of the Pottstown Area Police Athletic League met with representatives from the police and county sheriff’s department to discuss the program’s future.
Abigail Heisler, PAL’s new executive director, met with Montgomery County Sheriff Sean Kilkenny and Chief Deputy Michael Beaty, along with Pottstown Borough Police Chief Richard Drumheller and Capt. Robert Thomas for the first time Monday afternoon. The 45 minute meeting touched on a variety of topics including the first steps toward a community softball game between the sheriff’s office and police, the need for additional fundraising and promoting positive stories about the league and the borough as a whole.
In addition, Drumheller presented PAL with a $7,000 check from the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office. This is the second donation in the past year from the office. The first was a $5,000 check written in June 2016.
Heisler, a Reading native, is a graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania and will receive a master’s degree in nonprofit management in May from Gratz College.
PAL has approximately 800 children involved in the program locally and 150 volunteers. Its mission is to invest in the children of the community and help them thrive by offering sports at an affordable cost, Heisler said.
To accomplish that mission, Heisler has made fundraising a priority. The organization has about a $15,000 deficit she’d like to make up. Then she wants to continue to raise money through various events throughout the year to make investments in the program. Among the purchases she has in sight is the installation of a football equipment storage container on the field that will help organize the league’s King Street office. She’s also mentioned installing concrete slabs for dek hockey.
“I want to instill (fundraising) into our coaches minds,” she said. “You need to help yourself. Just like any organization will tell you, if you want something, you need to work for it. We’re here to help you in whatever way you need, but you also need to help out PAL by not depleting all the resources that we have to give to rest of the community and for all the other sports.”
The conversation also focused on changing the perception of the borough. Drumheller criticized the media for focusing on the negative aspects.
“Sometimes one of the images that gets portrayed in Pottstown is it’s crime ridden, gun violence, all that stuff,” he said. “That’s something that’s shown in the paper on a regular basis. What they fail to see is what’s behind the scenes. All the hard working people. The people who raise their children, looking for places to play and enjoying family time with them. That’s the side of Pottstown I wish more people would see.”
Drumheller said he can still remember the energy in town in 2002 when the PAL football team went to Disney World for a championship game. He wants that same energy to come back.
Heisler said she could relate.
“You rise up,” she said. “You work together. You do what you need to do and you show the community what it’s about.”
Kilkenny acknowledged the borough, like anywhere, is home to “a few bad apples.” That said the majority of residents are hardworking and trying to do what’s best for their children by getting them involved in sports.
“And PAL allows that,” he said. “As a person that grew up in PAL programs in boxing, my father was a police officer, I realize what kind of a difference it made in my life. I’d like to see the same for the children of Pottstown.”
He said he wanted to focus the conversation on economic development in Pottstown, youth programs and other assets the borough has to offer.
Overall the three sides said they left the meeting feeling confident in the program’s future.
“I think it went well,” said Heisler. “I’m excited to see what’s going to happen. I think there’s going to be multiple follow ups. I really think that us coming together is going to help secure PAL and it’s future and all the different things that we can do with it.”
Kilkenny and Drumheller agreed.
“It was great learning more about the new executive director here at Pottstown PAL and I look forward to a closer relationship with the sheriff’s office and Pottstown PAL,” Kilkenny said. “I have a lot of connections here in Pottstown. My wife is from Pottstown and my in-laws are very involved here, so I look forward to focusing on our relationship with Pottstown PAL and how we can help.”
“I think the important part of any venture is teamwork,” Drumheller said. “The fact that the sheriff came down today and showed interest in it and we met with the new executive director. And we got a chance to share our visions and she got a chance to share hers. I think overall it went really well. I’m hoping for success in the future for PAL.”