Vision

CAARSEA: Colonial Area Anti-Racism Social Equity Alliance

 

The vision of CAARSEA is for the Colonial area to be a community united to overcome racial injustice, where diversity is welcome, encouraged, celebrated and valued.  

  • We work together to create and support systemic change at a local level in areas such as the schools, police and government structures.   

  • We respond directly to issues of discrimination, racism, and social inequity in our community.  

  • We raise awareness, model and facilitate courageous conversations, and provide resources for community learning and engagement.

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Rennie Volpe

Key Member

Rennie lives in Plymouth Meeting with her husband, two children, and their dog. She enjoys cooking, spending time with friends and family, exploring nature, playing sports, and watching musicals.  As a psychotherapist, Rennie believes that sharing our experiences with one another has the power to connect us, and that diversity in any group is a strength. Her goal for CAARSEA is to move our community culture toward one led by empathy, justice, and equitable opportunity for all of our children and neighbors.

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Sonia Cooper Pinkney

Secretary

Sonia is a wife, mom of three, and a Plymouth Township resident for almost a decade. She is honored to be a part of the CAARSEA core team and aims to work at advocating for an anti-racist society. In addition to CAARSEA, Sonia is an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and has led multiple diversity-related initiatives through her employer. She was drawn to CAARSEA because of the opportunity to impact at a local level. Sonia believes that communication and change at the local level can create a lasting difference for generations to come.

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Juliet Curci

Treasurer

Originally from New Orleans, Juliet has called the Philadelphia area home for the last 16 years. She has resided in Lafayette Hill since April 2017 with her husband, Chris, and two children, Ben (8) and Genevieve (5). Juliet is an educator focused on access and equity issues in her professional work as well as in her public advocacy efforts. Her dedication to CAARSEA is related to her desire to see the community in which she raises her children demonstrate inclusivity and fight against injustice. Her favorite part about being involved with CAARSEA is the friendships and connections she has developed with the many inspiring people within the group.

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Melissa Gartenberg Livney

Key Member

Melissa moved to Lafayette Hill in 2007, she lives with her husband (a PW grad), their dog, and their two children, both of whom attend elementary school in Colonial School District. She works as a clinical psychologist serving older adults, many of whom are in families affected by dementia. Melissa grew up in a very racially and religiously diverse town in Bergen County, close to New York City, where awareness of and attention to diversity and efforts towards anti-racism, though not always successful, were an integral part of local awareness. She was drawn to leadership in CAARSEA because she sees the group as an important force in leading a conversation, providing a forum for education, and building bridges throughout the Colonial area.

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Elizabeth Cheever

Social Media

Elizabeth, along with her husband, has been a Whitemarsh Township resident since 2015. She is a mother to their four-year-old daughter and two-year-old son. Elizabeth received her BA of Psychology and Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Widener University. She has worked as a physical therapist in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas since 2010 in skilled nursing, sub-acute, and home care settings. 

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Bridget Gill

Co-Chair

Bridget has been a resident of Plymouth Township since 2013 where she lives with her husband John and two kids, Brady and Maggie. Bridget began her activism in 2016 with the Women's March on Philadelphia. Issues like gender equality, equal pay and paid leave had always been front of mind until June 2020 and the murder of George Floyd. Her favorite thing about CAARSEA is how the community effort toward anti-racism has brought so many together (mostly virtually!). She plans to work every day to fight the injustices of systemic racism and hopefully teach her kids to do the same.

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Heather Greaves

Marketing & Communications 

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Heather set up roots in the Colonial area 17 years ago in Conshohocken. She moved to Whitemarsh in 2011 where she lives with her husband Jeff and two daughters, Hannah and Maggie. Heather received her BA and MBA from Philadelphia University (now Jefferson) in international business. She has worked in various non-profit development and healthcare marketing positions, helping underserved communities in the Philadelphia and surrounding areas. Her passion to join CAARSEA stems from her desire to live and raise her family in a community that values diversity and where all members of the community feel safe and heard. While she is still learning and listening, Heather is committed to using her voice and privilege to stand up for injustices and to be a better ally. She has found “her people” in CAARSEA and is most grateful for the incredible relationships that she has developed. through this organization.

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Gail Plant

Police Liason

Gail has lived in the Colonial Area community for 14 years.  Gail has over 20 years of experience in community activism in Philadelphia and other surrounding areas.  When the call of action was presented to Gail to join the CAARSEA leadership team, with no hesitation, she answered with a firm “yes”.  Gail firmly believes that all citizens should have equal rights and opportunities. Her involvement with community programs throughout her life has aided in the emergence of her passion to join CAARSEA in bringing social equity to past in the Colonial community.  When she leaves this earth, her aspiration is to have inspired all to open their minds and embrace all that God has planned for themselves, the community, the country, and the world.

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Monica Salvia

Youth & Schools Committee Chair

Monica Salvia has lived in Plymouth Township with her husband for eleven years, along with their daughter and twin boys. Inspired her neighbors’ outpouring of care in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, she moved from a (mostly) social media activist to attending CAARSEA events, and now volunteers on the CAARSEA Board. Monica brings her professional expertise in volunteer management, event planning, and higher ed advancement to CAARSEA as chair of the Youth + Schools Committee. Her goal is to connect more deeply with her neighbors toward an inclusive and equitable community.

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Megan Griffin-Shelley

Events Committee
Co-chair

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Megan grew up in Whitemarsh Township, attending schools operated by the Sisters of Saint Joseph before heading to Washington, DC for college. She studied Psychology and Secondary Education at American University. As a politically active student, she attended the Women’s March in 2017 and the March for Our Lives in 2018. Megan currently works as a Constituent Services Advisor for a Montgomery County State Representative and serves as Co-Director of CAARSEA’s Events Committee. She is particularly passionate about ending all forms of voter suppression, including felon disenfranchisement, and reforming our nation’s broken criminal justice system. Understanding the importance of local politics and grassroots organizing, Megan is beyond excited to join such a dedicated group of individuals leading the effort to overcome racial injustice in our community.

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Pastor David Eckert

Community Engagement & Outreach
 

David lives in Lafayette Hill and serves as Pastor of Messiah United Methodist Church on Ridge Pike. He has lived in Lafayette Hill since 2016, but previously lived in the area and served as Pastor of Conshohocken United Methodist Church from 2000 to 2006. He has also served churches in Drexel Hill, Germantown. His is married to Amy, and has two sons Noel (20) and Jonah (17).

 

Pastor David's call is to serve the church, and also the larger community. Ministry has involved opportunities in community organizing, anti-racist education, and developing urban-suburban partnerships in ministry. He co-chairs the Urban Commission of the Eastern PA Conference UMC, and the PA regional council of Justice for Our Neighbors, an immigrant hospitality and legal ministry. When CAARSEA emerged in our community, he was pleased to get involved and is energized by the relationships with so many caring and thoughtful neighbors.

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Lou Ann Merkle

Events Committee
Co-chair

Nearly 30 years ago, Lou Ann moved to Plymouth Meeting from Philadelphia with her husband, John Grant, who is a Viet Nam veteran. She is a visual artist and art teacher who taught art to Middle and High School students at Norristown Area High School, the Upper Dublin School District and the Crefeld School. During her art teaching career, she brought educational equity and diversity issues into the classroom and lead a Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity (S.E.E.D.) reading and discussion groups for parents, staff and teachers. In 1997 Lou Ann was falsely charged with theft as the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled:  "A jury could reasonably find that the underlying motivation for the discharge lay embedded in Merkle's temerity to advocate her multicultural program to the School District.”

 

Lou Ann began a lifetime of social change activism in 1982, motivated by the disastrous impact the U.S. war on Viet Nam had on the Vietnamese people and young Americans sent to wage it. Lou Ann devoted ten years to collaborating with Viet Nam veterans and creating resources like Real War Stories Comic Book and opportunities for veterans to tell their stories directly to young folks considering enlisting in the armed forces. 

 

Lou Ann’s 40 years of community activism also includes: 

  • Co-founding and Directing and serving on the Board of The Darfur Alert Coalition

  • Collaborating with Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 Campaign to bring 100% Renewable Energy to Montco 

  • Serving on Whitemarsh Environmental Advisory Board and getting the Ready for 100 Resolution passed and a Clean Energy Plan put in place.

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Gail Koskela

Key Member

Gail has lived in Whitemarsh Township with her tween son and spouse for over 15 years.  Originally, they moved here to be close to her job teaching large animal science in Philadelphia. Gail has had a passion for peace and equity since participating in the Peace Child performing arts exchange movement in her teens. 25 years growing as an educator has both informed and reignited a drive to participate in community level advocacy for equitable change.  After witnessing the moment of solidarity sparked by the George Floyd Circle the Park action she is encouraged by the sense of urgency and unity in our community.  Together we can weave a stronger and even more beautiful community for all.

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Jamina Clay

Co-Chair

Jamina Clay is an educator who sees herself as an equity focused, transformative leader.  She has experience in the Philadelphia region as an Assistant Principal, Principal, Principal Coach and now Assistant Superintendent of Schools. 

 

Jamina moved to our area from Long Island, New York where she was raised.  She obtained her Bachelors degree from the University of Delaware and completed her masters at Dowling College and  Hofstra University.   

 

Jamina is finishing her doctorate at Gwynedd Mercy University where she completed a dissertation examining the experiences of Black children attending predominantly White high schools.  She graduates in May of 2022. 

Locally she serves on the Colonial School Board of directors and the historical area review board.  She is a member of Zeta Phi Beta sorority and an active member of Jack and Jill of America.   A favorite quote of hers is:

"Life's most persistent and urgent question is-what are you doing for others" by Martin Luther King Jr. 

She believes that through her work with CAARSEA,  she is able to do for others.  She believes that only be adopting anti-racist practices and working toward equity can we improve relationships and quality of life for families in the Colonial school district area.  

 

Jamina is the proud mother of 5 amazing children and enjoys spending time with them, or talking about them, as they are her pride, her joy, her  WHY.