Holiday Appeal from Deb Eck

The following letter is an appeal for money by Deb Eck, a resident and leader when shale gas companies ordered the Riverdale Mobile Home Park eviction in 2012. Please find it in your heart to make a kind donation to the Eck family as they struggle through a difficult winter. Donations are not tax-deductible and are sent directly to Deb via PayPal. Deb is seeking at least $600 to pay her lot rent, electric, and phone bill for December that allows her to do reports for work at her computer and have a phone for emergencies. Any amount over that will help ease the situation during the holidays for her and the girls.

Hello all,

First let me say I wanted to tell you all how very much I appreciated everyone of you who came to help with whatever you could while we attempted to fight to stay in the wonderful community of Riverdale. We enjoyed the time that we had getting to be with such wonderful people.

I wanted to let everyone know how we have been since the eviction. We moved our trailer just north of Jersey Shore to the Salladasburg Area.

Strange how we brought our home here and put everything back into it pretty much in the same place as it was and yet still after two years does not really feel like home.

Our neighbors aren't very neighborly for the most part, they all keep pretty much to themselves. Still, we have managed to make a few new friends. I should say the girls did the work. Anyone who has children would know that when you are a parent that is usually how it works.

The girls got to stay in their original elementary school from when we lived at Riverdale. That was the main reason I settled on this spot. We have a nice large lot for our trailer right along Larry’s Creek. The girls swam quite a bit during the summers.

The area is woodsy (I managed to get three ticks this past summer) and mainly quiet. Unless we listen for it or before we go to sleep at night, the traffic from the highway isn't too bad. Maybe we have just adapted.

The girls have now gone on to middle school in Jersey Shore. I am
Amanda and Chevelle during the Riverdale eviction (July 2012)
proud to report that other than a few hiccups they have very good grades--not bad considering they are now just turned 13. Amanda made either high honor roll or regular honor roll every marking period last school year and reports just came out and she made honor roll this marking period as well. Chevelle did not make honor roll first and third nine weeks but did make it the second and last. She is repeating that cycle again this school year I think.

The girls and I had a fairly nice summer here although with my
working in excess of 65 hours most weeks I didn't get to spend much time enjoying the weather or unpacking the rest of our boxes. I still have some to unpack. Time flies when you're working so much but it was what I had to do. This past summer has been a bit different.

I was employed with a retail store while we were living at Riverdale. After being store manager for almost three years I was surprised on November 18th 2013 when told I was no longer doing a satisfactory job and was immediately let go. I had no clue that was coming, I had received good performance reviews up until that time.

I filed for unemployment and although my employer attempted to fight it, I was awarded it because based on my performance reviews they could not show that I had not done the best job I could.
I collected unemployment for a few months and during that time I became a Grammy for the first time. My grandson Caleb Robert is now six months old and is just the sweetest little blessing.

I am now working with a company that I worked for years ago
while we lived at Riverdale the first couple of years. I enjoyed the work and when it was plentiful it was enough to pay the bills, not much left over but we managed. It was all I could find at the time.

I have applied to many different companies for better employment but as yet nothing has been offered.
I thought I would be able to make it work for a little while until something else came along that would afford the rent here. Little did I know that unemployment these days only lasts 26 weeks. I have only been unemployed one other time in my adult life… 20 years ago… The lot rent here is $365.00 a month. The lot rent at Riverdale was $200. Quite a bit of a jump but with my salary at the retail store I could easily afford it—at least until I was fired.

I was bringing home about $2000.00 a month then. Now my income is less than half of that. Most of the time my bi weekly pay is under $400.00. My hours with my current employer have been cut almost in half in the last few months. Summer time there is enough work to manage to pay the bills but that is it. I applied for food stamps and fuel assistance. At least we can eat and heat the house.

Unfortunately I can't use food stamps to pay the light bill or the other household bills. I am having trouble paying the lot rent now. I have stopped the cable television and lost my cell phone. The electric bill is behind but at this point not in danger--yet.

I can't lose the house phone and internet though because although it isn't much pay, the work I currently perform is internet based and the fact that we live so far out of town in an emergency we would have no way to call anyone for help.

Come December 2nd, I am not going to be able to cover the rent, phone/internet.  I will have only one pay before that happens and it is not even enough to cover just the rent. I keep telling myself that this time of the year is full of hope and promise of a New Year. I will have a tree (a fake one) for the girls for the holiday. There will not be any presents under it, but there will be food and the love of my children.

I am thankful that I have always raised my children to understand the differences between wants and needs. The girls don't ask for much, but when we were in town about six weeks ago the local ice cream place was getting ready to close for the winter. The girls asked if we could get ice cream one last time before it closed. I had to tell them I didn't have the extra $4. That stung a bit.

I will admit to being somewhat prideful and should have applied
for food stamps as soon as the unemployment ran out but didn't. Not until one of my daughters said to me quite casually as we were gathering a few things at the grocery store to make meals for the week, "You know Mom I am glad that bread and eggs don't cost a lot here or we would be starving."  I went the very next day to apply for food stamps.

The last thing I ever thought I would have to do was to bear my feelings like this but I could really use your help.

Thank you for anything you can chip in, even a few dollars helps us make it through the winter.

Deb Eck

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In Memory, Bill & Betty Whyne

We have just received word that Bill and Betty Whyne, former residents of Riverdale Mobile Home Park, who spoke out bravely against their eviction, have passed away. Below are their obituaries.

Deb Eck, a former neighbor, would like to acknowledge Bill and Betty's part in playing Mr. and Mrs. Clause at the Love Center in Jersey Shore for many years. They were the best neighbors one could ask for and are sorely missed.

We wish their loved ones, who are surely grieving this holiday season, the best and that they may carry on Bill and Betty's courage and willful spirit.

Contributions in their name can be made to The Love Center, PO Box 621 Jersey Shore, PA 17740

William Harold Whyne
William Harold Whyne, 74, of Williamsport, formerly of Riverdale Lane, Jersey Shore, died Monday, May 20, 2013, at Williamsport Hospital.
Born June 6, 1938, in Ringtown, he was a son of John A. and Sarah E. (Schell) Whyne.
Bill had worked at Ed Sheddy Car Dealership and also was a maintenance man and volunteered many hours at The Love Center in Jersey Shore. He was a member of the Young Men's Republican Club and the West End Athletic Club. He enjoyed socializing and was very generous with everything he did most notably playing Santa Claus for many organizations and nursing homes during the Christmas season.
William Harold Whyne
Surviving are his wife of 55 years, Betty L. (Hess) Whyne; two children, Fred A. Sandell (Mim) of Dayton, N.J. and Robert J. Sandell (Micky) of McKinney, Texas; two grandchildren, Donna Marie Sandell and Kathryn Mochel; two great-grandchildren Evan and Dorney; two siblings, Freeman Whyne of Sunbury, and Janet Zarko of Mt. Carmel, and many nieces and nephews and great-nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by four siblings, John, Daniel, and David Whyne, and Sarah Hanlon.
Visitation will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday May, 23 at Sanders Mortuary, 821 Diamond St., Williamsport, followed by a funeral service at 7:30 p.m. at Sanders. Burial will be in Twin Hills Memorial Park, Muncy.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in Bill's name may be made to The Love Center, PO Box 621 Jersey Shore, PA 17740.

Betty LaRue Hess Sandell Whyne

Betty LaRue Hess Sandell Whyne, 83, of Williamsport, formerly of Riverdale Lane, Jersey Shore, died Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013 at her sister-in-law's home in Mt. Carmel.
Born Nov. 23, 1929, in Tharptown, Pa., she was a daughter of the late Fred J. and Nellie L. Culp Hess.
Betty had worked for Carey McFalls and volunteered at the Love Center in Jersey Shore.
She is survived by her sons, Fred A. Sandell (Min), of Daton, N.J., and Robert J. Sandell (Micki), of McKinney, Texas; two grandchildren, Donna Marie Sandell and Kathryn Mochel; two great-grandchildren, Evan and Dorney; and three siblings, Noreen Rothermel, of Williamsport, John Hess, of Muncy, and Sandra Giacomia, of Williamsport.
She was preceded in death by her husband, William H. Whyne and siblings, Virginia Faust, Claire O'Brien, Vivian Frantz, Joan Miller, and Charles, Gordon and Fred Hess.
Visitation will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Sanders Mortuary, 821 Diamond St., Williamsport, followed by a funeral service at 7:30 p.m. at Sanders'.
Burial will be in Twin Hills Memorial Park at the convenience of the family.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to The Love Center, P.O. Box 621, Jersey Shore, PA 17740.
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Riverdale: One Year Later

A new compilation of photos, music, and video from the battle to save Riverdale Mobile Home Park is now available. Please share and check it out!

Save Riverdale from Alex Lotorto on Vimeo.
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Volunteer Days at Riverdale 7/5 - 7/8

Starting this Thursday, volunteers will be needed on a daily basis all day through Sunday at Riverdale to load moving trucks! If you can devote a day or more, please RSVP by calling Alex at 570-269-9589. Due to Aqua America's security contractor's presence at the gate, you will have to submit your name to us as soon as possible and be prepared to present photo ID when we arrive.

A daily carpool to Jersey Shore, PA will be taking place from the Allegheny National Forest area as well.

What to Bring:

Food and drinks will be available, but please bring some more for yourself if you can. There is limited refrigerator/cooler space, so keep that in mind!

Work gloves, work clothes, and shoes/boots you can move in.

Friends and family to help! What else are neighbors for?
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Former Resident Profile: Steve Smith

Steve Smith and his daughters, 5/31/2012 - Final Vigil at Riverdale

Steve Smith works for the gas industry and is a displaced resident of Riverdale Mobile Home Park.

The same industry he works for put him out of his home to build an automated water withdrawal site and water line to eliminate water hauling jobs even further.

Steve had this to say, in his own words, "A monetary amount is not going to take away the pain of leaving, what we lost. You can't replace memories. For those who are lucky to own their homes and were fortunate to buy one, just because I lived in a trailer, doesn't make you a better person than me. I have a job and I work for a living. I'm no different than you."

At work, Steve plays a critical role on the well pad during the hydraulic fracturing process. At home, he is a father to two beautiful little girls, rides a Harley, and, until recently, was paying off his mobile home in order to sell it. He dreamed of buying a house one day where his little girls could play and have friends over.

On March 28, 2002, Steve moved his home into Riverdale. He paid $3,500 to move the trailer in and $1,500 for a shed to store his bike and tools.

He was paying off his home to the owners under an article of agreement that charged him $213.51 per month, which he paid for ten years, totaling more than $25,000. When he voided the article of agreement in April due to Aqua America's order to move, he still had roughly $10,000 owed. The home remained property of the owners, who received the $2,500 offered by Aqua America to move the trailer, and Steve, who couldn't afford the local housing market, abandoned the home to live with a friend. After his trailer was moved in April, the shed he bought and was using as storage was broken into by someone not from Riverdale and his generator, battery charger, tools, and collectors items were stolen. He lost everything he had worked for and didn't even receive the $2,500 payment from Aqua.

As we remain concerned for former residents and their losses, we must consider the insulting offer Aqua made for $2,500 for former residents to move and ask, why not fair compensation? This fight is not over until our neighbors like Steve receive just and fair compensation from Aqua America.

- Alex Lotorto

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Riverdale Potluck on Sunday!

Join us for Riverdale's 2nd Potluck this Sunday, June 17th at 3 PM in front of the Riverdale Mobile Home Park! Please come, bring your family/friends, your favorite foods to share, drinks, ice, cups, plates, utensils, musical instruments, and pass the word on to everyone who might enjoy being a part of this!

Even though they shut down the encampment and erected a fence, this fight is not over. Traffic passing by the park continues to honk in support of our united efforts. Please come out and show that you still care about the Riverdale community and about protecting the Susquehanna River. We look forward to seeing all of you on Sunday!
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Comment and Press Release on the Susquehanna River Basin Commission

Personal statement by Alex Lotorto - For every project, there is a permit, or in Riverdale's case, there were two. For Riverdale, the loss of that community could have only occurred with the approval of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, made up of three Democrats and one Republican, President Obama and governors Cuomo (NY), O'Malley (MD), and Corbett (PA). I don't know if these politicians will survive the next election cycle and remain in office, but I do believe that every single one of them will stand before their Creator on judgement day. If they don't use their powers to restore justice for Riverdale residents, there is a hot place reserved for those who oppress the "least of these" according to Matthew 25, "The Sheep and the Goats," a passage I have reflected on this week.

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. ”
For those of us who want to protect the Susquehanna River and the people who live around it, understanding the true purpose of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission changes the nature of our struggle.  To be sure, we need to continue putting pressure on the SRBC to change its ways and do the right thing, and I encourage all readers to call representatives of the White House and the governors of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New York – who are directing the voting members of the SRBC – to demand that SRBC revoke Aqua’s permit to build a water withdrawal site on the land of the Riverdale community immediately.

As we work to change the SRBC, we must understand that we cannot rely on it, or any of our top political leadership, to protect us.  Instead, we must rely on each other and work collectively to defend ourselves and our way of life.  We can start by drawing a line in the sand at Riverdale.

Press Release:
Obama, Corbett, Cuomo, and O’Malley Approve Final Water Permit for Devastating Shale Gas Facility
BINGHAMTON, NY: On Thursday, June 7, a water withdrawal facility to service natural gas drillers received its final permit to be constructed at Riverdale Mobile Home Park where residents are defending their homes.

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC), with voting members including President Obama, Governors Corbett, O’Malley, and Cuomo, dismissed the Riverdale residents’ pleas for mercy when it authorized the last of two permits for Aqua America and Penn Virginia Resources’ proposed water withdrawal and pipeline distribution system.

Building of the facility was planned to begin on June 1, but seven out of 32 families remain with the support of volunteers to prevent construction as rounds of negotiations continue between company representatives and residents’ representation. Their effort, dubbed “Hands Across Riverdale,” seeks to win a new lease agreement for residents to remain, full compensation for residents who have left to cover moving costs, and the right for displaced residents to return.

Families who have left by under duress by June 1 only received $2,500 from the developers while the average cost of moving a mobile home is $6,000 not including heating oil tanks, porches, sheds, and additions.

 The facility will remove up to three million gallons of water per day from the west branch of the Susquehanna River to supply water impoundments owned by Range Resources, a Texas-based Marcellus shale driller, via a water pipeline.

 According to Aqua America, the pipeline water distribution will eliminate 6,000 truck trips a day, threatening jobs for water haulers, mechanics, parts suppliers, and service industry employees in the Williamsport region. The Marcellus shale industry has presented no plan for outplacement services, retention, or re-training of workers dislocated from their jobs by the project.
This spring, the Susquehanna River experienced near-record droughts. Spokeswoman for the SRBC Susan Obleski stated the Susquehanna has been facing severe drought this spring “at levels that haven’t been seen since 1910 and 1946.”

According to John Arway of Pennsylvania’s Fish and Boat Commission, there has been a significant increase in fish with black lesions in the Susquehanna since last summer.  This indicates the likely presence of toxic chemicals in a watershed that Pennsylvanians and Maryland residents rely upon for drinking water, fishing, and recreation industries. Regarding this disturbing turn of events, Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection is facing criticism for its refusal to list the Susquehanna River as “impaired” under the Clean Water Act, which would grant additional protections.

Assuming chemical concentrations of about .05% in fracking fluids used in well production, a permit of three million gallons of water withdrawn per day allows for the production of an additional 15,000 gallons of chemicals, many of which are known toxins that will reenter the Susquehanna River Basin through leaks, spills, illegal dumping, or failed well casing construction.

Alex Lotorto, a volunteer with Hands Across Riverdale, said, “The sad truth is that the SRBC is not designed to protect the water of the Susquehanna River.  Like so many other local, state, and federal “regulatory” agencies with mission statements touting the virtues of environmental protection, the SRBC is a farce, existing only to provide the illusion of regulation as a mask over the reality of blatant collusion between government and big business towards the exploitation of our natural resources for the benefit of corporations and their shareholders.” 

A cursory glance at the SRBC’s voting record reveals this to be true.  At its March meeting, the SRBC voted to approve over three dozen natural gas industry project applications, denying or rescinding only four.


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Riverdale after the Eviction

Personal Account of the Aftermath (6/13/12) – Returning to Riverdale Mobile Home Community last night, we were met with a scene of complete devastation. In front of the newly erected orange fence were the overturned murals and signs that had formerly lined the roadway. Painted upon parts of the roofs of abandoned mobile homes by children of the residents, their parents, and volunteers, the signs laid dismantled and broken in large pieces strewn across the front lawn. The statements on them, “Communities supporting communities,” and, “I am a mother, father, sister, brother, granddaddy, grandma” were messages directly from the residents. One of the rooftops that had stood for over a week, with its satellite dish still attached and bearing the words, “This was a home,” was buried beneath the other signs, its satellite jutting out from the rubble.

Three security guards were stationed on Mark Lane in a car. They were positioned in the same spot that we had held for twelve days, yet instead of keeping watch over the preservation of a vibrant community, these guards were defending the machinery that will begin today’s construction. One of the guards commented that the area looked like a "battle zone" following the events of the day.

We were allowed to walk escorted in the property searching for our tent. The few remaining residents were in tears sifting through various pieces of clothes and items that volunteers didn’t have enough time to collect before the gate was constructed, and we were forced out.

As we headed back across the makeshift gate, Chevelle, one of Deb Eck’s twin daughters, broke through the security officers on her bike to present us with beautiful red tiger lilies.

"For you," she said before riding off. The gesture seemed to affect even the security officer.

“You should put it in your hair,” he said.

Passing through the gate to my car, I thought about how quickly we forged a very real community made up of residents, their families, volunteers, and neighbors. We planted gardens, constructed outdoor stoves, and cleaned up debris leftover from trailers that had been stripped for parts to give families some extra cash for the moving expenses. I thought about how we incorporated roofs and any building materials into the murals, so that even the physical components of the park contributed in promoting the preservation of this community. I thought about how “home” means more than a house – it is comprised of people, it is the land upon which we thrive. Many of us grew up on the Susquehanna River. And, then I thought about how our home had been violated. The Riverdale community invited us into their home, and in twelve short days, it had become ours. I thought about how quickly they tore it down. They threw over our barricades covered in children’s handprints, and then they erected a physical dividing line between the residents and all of us.

We left not because the police asked us to, but because they told residents that our continued presence would threaten the negotiation with Aqua America that we had all collectively fought so hard to take place. Out of respect for that vulnerable position and our continued deferment to the resident’s needs and wishes, we left Riverdale.

As we drove away, I looked back upon the space that had encouraged these truly unusual connections and relationships to form as community members and their supporters united to defend the Riverdale families. For the first time I saw the park as a destroyed community, but also felt hope in the community that was resurrecting in the ashes. We didn’t come to Riverdale to blockade, we came to support a community, and in that process we changed the landscape of community self-determination in this region. We forged relationships over class, generational, and cultural divisions. The things we hoped for from Riverdale were won before the eviction.

watch the video:
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Video: Volunteers Forced To Leave Riverdale

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Volunteers Evicted from Riverdale

At noon today a Huffmaster crisis response security team, hired by Aqua America, arrived at Riverdale Mobile Home Park to clear the way for Aqua America's planned construction. The private security team began to dismantle the barricades at the entrances of the park and to erect a security fence across the entire front of the park. Volunteers attempted to block these efforts by reconstructing barricades and standing in the way of the fence, but the Pennsylvania State Police arrived shortly thereafter. After 12 days inside the park, volunteers and supporters were given 20 minutes to gather their belongings and vacate the park, and warned that any who remained would be arrested for trespassing. A group of volunteers, hoping to slow this incursion into Riverdale, decided to not comply with the police. The volunteers held one of the entrances with their bodies, and a banner reading "This is a Beautiful Place, People Live Here." As 40 state police moved in with handcuffs, several of the remaining residents stepped in, asking the volunteers to stand down, and move out of the park. The volunteers complied, and gathered in the public right of way to stand witness as construction equipment began to move into the park.

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