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Feeling and Filling the Need

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Co-founders Chris Coons (from left) and Tricia Lyons have counted on charitable souls such as Elisa Morris to make Fill the Need successful. Photograph by Jared CastaldiA grassroots movement that’s helped many Wilmington-area nonprofits during the past year may soon be coming to your town.
 
Fill the Need, which celebrated its first anniversary in December, involves people joining to collect items for local nonprofits and other agencies. Once a month, a member hosts a coffee or lunch in his or her home, where participants hear a presentation by the beneficiary of the host’s choosing. Then the participants gather items such as diapers, toiletries, canned goods or whatever else is needed. Items are then distributed to the respective charities.

The response has been overwhelming, says Tricia.

Lyons, who hatched the idea with New Castle County Executive Chris Coons. “We ask them to bring a bag of diapers or a can of formula, but they’re coming up carrying cases of stuff,” Lyons says. “It’s not just cleaning out your closets. These people are going to Target and buying stuff.”

The list of participants continues to grow by word-of-mouth, and the amount of items collected during each of the 10 events has been measured in carloads. Lyons says Fill the Need will catch on quickly across the state because the concept is so simple. First lady Carla Markell has signed on to spread the message. To hear Lyons tell it, becoming involved can be contagious.

“People will ask, ‘Can I host one?’” she says. “And I say, ‘Sure. You get to pick the cause.’ It’s kind of like, tag, you’re it.”

Beneficiaries have included Delaware Adolescent Program Inc., Food Bank of Delaware, Support Our Trops and the YWCA. Some events serve more than one nonprofit.

Elisa Morris of Wilmington, who hosted an event for Children & Families First, praises Lyons, Coons and everyone who has taken part. “They know how important it is to be aware of the community around you,” Morris says. “They just get it.”

For more info or to join, visit filltheneed.net.    —Drew Ostroski
 

Page 2: Tapping to the Top? | A charismatic young entertainer who had audiences buzzing at the Delaware Theatre Company is aspiring to stardom.

 

PJ Pinkett hoofs it up during “Fire on the Bayou” last fall.

Tapping to the Top?

A charismatic young entertainer who had audiences buzzing at the Delaware Theatre Company is aspiring to stardom.

If you’re wondering about the tap-dancing phenom who wowed audiences of “Fire on the Bayou” at Delaware Theatre Company last fall, he is PJ Pinkett. And it’s likely this is not the last time you’ll see his name.

Pinkett, a 12-year-old from Wilmington, loves dancing so much, he once toted his tap shoes to DTC to see a production of “No Child.” It was there that he met actor-director Kevin Ramsey.

“Do you tap?” Ramsey asked.

“No. I hoof,” said Pinkett.

“Show me what you’ve got,” said Ramsey.

Ramsey was so impressed, he wrote the part of Flambeau into “Fire on the Bayou” with Pinkett in mind. During the show, the charismatic youngster brought the house down. “It’s rare that an audience breaks into applause in the middle of a show, but with PJ, they did,” says DTC artistic director Anne Marie Cammarato.

Pinkett, who also sings, plays piano and is an aspiring playwright, says he enjoyed the fanfare. “How can I put this? It was a fusion of nervousness and joy,” Pinkett says. “I feel like taking a bow when I’m on stage. But this is show business. I’m not supposed to do that till the curtain call.”

Pinkett, who began tap classes at age 4, has trained with notables that include Alexandria “Brinae Ali” Bradley. Cammarato says Pinkett has a bright future.

“Of all the kids we saw (during auditions), he had the ability to dance in the style we wanted instinctively. It’s real, gritty, rhythm-based tap,” she says. “That’s not something you find in every kid. I think what he has is rare. He will soar high with years of experience and training.”

Pinkett wants to soar all the way to the top. “I truly want to take this to the end. I want to be like Michael Jackson. I want this to be it,” he says. “The experience in ‘Fire on the Bayou’ was my first, but definitely not my last.”    —Drew Ostroski
 

 Page 3: Media Watch | All Eyes on Delaware

 

Media Watch

All Eyes on Delaware

The flamboyant, outspoken ways of three-time U.S. national champion Johnny Weir have long generated heat in the genteel world of figure skating. Now the Sundance Channel is bringing the provocative personality of the Coatesville, Pennsylvania, native and Delaware-trained skater to a larger audience with the documentary “Pop Star on Ice,” which premieres December 28.

A considerable amount of footage was shot during Weir’s training sessions at The Pond in Newark, where he trained with former coach Priscilla Hill after switching from the UD rink where he got his start.

The documentary will be followed by an eight-part docu-series, “Be Good Johnny Weir,” which follows the 2006 Olympian as he makes his bid for a place on the 2010 U.S. Olympic team. The series airs at 10 p.m. on Mondays beginning January 4.  —Theresa Gawlas Medoff
 

Page 4: Cinema City? | Coastal Sussex could become Hollywood East if filmmakers continue to discover its allure.

 

Local businesswomen Alison Blyth (left) and Sue Petty think Rehoboth Beach would be a great fit for the film industry. Photograph by Jared CastaldiCinema City?

Coastal Sussex could become Hollywood East if filmmakers continue to discover its allure.

Employees at Sue Petty’s Something Comfortable in Rehoboth Beach barely batted an eye when writer-director Alison Standefer told them of her plans to shoot a low-budget indie film in the area.

“‘You know, we’ve already had a national TV show here,’” Petty recalls an employee teasing. The employee was referring to last summer’s visit by TLC’s “Making Over America with Trinny and Susannah.” The episode, which featured a makeover of a local B&B manager, aired on Labor Day and created a bit of a stir in the resort.

The TLC show and Standefer’s upcoming indie film are just two signs that eastern Sussex County could become Hollywood East. There is, however, at least one roadblock, according to Standefer.

“Delaware has got to get a tax credit,” she says. “Iowa has a huge tax credit. You get 25 percent or more of your budget back with a credit. Everybody is flocking there.”

Brian Sowers, a force behind the Delaware Film Initiative, says most states can’t afford tax credits, especially during tough economic times. So Sowers and a group of legislators and others are backing a bill that would lure filmmakers to Delaware, thus creating jobs and boosting the state’s economy.

“It’s a loan against the taxes the film would bring to the state,” Sowers says. “Two of the last Academy Award-winning movies were set in Delaware. The final dramatic scene of ‘The Wrestler’ was set here, and so was ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.’ But they weren’t filmed in Delaware. These are films that would shoot here if there were incentives.”

Standefer, whose film is being shot on a modest $35,000 budget, chose the beach in part because she and her crew could stay in an inexpensive rental home during the off-season (November and December). Of course, she also loves the area’s beauty and diversity.

“It could always be a draw for independent films,” Standefer says. “That’s not bad. The area has a character. There’s a real sense of place.”   —Drew Ostroski 

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