These boomers remain passionate about activism
By Barbara Sherf
Judy Wicks was once the owner of the popular West Philadelphia eatery, The White Dog Café.
Today, at 73, Wicks is busy with a host of sustainability and environmental causes and even wrote a memoir, titled “Good Morning, Beautiful Business.”
The book tells the story of her becoming an entrepreneur who would not only change her neighborhood, but would also change her world – by helping communities far and wide create local living economies that value people, nature and places more than money.
In an interview from her Center City home, Wicks talked to a Milestones reporter about the impossibility of retiring from her activism. “I don’t feel it’s possible for seniors of my generation to retire from the work of activism,” said Wicks. “We are needed and excited to be able to be helpful.”
Wicks is the founder and volunteer executive director of All Together Now PA, an organization that’s building a network of regional economies comprised of independent, locally owned farms and businesses. The goal is to build community wealth, reduce our carbon footprint, decrease reliance on global supply chains and prepare our communities for climate change by producing basic needs locally and sustainably. That’s a tall order, which keeps Wicks busy from early in the morning to late into the night.
“We as seniors can’t retire, there’s too much to do and everything is in jeopardy,” she said. “Our civilization is heading toward a cliff and it’s not something the next generation (alone should be expected) to take care of. We have to share the burden.“
Over in Flourtown, Montgomery County, Ellen Stevenson first became an activist when she was 16 and hasn’t looked back.
“The key is that when you ask people to volunteer, you as a leader have to serve them to help them find out what they can do well and help them grow into the position,” said Stevens. “With activism you learn as you go and seniors (bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the table). There are so many organizations that have welcoming arms.”
In Mt. Airy, Mary Kalyna, 66, has been involved in women’s rights, the struggle for racial equality, anti-war protests and Ukrainian issues her whole life. After the death of George Floyd, she and a friend stood outside of the Unitarian Society of Germantown with homemade signs in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. It was a daily vigil for several months until the group, whose oldest member is 88, started to meet every Thursday at 4 p.m.
“Immediately drivers started honking and waving,” recalled Kalyna. “It’s clear we had touched a nerve and it really grew after that with mostly seniors standing outside, lining Lincoln Drive in front of the church.”
Kalyna shared a funny story from a motorist who didn’t support their cause. “We rarely get harassment, but one day this guy drives by and yells out the window ‘get a job’ and we all started laughing,” she said. “I was the youngest one there and we figured we had over 500 years of work experience under our belts. This is our job – to be our brother’s keeper and fight against injustice, and it’s a good job.”
She admits standing near Lincoln Drive and waving signs isn’t for everyone, but you can do something if you want to contribute. “I guarantee you that you will feel better. You will feel an incredible boost in energy both physically and mentally,” said Kalyna. “I encourage people to find something they feel strongly about and figure out a way that’s safe for them and speaks to them.”
Author and speaker Barbara Sherf captures the stories of businesses and individuals.