Local philanthropist and public servant Eva Verplanck received the 41st annual award as outstanding citizen 2008 at the Southern Chester County Chamber of Commerce dinner on Friday.As she took the microphone to accept her award at Longwood Gardens from newly elected president John Jaros, in front of several hundred admiring friends and acquaintances, her words came with difficulty. "All I can say right now it 'thanks'" she said.

Verplanck, of Kennett Township, was praised by retiring chamber President Dennis Melton as having a giving a lifetime of service to her community. He quoted co-nominators Karen Simmons of the Chester County Foundation and West Chester University President Madeleine Wing Adler as saying, "Since her family moved to Kennett Township in 1953 [she] became deeply involved with an array of community causes. We can name dozens and dozens of organizations that have benefited from her energy, drive, dedication, bravery, leadership, resourcefulness, attention to detail, board expertise, financial acumen, fund-raising finesse and knowledge of human nature."

According to Pam Leland of the Leland Leadership Group, Verplanck worked as a scientist after graduating in the 1940s with a doctorate in chemistry. Leland said in a written statement that Verplanck "has had and will continue to have an enormous impact on this community for years."

When he was told of Verplanck's selection, retired Bayard Taylor Memorial Library Director Joseph Lordi said he chamber made an excellent selection. He added that she was a wise and effective member of his board of trustees and continues to serve on the building committee.

This year's banquet spotlighted culture as an economical boon to communities.

The keynote speaker was Peggy Amsterdam, president of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance. She told her audience that the arts are important, in that the non-profit sector actually acts as a catalyst for visitor spending. She said studies have shown that people who attend cultural events in a community spend an average of $37 beyond what they spend for their tickets.

She said people must take advantage of the arts and talk to legislators about regional funding.

Throughout the evening, various performers and artists showcased the actual dinner with their talents.

Paul Andreas of the Chester County Art Association exhibited the work of local artists in the ballroom. The grace was sung by the A Capella Pops, and throughout the evening musicians from the Kennett Symphony of Chester County contributed music.

Later, the audience saw a video praising the arts in film by Peter Parker Broadhead, and the Brandywine Ballet put on a dance routine to round out the evening, directed by Scott Jovovich.

Melton, whose interest in the arts extends beyond his architectural business, is chairman of the Greater Brandywine Cultural Alliance, which aims to build strong, vibrant, diverse community by foster appreciation, participation and support of the arts and culture, according to a statement on the banquet program.

The organization is currently in its formative stages and can be contacted at 28 West Market St., West Chester, 610-696-8211 or online at www.brandywineculture.org.

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