Sue Reese of Goodwill in Wilmington Turns Her Life Around

It’s a Great Day at Goodwill: Goodwill’s Sue Reese struggled through some serious trouble before she finally found success.



The front desk at Wilmington’s Goodwill Center can be as chaotic as a deli counter at noon. Yet receptionist Sue Reese is unflappable. With a line of impatient visitors waiting for attention, deliveries arriving and telephone lines blinking, Reese picks up the receiver with a smile, “It’s a great day at Goodwill,”  she begins.

Since 2010, Reese, 44, a graduate of Goodwill’s computerized office skills training program, has been the first voice callers hear and the first person to greet them when they open the front door.

“Sue has a lot patience,” says friend and co-worker Kimatha Fleck, human resources specialist at Goodwill. “She has never had a complaint (from the public)—not one.” And Reese has handled some potentially volatile situations, says Fleck. “She took it in stride and it didn’t turn her day around. She’s great.”

But Reese wasn’t always so easygoing and organized. Behind her are years of emotional conflict, depression and substance abuse—things you would never suspect, says Fleck.

Only this past spring did Reese tell her life-changing story publicly for the first time, when she was named the 2011 Achiever of the Year for Goodwill of Delaware and Delaware County. The award is given annually to a graduate of a Goodwill training program who has overcome tremendous obstacles to attain success.

As far back as high school, Reese had problems. “I was a lot of trouble for my mom,” she says. “I was always getting in trouble with the police. I’d have fights with girls in school—I was suspended for that. I struggled through school with grades and friendships. I had friends, but I would switch friends. I pretty much had ups and downs a lot. I would be up—going, going, going—and then my down time, when I just wouldn’t do anything.”

Her mother worried, nagged and prayed. Even her grandmother knew something was amiss. “She has said a lot of times that I didn’t make sense. One minute I’d be fine and the other I’d be screaming and yelling,” Reese says.

She spent her senior year at Brandywine High pregnant with her first son and working two jobs: one in an insurance office mail room during the day; and the other at a grocery store cash register at night. Unsure if she would be able to finish the school year, she chose the co-op education track with only two classes in the morning and the afternoon free for work.

Married in her teens, then divorced at age 20, Reese changed jobs and friends multiple times and sought relief for depression through drugs and alcohol. “I couldn’t focus, I was disorganized,” she says, adding that she had no trouble getting jobs. “I’d hold them down for a year, and then I would be on to something else.

“My family and friends would tell me I needed to see a doctor, but I just thought, ‘they’re wrong, they’re crazy, it’s not me, it’s them.’”

She became pregnant with her second son in 2004. It was a breech delivery, and Reese was left with severe postpartum depression. “I would lie on the couch and not get up—just do the bare necessities that the baby needed,” she says. Still, she didn’t seek help.

Reese was working as an executive secretary and had just bought a house. One day, she left her job and never returned. “I never called,” she says. “Today, I [wonder] ‘what was I thinking?’ I don’t understand my train of thought then.”

Bills came and she would discard them. Eventually, her utilities were cut off. For a time, her mother paid the mortgage. When the baby was 6 months old, Reese’s mother took her children.

Reese lost her house and drifted from friend to friend, feeling sick, unmotivated, and missing her sons. It was hard to stay in touch without a phone. “I felt like they were orphans, and the baby practically didn’t know who I was,” she says. Her mother refused to take her in.

Now Reese says that that was the best thing, “I was overly dependent on my mom,” she says. “I’d fall back on her all the time.

“Finally, I thought, ‘maybe it is me,’” she says. Distraught and suicidal, she checked into the Rockford Center, a residential mental health rehabilitation facility, where she was diagnosed as bipolar and suffering postpartum depression. Through medication and counseling over the following weeks, she put aside her addictions and began to get her life back together.

She moved in with her mother and stepfather and started helping her mom around the house, trying to keep busy so she wouldn’t be tempted to return to her former addictions. “It was a struggle to get through,” she admits, but she was determined not to go back.

When a counselor at the state labor department’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation referred her to Goodwill for training, she was surprised. “I thought Goodwill was just a store,” she says.

For most people, Goodwill is just a store. The Wilmington center oversees 17 retail outlets in Delaware and Delaware County, Pa., where donated items are sold to the public at bargain prices. But, like Goodwills across the country, the local center offers job skills training and networks with potential employers.

Reese enrolled in a 17-week computer training program. Instructor Kristin Strouss-Peyton remembers her as a “very shy,” quiet student. Reese hardly talked and rarely looked up. But, “she was very motivated and she did very well in class,” Strouss-Peyton says. “I don’t think I had a doubt that she would succeed, but I thought it would be a long road.”

Reese hadn’t worked in nearly five years, her skills needed updating, and she was still questioning whether she had made the right choice. “I didn’t feel I was ready for a job yet,” she says. “Because of my age, I was surprised I did so well. By the end of the class I was able to believe in myself more.”

Sharing a home with her parents and her mentally challenged brother, she worked on staying clear of her former dependencies and tried to be a mother to her children. Her relationship with her older son had deteriorated during the years before she sought help, and she is still working to rebuild it, she says.

As part of the course, Reese interned at the front desk under Fleck’s supervision. After a couple of days, getting to know Fleck and feeling more comfortable, “she opened up,” Fleck says. Because of her good computer skills, staff were soon asking her to do jobs for them. And, from then on, if someone was needed to cover the reception desk, she was the first choice.

When the receptionist position opened up, it was no surprise that everyone was hoping it would go to Reese. “She’s awesome,” says Strouss-Peyton. “Listening to her answer the phone and say, ‘It’s a great day at Goodwill,’—the sunshine in her voice is just incredible. It’s so inviting.” Reese has been proactive in her job, assuming more responsibilities and creating aids that make it easier for others to take over when she’s absent.

Reese’s achievement award came in the wake of losing her mother to cancer. “She was the force behind me,” Reese says. Her mother offered encouragement and drove her to and from training sessions every day. Her mother knew about the award before she passed in April, several weeks before the ceremony. It was difficult for Reese, but, she says, “Goodwill was there for me.”

Reese’s acceptance speech and the short video Goodwill produced about her life brought some in the audience of 600 close to tears. A few individuals thanked her afterward for giving them hope for family members with similar challenges.

“I didn’t think I would be that much of an inspiration,” Reese admits. “I still feel a little uncomfortable telling people, but if it helps someone, I feel better about it.”

Lisa Hartsky, Reese’s counselor at the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, who attended the award ceremony and was interviewed for the video, attributes Reese’s success to her strong desire to change.

“You’ve got to want it and you’ve got to be motivated,” she says. And Reese “got the support she needed to make it happen. I’m proud of her achievement.”

For someone who has had many dark days, the sunshine in Reese’s phone greeting comes naturally. “I’m happy to come to work,” she says. “I love working here at Goodwill. I watch people come through and I feel really good that we help them.”

And whether visitors to the Goodwill Center are aware or not, Reese is proof that, with motivation, the right help can change a life.

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February 2017

Uncover the facts, fictions, and fossils of Dinosaur Revolution as you LIVE LARGE in reptilian role-play activities at the Delaware Museum of Natural History's newest special exhibit. Undertake...

Cost: Adults: $9 Children (3-17): $7 Seniors (60+): $8 Under 3: FREE Members: FREE

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Uncover the facts, fictions, and fossils of Dinosaur Revolution as you LIVE LARGE in reptilian role-play activities. Undertake three Mesozoic Missions spanning 150 million years and mimic dinosaur...

Cost: Free with Admission

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Newark, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-658-9111
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Between 1917 and 1944, the Society of Independent Artists (SIA) hosted annual exhibitions for its members. Famous painters and Sunday painters were able to exhibit their work in enormous open shows...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Visit The Waterfall for our annual Wedding & Special Event Showcase. Sunday, Feb. 26 from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. The event is complimentary and open to the public. Come see...

Where:
The Waterfall
3416 Philadelphia Pike
Claymont, DE  19703
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Telephone: 302-792-2600
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Cost: $3 for art show admission; $5 for train fare (children under 2 are free)

Where:
Hockessin Memorial Hall
606 Yorklyn Road
Hockessin, DE  19707
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Sponsor: Wilmington & Western Railroad
Telephone: 302-998-1930
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Cost: Free

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Hagley Museum and Library Soda House
298 Buck Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Cost: $15-$52

Where:
Take the Lead Studio
320 Lantana Drive
Hockessin , DE  19711
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Sponsor: Take the Lead
Contact Name: Zahra
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Nanticoke Weight Loss & General Surgery will host bariatric support groups on Tuesday, Feb. 7 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and Monday, Feb. 27 from 6 to 7 p.m. in the Medical Staff...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital
801 Middleford Road
Seaford, DE  19973
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Telephone: 302-536-5395
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Where:
Opera Delaware Studios
4 S Poplar St
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Uncover the facts, fictions, and fossils of Dinosaur Revolution as you LIVE LARGE in reptilian role-play activities. Undertake three Mesozoic Missions spanning 150 million years and mimic dinosaur...

Cost: Free with Admission

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Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Newark, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-658-9111
Website »

More information

Uncover the facts, fictions, and fossils of Dinosaur Revolution as you LIVE LARGE in reptilian role-play activities at the Delaware Museum of Natural History's newest special exhibit. Undertake...

Cost: Adults: $9 Children (3-17): $7 Seniors (60+): $8 Under 3: FREE Members: FREE

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Website »

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Between 1917 and 1944, the Society of Independent Artists (SIA) hosted annual exhibitions for its members. Famous painters and Sunday painters were able to exhibit their work in enormous open shows...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Website »

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Cost: Free

Where:
2nd and 3rd Streets
Wilmington, DE  19801


Sponsor: Notbybreadalone Outreach Ministries
Telephone: 442-0440
Contact Name: Ministers Wayne and Stephanie Dumpson
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Nanticoke Weight Loss & General Surgery will host bariatric support groups on Tuesday, Feb. 7 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and Monday, Feb. 27 from 6 to 7 p.m. in the Medical Staff...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital
801 Middleford Road
Seaford, DE  19973
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Telephone: 302-536-5395
Contact Name: Nanticoke Weight Loss & General Surgery
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Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30AM-12:00PM Fall session: Thursday, Dec 1st thru Thursday, December 15th Winter session: Tuesday, January 17th thru Thursday, March 30th   Drop in on Nature is...

Cost: see description

Where:
The Annex
501 Chandler Mill Rd
Kennett Square, PA  19348
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Sponsor: The Land Conservancy
Telephone: 610-347-0347 ext.104
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Uncover the facts, fictions, and fossils of Dinosaur Revolution as you LIVE LARGE in reptilian role-play activities. Undertake three Mesozoic Missions spanning 150 million years and mimic dinosaur...

Cost: Free with Admission

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Newark, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-658-9111
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Cost: Members:$6 Others:$10

Where:
DuPont Environmental Education Center
1400 Delmarva Lane
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Website »

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Uncover the facts, fictions, and fossils of Dinosaur Revolution as you LIVE LARGE in reptilian role-play activities at the Delaware Museum of Natural History's newest special exhibit. Undertake...

Cost: Adults: $9 Children (3-17): $7 Seniors (60+): $8 Under 3: FREE Members: FREE

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Website »

More information

Between 1917 and 1944, the Society of Independent Artists (SIA) hosted annual exhibitions for its members. Famous painters and Sunday painters were able to exhibit their work in enormous open shows...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


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East Coast Garden Center Indoor Farmer's Marke 25 vendors

Cost: Free

Where:
East Coast Garden Center
30366 Cordrey Rd
Millsboro, DE  19966
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Telephone: 302-945-3489
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Cost: frr

Where:
East Coast Garden Center
30366 Cordrey Rd
Millsboro, DE  19966
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Sponsor: East Coast Garden Center
Telephone: 302-945-3489
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Cost: $9

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE  19958
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Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
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Uncover the facts, fictions, and fossils of Dinosaur Revolution as you LIVE LARGE in reptilian role-play activities. Undertake three Mesozoic Missions spanning 150 million years and mimic dinosaur...

Cost: Free with Admission

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Newark, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-658-9111
Website »

More information

Uncover the facts, fictions, and fossils of Dinosaur Revolution as you LIVE LARGE in reptilian role-play activities at the Delaware Museum of Natural History's newest special exhibit. Undertake...

Cost: Adults: $9 Children (3-17): $7 Seniors (60+): $8 Under 3: FREE Members: FREE

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Website »

More information

Between 1917 and 1944, the Society of Independent Artists (SIA) hosted annual exhibitions for its members. Famous painters and Sunday painters were able to exhibit their work in enormous open shows...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

Nanticoke Weight Loss & General Surgery hosts nutrition classes on the first Wednesday of each month from 4:30 pm to 5:30 pm at the Nanticoke Training Center located at 121 S. Front Street in...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Nanticoke Training Center
121 S Front Street
Seaford, DE  19973
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Telephone: 302-536-5395
Contact Name: Nanticoke Weight Loss & General Surgery
Website »

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Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30AM-12:00PM Fall session: Thursday, Dec 1st thru Thursday, December 15th Winter session: Tuesday, January 17th thru Thursday, March 30th   Drop in on Nature is...

Cost: see description

Where:
The Annex
501 Chandler Mill Rd
Kennett Square, PA  19348
View map »


Sponsor: The Land Conservancy
Telephone: 610-347-0347 ext.104
Website »

More information

Uncover the facts, fictions, and fossils of Dinosaur Revolution as you LIVE LARGE in reptilian role-play activities. Undertake three Mesozoic Missions spanning 150 million years and mimic dinosaur...

Cost: Free with Admission

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Newark, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-658-9111
Website »

More information

Uncover the facts, fictions, and fossils of Dinosaur Revolution as you LIVE LARGE in reptilian role-play activities at the Delaware Museum of Natural History's newest special exhibit. Undertake...

Cost: Adults: $9 Children (3-17): $7 Seniors (60+): $8 Under 3: FREE Members: FREE

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Website »

More information

Between 1917 and 1944, the Society of Independent Artists (SIA) hosted annual exhibitions for its members. Famous painters and Sunday painters were able to exhibit their work in enormous open shows...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

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Thursdays from 4:00PM-5:30PM Fall session: December 1st, 8th and 15th Winter session: Starts January 19th, every other Thursday until March 30th This program is based entirely outdoors and is...

Cost: Cost: $30 for TLC members / $40 for non-members

Where:
Bucktoe Creek Preserve
432 Sharp Rd
Avondale, PA  19311
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Sponsor: The Land Conservancy
Telephone: 610-347-0347 ext.104
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After more than 18,000 e-mails and 40 job interviews couldn't score Daniel Seddiqui a steady job, this University of Southern California economics graduate became "the world's most...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilmington University
Audrey Kohl Doberstein Admissions Center auditorium
320 N. DuPont Highway
New Castle, DE  19720
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Sponsor: Wilmington University
Telephone: (302) 295-1160
Contact Name: College of Online and Experiential Learning
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Pages of Time: Mother & Daughter Book & Craft Club Thursday November 3, 2016, 6:00 – 8:00 pm: A Journey to the New World: The Diary of Remember Patience Whipple...

Cost: $25-35

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Nanticoke Memorial Hospital offers childbirth classes on Thursdays from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm in the Ground Floor Conference Room. The class will meet each Thursday for a total of five weeks – four...

Cost: Childbirth class, $50. Refresher class, $25.

Where:
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital
801 Middleford Road
Seaford, DE  19973
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Telephone: 302-629-6611 x2540
Contact Name: Nanticoke’s Maternal Child Health Clinical Educato

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Visit Paint Nite's website to see Tutto Fresco's events, held the first Thursday of every month (through 2017) starting at 6:30 p.m.

Where:
, DE

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Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
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Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
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Gina Sicilia has been wowing audiences across the globe throughout her decade-long career, with no plans of slowing down anytime soon. Considered a true rising star in the blues world, her debut...

Cost: $12 ADV - $15 DOS + FEES

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World Cafe Live- Wilmington
500 North Market Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Terry Anderson's new landscape paintings from the Brandywine Watershed to the Canadian Near North, take on an abstract quality reflecting her interest in the relationships between shape, space and...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
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Uncover the facts, fictions, and fossils of Dinosaur Revolution as you LIVE LARGE in reptilian role-play activities. Undertake three Mesozoic Missions spanning 150 million years and mimic dinosaur...

Cost: Free with Admission

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Newark, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-658-9111
Website »

More information

Uncover the facts, fictions, and fossils of Dinosaur Revolution as you LIVE LARGE in reptilian role-play activities at the Delaware Museum of Natural History's newest special exhibit. Undertake...

Cost: Adults: $9 Children (3-17): $7 Seniors (60+): $8 Under 3: FREE Members: FREE

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Website »

More information

Between 1917 and 1944, the Society of Independent Artists (SIA) hosted annual exhibitions for its members. Famous painters and Sunday painters were able to exhibit their work in enormous open shows...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

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First Fridays This noon-time lunch series on the first Friday of every month pairs an engaging 30-minute discussion about a work of art with a delicious lunch in the Thronson Café. 

Cost: $12 Members, $14 Non-Members (Café lunch voucher included in price)

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Where:
Tutto Fresco
514 Philadelphia Pike
Wilmington, DE  19809
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Cost: 0.00

Where:
Bayhealth Kent General Hospital
640 S. State Street
Private Dining Room #3
Dover, DE  19901
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Telephone: 800-855-2CALLGA
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The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Elephant Man by Bernard Pomerance. The moving tale of John Merrick, a...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
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Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
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Cost: $29-$59

Where:
OperaDelaware Studio
4 South Poplar St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Sponsor: OperaDelaware
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Cost: $15 ADV - $17 DOS + FEES

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500 North Market Street
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Cost: Free

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First State Heritage Park
121 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd N
Dover, DE  19901
View map »


Sponsor: First State Heritage Park
Telephone: 302-739-9194
Contact Name: Sarah Zimmerman
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Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

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First Saturdays in the First State   Programs and events on the first Saturday of each month. Sites are open, 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., check website for...

Cost: Free

Where:
First State Heritage Park
121 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd N
Dover, DE  19901
View map »


Sponsor: First State Heritage Park
Telephone: 302-739-9194
Contact Name: Sarah Zimmerman
Website »

More information

Uncover the facts, fictions, and fossils of Dinosaur Revolution as you LIVE LARGE in reptilian role-play activities at the Delaware Museum of Natural History's newest special exhibit. Undertake...

Cost: Adults: $9 Children (3-17): $7 Seniors (60+): $8 Under 3: FREE Members: FREE

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Website »

More information

Uncover the facts, fictions, and fossils of Dinosaur Revolution as you LIVE LARGE in reptilian role-play activities. Undertake three Mesozoic Missions spanning 150 million years and mimic dinosaur...

Cost: Free with Admission

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Newark, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-658-9111
Website »

More information

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Cost:

Where:
Kalmar Nyckel Foundation
1124 E 7th St
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Website »

More information

Between 1917 and 1944, the Society of Independent Artists (SIA) hosted annual exhibitions for its members. Famous painters and Sunday painters were able to exhibit their work in enormous open shows...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


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Enjoy four weekends of Tour de Tanks in March 2017. Use the trail brochure to plan your stops as you drive to each location. Includes exclusive tank or barrel tastings, tours or educational...

Cost: $30

Where:
Various Locations
, PA


Telephone: 1-888-858-9675
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Collector Eric Holzenberg will explore W. Heath Robinson’s significant contribution to the gift book phenomenon in works he illustrated and wrote, including The Adventures of Uncle Lubin (1902)...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Elephant Man by Bernard Pomerance. The moving tale of John Merrick, a...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
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Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
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1977: the year Apple,Inc. incorporated, Fantasy Island premiered on ABC, Star Wars & Saturday Night Fever ruled the box office, and disco dominated the airwaves. Buy your tickets now, and see you...

Cost: $60 + FEES

Where:
World Cafe Live- Wilmington
500 North Market Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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