Big Brothers Big Sisters of Delaware Celebrates 50 Years of Care

Adult role models are in demand for Delaware youth.



For 10 years, Tiera Johnson has been repeating the words to herself so often that they feel like her own: Do well. Be well. Be happy. 

That’s what her mentor Jeanne Mell has said to her on practically each encounter over the last decade. For Mell, the words of wisdom that she had heard all her life from her father had become commonplace. For Johnson, her mentee in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Delaware program, the phrase affected her thinking and perspective on life.

“I say it to myself all the time when I have challenges, and it reminds me to just do my best and be happy,” says the 18-year-old, who graduated this year from Cab Calloway School of the Arts in Wilmington. 

Tiera is among the 1,200 children and youth—or Littles, as they are known inside the program—who are bolstered by mentors each year through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Delaware.

Adults agree to engage in one-on-one time with children considered at risk, but they never know how what they say and do will transform young lives. And it’s those small deeds and thoughtful words that have for the past 50 years created one success story after another. 

In December, the organization will celebrate its golden anniversary and honor the 2014 Big Brother and Big Sister of the Year.

Executive director Mary P. Fox, who has been with Big Brothers for 30 of those years, says the group’s premise has always been that children desperately need multiple adult role models and mentors in their lives to help them reach their full potential.

Fox joined the staff straight out of the University of Delaware as a coordinator. In 1991, she accepted the position of director of programs, which she held for 20 years.

“I was directly involved with our mentors and families, which I loved,” she says. “So while I hadn’t originally aspired to become the executive director, when the opening arose, I realized that it would allow me the opportunity to have a greater impact on the future direction of the agency.”

To be sure, Fox still maintains a hands-on-approach and nurtures personal relationships with the volunteers and families. “They’re such wonderful, giving people. I have so much respect for them,” she adds.

Big Brother Big Sisters focuses on helping youth who are
economically disadvantaged, live in households run by single parents and lack opportunities outside of the home, meaning they aren’t able to attend baseball practice, visit libraries or partake in community events. 

“It’s the parents who come to us, realizing that their child needs other positive adults in his or her life and exposure to new places and ideas,” Fox says.

 

Numbers Also Tell a Story

Indeed, with kindness, compassion and guidance, children are fortified and nourished. But with a half-century of experience in Delaware, Big Brothers Big Sisters can do much more than tout feel-good philosophies.

“Back then, when we talked about the impact of having a Big Brother or Big Sister in a kid’s life, we talked in anecdotal stories about kids in tough situations who succeeded thanks to relationships that lasted for years and years. Now we are a proven, evidence-based program,” Fox says. “The research has backed what we have been saying for years, and in 2014, it’s important to show our donors and supporters how the program works.” 

Big Brothers Big Sisters has demonstrated its success in three critical areas: educational success, avoidance of risky behaviors including juvenile delinquency and socio-emotional competencies—such as higher aspirations, greater self-confidence and better relationships. Researchers found that after 18 months of spending time with their Bigs, children in the program were 46 percent less likely to begin using illegal drugs and 52 percent less likely to skip school among other positive statistics.

In addition to community-based mentoring, the organization also offers mentoring for children with an incarcerated parent, underperforming students and those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

 

The Act of Being Present 

But Big Brothers Big Sisters is also about the act of being involved—speaking kind words, offering a pat on the shoulder for a job well done. 

John Graham, 46, a former Little who is now a Big Brother, remembers the man who came into his life when he desperately needed another adult role model. His parents had divorced and his mother toiled at two jobs to put food on the table for her five children. She had little time or resources to take them on excursions.
But she was wise enough to sign up her two oldest boys for mentoring. 

Graham, of Dover, remembers that his brother’s mentor canceled often. Not his Big Brother. “I knew I could count on Bob to show up every Saturday. He was that reliable and consistent presence that I really needed in my life to keep me out of trouble,” he says. 

Bob cared enough to keep his promises, take him to ball games, ask him about his schoolwork and more.  

Graham credits his mentor for exposing him to a better life and distracting him from the pressure of peers, who at the age of 10 were already being arrested for petty crimes. 

“I can honestly say if it were not for Bob, I would have ended up in jail,” says Graham. The relationship lasted two years. They did not stay in touch. Yet, three years ago, Graham reached out to the man on Facebook out of the blue, almost four decades later, to thank him for turning his life around. 

Fox, who has mentored several children, says it’s always in the details. Her first little sister, Jessie O’Hara Doyle, also found her on Facebook a few years ago.

“Little things that I can barely remember, she remembers clearly. She mentioned how I talked to her about not staring at people. For her, it was a lesson about treating people with respect,” Fox says.

Part of the reason that mentoring changes lives is because when a caring adult believes in a child, that child begins to believe in herself. Case in point: Tiera Johnson.

She struggled academically in her senior year and doubted that she would attend college. But Mell was there to talk facts and explain how she might not ever attend if she takes off a year or two. More important, Mell reminded Tiera that she was an intelligent young woman with a bright future. But she needed to work to achieve her dreams. 

Tiera will be taking early-childhood education classes at Delaware Technical Community College this fall. One day, she hopes to open a youth recreation center that inspires children to develop their skills and talents. 

In the meantime, she will keep repeating Mell’s words: “Do well. Be well. Be happy.”    

 

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January 2018

January 2 – 27 Winter Group Show A rotating group show featuring an eclectic mix of artwork including oil paintings, pastels, ornamental boxes, art glass and jewelry. Custom Framing and Gift...

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Hagley Library and Soda House
298 Buck Road
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Come join us in celebrating the mission work of the American Heart Association while raising funds to end cardiovascular disease. There will be a live and silent auction, served dinner with wine,...

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Chase Center on the Riverfront
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Wilmington , DE
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Telephone: 302-286-5704
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On Sundays, we brunch. Imagine your best ever brunch experience. Now add some local flair, an award-winning culinary team, and a modernly chic ambiance in a brand new gastropub. On Sundays from...

Cost: varies

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Hilton Wilmington/Christiana
100 Continental Dr.
Newark, DE  19713
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The Philly Home Show will inspire your inner HGTV star at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia from January 12-15 and 19-21. The show will feature highly-interactive exhibits...

Cost: 13

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Pennsylvania Convention Center
1101 Arch St
Philadelphia, PA  19107
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Cost: Free

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Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Join us for in-depth conversations in the galleries, led by University of Delaware graduate student Kristen Nassif. Image: Spring Rain, 1912. John Sloan (1871–1951). Oil on canvas, 20 1/4 × 26...

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Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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The first major retrospective exhibition of John Sloan’s work since 1988, An American Journey explores all facets of the artist’s long career: his work as an illustrator in Philadelphia, his...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Founded in 1971, the Harmony Weavers Guild is dedicated to the making of cloth—a process involving time-consuming techniques. Created by hand, the works of art highlight attention to design...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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January 2 – 27 Winter Group Show A rotating group show featuring an eclectic mix of artwork including oil paintings, pastels, ornamental boxes, art glass and jewelry. Custom Framing and Gift...

Cost: free

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


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Learn how insects help us tackle everyday problems: they inspire new technologies, help detectives solve mysteries, and play an important role in our food industry. Enjoy hands-on activities,...

Cost: $8 for adults, $6 for children between 4 and 14, and free for children under 4 a

Where:
Hagley Library and Soda House
298 Buck Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Agilent Technologies
Telephone: 302-658-2400
Website »

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Come join us in celebrating the mission work of the American Heart Association while raising funds to end cardiovascular disease. There will be a live and silent auction, served dinner with wine,...

Cost: $175.00

Where:
Chase Center on the Riverfront
Justinson Street
Wilmington , DE
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Telephone: 302-286-5704
Contact Name: Denise Griffin
Website »

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Celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at the Museum in partnership with One Village Alliance and Raising Kings. Activities include gallery highlights, art making, mentorship...

Cost: Free; donations accepted

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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The Philly Home Show will inspire your inner HGTV star at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia from January 12-15 and 19-21. The show will feature highly-interactive exhibits...

Cost: 13

Where:
Pennsylvania Convention Center
1101 Arch St
Philadelphia, PA  19107
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The Lighthouse Inc., Church will be holding a revival themed "Broken and Spilled Out Glory Encounter". The revival will start on Monday January 15, 2018 at 7 pm and will run through...

Cost: free

Where:
The Lighthouse Inc., Church
6 South Railroad Avenue
Wyoming, DE  19934
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Sponsor: The Lighthouse Inc., Church
Telephone: 302-697-1472
Contact Name: Christopher Gore
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January 2 – 27 Winter Group Show A rotating group show featuring an eclectic mix of artwork including oil paintings, pastels, ornamental boxes, art glass and jewelry. Custom Framing and Gift...

Cost: free

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


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Come join us in celebrating the mission work of the American Heart Association while raising funds to end cardiovascular disease. There will be a live and silent auction, served dinner with wine,...

Cost: $175.00

Where:
Chase Center on the Riverfront
Justinson Street
Wilmington , DE
View map »


Telephone: 302-286-5704
Contact Name: Denise Griffin
Website »

More information

The Philly Home Show will inspire your inner HGTV star at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia from January 12-15 and 19-21. The show will feature highly-interactive exhibits...

Cost: 13

Where:
Pennsylvania Convention Center
1101 Arch St
Philadelphia, PA  19107
View map »

More information

The Lighthouse Inc., Church will be holding a revival themed "Broken and Spilled Out Glory Encounter". The revival will start on Monday January 15, 2018 at 7 pm and will run through...

Cost: free

Where:
The Lighthouse Inc., Church
6 South Railroad Avenue
Wyoming, DE  19934
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Sponsor: The Lighthouse Inc., Church
Telephone: 302-697-1472
Contact Name: Christopher Gore
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Do you want to learn how to make BEER soap? This is your chance! Join me for a fun and informative class @ Argilla Brewing Co. We will make soap from scratch, learn how to make a recipe, blend...

Cost: 45

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Argilla Brewing Co
2667 Kirkwood Highway
Newark, DE  19711
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January 2 – 27 Winter Group Show A rotating group show featuring an eclectic mix of artwork including oil paintings, pastels, ornamental boxes, art glass and jewelry. Custom Framing and Gift...

Cost: free

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


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Come join us in celebrating the mission work of the American Heart Association while raising funds to end cardiovascular disease. There will be a live and silent auction, served dinner with wine,...

Cost: $175.00

Where:
Chase Center on the Riverfront
Justinson Street
Wilmington , DE
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Telephone: 302-286-5704
Contact Name: Denise Griffin
Website »

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FREE COMMUNITY EVENT: MID-WEEK WORD REFRESHER Come join us at the Mid-Week Word Refresher every Wednesday at Faith Victory Christian Center from 11:00am - 12:00pm. Refreshments will be...

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Faith Victory Christian Center
301 Commonwealth Avenue
Claymont, DE  19703
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Sponsor: Faith Victory Christian Center
Telephone: 302.354.6726
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The Philly Home Show will inspire your inner HGTV star at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia from January 12-15 and 19-21. The show will feature highly-interactive exhibits...

Cost: 13

Where:
Pennsylvania Convention Center
1101 Arch St
Philadelphia, PA  19107
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Why not garden deliberately for the winter season? Bring together a succession of winter flowers for color and fragrance to create a dynamic scene against a backdrop of evergreens, colored stems,...

Cost: UDBG Friends: $95/series or $35/class; Nonmembers: $125/series or $45/class

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132 Townsend Hall on UD's South Campus
531 South College Avenue
Newark, DE  19716
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Clearing the mind and learning to think not thinking is Zen awareness. Taking the appropriate action in this moment is Zen. Once you know this in your body, walking, standing, sitting down,...

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Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Newark
420 Willa Road
Newark, DE  19711
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Sponsor: UUFN
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The Lighthouse Inc., Church will be holding a revival themed "Broken and Spilled Out Glory Encounter". The revival will start on Monday January 15, 2018 at 7 pm and will run through...

Cost: free

Where:
The Lighthouse Inc., Church
6 South Railroad Avenue
Wyoming, DE  19934
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Sponsor: The Lighthouse Inc., Church
Telephone: 302-697-1472
Contact Name: Christopher Gore
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The first major retrospective exhibition of John Sloan’s work since 1988, An American Journey explores all facets of the artist’s long career: his work as an illustrator in Philadelphia, his...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

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

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Show glides through life of professional figure skater Randy Gardner with help from Tai Babilonia and Dorothy Hamill. Wilmington, DE—“It ain’t no Ice Capades,” Randy...

Where:
200 Water St.
Wilmington
, DE  19801
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Sponsor: Carolina Millard
Telephone: 302-594-1100, ext. 215

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January 2 – 27 Winter Group Show A rotating group show featuring an eclectic mix of artwork including oil paintings, pastels, ornamental boxes, art glass and jewelry. Custom Framing and Gift...

Cost: free

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


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

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Nanticoke Health Services, in conjunction with CHEER and Care DE and the Manor House, will hold a Parkinson’s education and support group on Thursday, January 18 from 9:30 am to 11:00 am at the...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Manor House
1001 Middleford Road
Seaford, DE  19973
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Telephone: 302-629-6611 x3838
Contact Name: Tara Trout

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Come join us in celebrating the mission work of the American Heart Association while raising funds to end cardiovascular disease. There will be a live and silent auction, served dinner with wine,...

Cost: $175.00

Where:
Chase Center on the Riverfront
Justinson Street
Wilmington , DE
View map »


Telephone: 302-286-5704
Contact Name: Denise Griffin
Website »

More information

The Philly Home Show will inspire your inner HGTV star at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia from January 12-15 and 19-21. The show will feature highly-interactive exhibits...

Cost: 13

Where:
Pennsylvania Convention Center
1101 Arch St
Philadelphia, PA  19107
View map »

More information

Nanticoke Rehabilitation Services hosts lymphedema support groups on the third Thursday of each month from 1:30 pm to 3:00 pm at the Seaford Library and Cultural Center located at 600 N. Market...

Cost: FREE

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Seaford Library & Cultural Center
600 N. Market Street Extended
Seaford, DE  19973
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Telephone: 302-629-6224
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Arts-n-Appetizers is hands on this month! UWC will be hosting a paint party Thursday, January 18th from 6-8PM. Tickets are $55 per person and include all painting materials and buffet dinner! This...

Cost: $55

Where:
University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Telephone: 302-658-5125

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Dara Orenstein, from George Washington University, will lead this seminar which is free and open to the public. The seminar is based on a paper that is circulated in advance. Those planning to...

Cost: Free

Where:
Hagley Library
298 Buck Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Sponsor: Hagley's Center for the History of Business, Technology, and Society
Telephone: 302-658-2400
Contact Name: Carol Lockman
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The Lighthouse Inc., Church will be holding a revival themed "Broken and Spilled Out Glory Encounter". The revival will start on Monday January 15, 2018 at 7 pm and will run through...

Cost: free

Where:
The Lighthouse Inc., Church
6 South Railroad Avenue
Wyoming, DE  19934
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Sponsor: The Lighthouse Inc., Church
Telephone: 302-697-1472
Contact Name: Christopher Gore
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Celebrate John Sloan with Mozart’s Divertimento in E-flat Major for String Trio (4th movement), selections from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess (arranged by Heifitz), and Reynaldo Hahn’s Piano...

Cost: $30 for Members, $50 for Non-Members

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


Website »

More information

The first major retrospective exhibition of John Sloan’s work since 1988, An American Journey explores all facets of the artist’s long career: his work as an illustrator in Philadelphia, his...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

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

More information

Show glides through life of professional figure skater Randy Gardner with help from Tai Babilonia and Dorothy Hamill. Wilmington, DE—“It ain’t no Ice Capades,” Randy...

Where:
200 Water St.
Wilmington
, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Carolina Millard
Telephone: 302-594-1100, ext. 215

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 2 – 27 Winter Group Show A rotating group show featuring an eclectic mix of artwork including oil paintings, pastels, ornamental boxes, art glass and jewelry. Custom Framing and Gift...

Cost: free

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


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Glory of Stories introduces young visitors to art and the Museum through a story reading followed by an interactive tour of relevant works of art and a studio art project. This program encourages...

Cost: Free to Members, $5 per child and one adult free for Non-Members

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

More information

Come join us in celebrating the mission work of the American Heart Association while raising funds to end cardiovascular disease. There will be a live and silent auction, served dinner with wine,...

Cost: $175.00

Where:
Chase Center on the Riverfront
Justinson Street
Wilmington , DE
View map »


Telephone: 302-286-5704
Contact Name: Denise Griffin
Website »

More information

The Philly Home Show will inspire your inner HGTV star at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia from January 12-15 and 19-21. The show will feature highly-interactive exhibits...

Cost: 13

Where:
Pennsylvania Convention Center
1101 Arch St
Philadelphia, PA  19107
View map »

More information

The Lighthouse Inc., Church will be holding a revival themed "Broken and Spilled Out Glory Encounter". The revival will start on Monday January 15, 2018 at 7 pm and will run through...

Cost: free

Where:
The Lighthouse Inc., Church
6 South Railroad Avenue
Wyoming, DE  19934
View map »


Sponsor: The Lighthouse Inc., Church
Telephone: 302-697-1472
Contact Name: Christopher Gore
Website »

More information

Meeting every Friday, Bayhealth Kent General Hospital, 640 s. State Street, Dover, 7:30 pm., Private Dining Room #3 in the basement. For those who have, or think they may have a gambling problem....

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
Website »

More information

The first major retrospective exhibition of John Sloan’s work since 1988, An American Journey explores all facets of the artist’s long career: his work as an illustrator in Philadelphia, his...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

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

More information

Show glides through life of professional figure skater Randy Gardner with help from Tai Babilonia and Dorothy Hamill. Wilmington, DE—“It ain’t no Ice Capades,” Randy...

Where:
200 Water St.
Wilmington
, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Carolina Millard
Telephone: 302-594-1100, ext. 215

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 2 – 27 Winter Group Show A rotating group show featuring an eclectic mix of artwork including oil paintings, pastels, ornamental boxes, art glass and jewelry. Custom Framing and Gift...

Cost: free

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


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

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Cost: Varies

Where:
Linvilla Orchards
137 W Knowlton Rd
Media, PA  19063
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Come join us in celebrating the mission work of the American Heart Association while raising funds to end cardiovascular disease. There will be a live and silent auction, served dinner with wine,...

Cost: $175.00

Where:
Chase Center on the Riverfront
Justinson Street
Wilmington , DE
View map »


Telephone: 302-286-5704
Contact Name: Denise Griffin
Website »

More information

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Cost: free

Where:
The Lighthouse Inc., Church
6 South Railroad Avenue
Wyoming, DE  19934
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Sponsor: The Lighthouse Inc., Church
Telephone: 302-593-8711
Contact Name: Barbara Allsopp

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The Philly Home Show will inspire your inner HGTV star at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia from January 12-15 and 19-21. The show will feature highly-interactive exhibits...

Cost: 13

Where:
Pennsylvania Convention Center
1101 Arch St
Philadelphia, PA  19107
View map »

More information

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:     December 19, 2018   FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT: Dave Ruffner Rehoboth Beach Film Society 107 Truitt Ave., Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971 302-645-9095,...

Cost: $18-$20

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE
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Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
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Do you have a winning chili recipe? Secret family soup recipe? The best stew ever? Now's your chance to win some bragging rights!  Enter our CROCK OFF contest for a chance to win fantastic Salted...

Cost: $5.00

Where:
Salted Vines Vineyard & Winery
32512 Blackwater Rd
Frankford, DE  19945
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Sponsor: Salted Vines Vineyard & Winery
Telephone: 302-436-1500
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The Lighthouse Inc., Church will be holding a revival themed "Broken and Spilled Out Glory Encounter". The revival will start on Monday January 15, 2018 at 7 pm and will run through...

Cost: free

Where:
The Lighthouse Inc., Church
6 South Railroad Avenue
Wyoming, DE  19934
View map »


Sponsor: The Lighthouse Inc., Church
Telephone: 302-697-1472
Contact Name: Christopher Gore
Website »

More information

Show glides through life of professional figure skater Randy Gardner with help from Tai Babilonia and Dorothy Hamill. Wilmington, DE—“It ain’t no Ice Capades,” Randy...

Where:
200 Water St.
Wilmington
, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Carolina Millard
Telephone: 302-594-1100, ext. 215

More information

The first major retrospective exhibition of John Sloan’s work since 1988, An American Journey explores all facets of the artist’s long career: his work as an illustrator in Philadelphia, his...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

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

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
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