Real People Empty Nesting

An Interview with Sharla Feldscher: From Teacher to Publicist

Once in a while you meet someone you connect with immediately. A person who is full of purpose and enthusiasm for life—who loves what she does and does what she loves. Public relations specialist Sharla Feldscher is just such a woman. I met Sharla in a serendipitous way: My physician put us in touch after a conversation he and I had about doing public relations work, something I was involved in at the time. Sharla and I got together by phone, we exchanged email addresses, and our ongoing conversation led to a lunch date and then to an interview for Empty Nest.

EN: Sharla, tell us a little about yourself—your career and where it’s taken you.

SF: Well, I’ve always loved children. I took a hiatus from my Philadelphia teaching career (I taught at Lawton Elementary School from 1967 to 1971) to have children, then volunteered at Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia. I eventually became the museum’s first director of public affairs. It was a natural transition from my work life to my volunteer life, but it led to a whole new career—public relations. In both places, children were the focal point of my interests. My work with the Please Touch Museum was particularly exciting, as I experienced the rise of the nonprofit organization into prominence on the Philadelphia cultural scene.

In 1984, I established my own public relations firm, Sharla Feldscher Public Relations. My clients include many high-profile Philadelphia companies and nonprofit groups: Sesame Place (an Anheuser-Busch Theme Park, my first client and still a client today), the Franklin Institute Science Museum, Philadelphia Newspapers Inc., KYW-TV, FOX-TV, The Free Library of Philadelphia, the Merriam Theater, the Mann Center for the Performing Arts, and the Philadelphia Phillies are just a few. I specialize in tourism and children’s programming, and I work with restaurants, theaters, and other cultural organizations and businesses.

Community service has always been important to me. Currently, I am public relations chair of the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children (DVAEYC), a leading childcare advocacy group in the Philadelphia region. I serve on the board of the Police Athletic League and the marketing committee of Please Touch Museum. From 1988 to 1989, I served as president of the Philadelphia Public Relations Association. I lecture frequently at area universities: Temple, Penn, Drexel, Villanova, LaSalle, all in Philadelphia; Rowan University in New Jersey; and the University of Delaware.

EN: I understand you are a published writer. What highlights can you give of that part of your career?

SF: My publishing experiences also resulted from my love for children. I taught kindergarten and found that what I did in my classroom really worked, so I began to write books for teachers and parents. My first was a series called Readiness Week by Week. Eventually, I created the KIDFUN® Activity Books (HarperCollins), which were translated into German and Russian. I wrote a full-page article for kids in the Philadelphia Daily News from 1979 to 1987. One of my regular features was Kid Reporters. I loved this because I took kids to meet celebrities and other interesting people who were being interviewed for the paper. I also wrote for the Jewish Exponent and had a regular feature on KYW Newsradio (Philadelphia). My subject was always kids. These media features ran until the early 1990s.

EN: Sharla, you have two grown daughters. What are they up to today?

SF:At one point, both my daughters chose careers like mine. Amy, the older one and now a mom of a precious baby girl, was a teacher at the beginning of her career, but now she is director of operations for Classic Hair (a chain of hair salons that serve nursing homes). Amy moved “away from the nest” for about 12 years, to live in New York and Maryland. It’s great to have her nearby again. Hope loves coordinating events and is director of special initiatives for Deborah Heart and Lung Center, in Browns Mills, New Jersey. Both of my girls live close by, and I love that. We can arrange our schedules to meet for dinner or just get together—often. I also love living in proximity to my new granddaughter, Ryan Isabella, Amy’s first child. She’s just three months old—I know we’ll have fun as her life unfolds.

EN: At this point in your life, you’re an empty nester. How did you cope with the girls leaving home, and what advice do you have for those entering their empty nesting years?

SF:Well, when my daughters left home, it was very weird for my husband and me. Although we were always busy people, they were the most important part of our lives. However, we were able to overcome the “weirdness” and move into the second honeymoon period fairly quickly. We have our careers, which I am sure helped a lot. I know a number of women whose identities were wrapped up solely in their children, and when the kids left home, it devastated them. I’ve been lucky because I fell into a career, totally unexpectedly, so I have always been busy. What is great for us is that when we are all together, it’s always fun and comfortable—with my son-in-law, too. We do laugh a lot!

EN: What special projects do you have planned for the future?

SF: Because I have my own business, I can create it in a way that is fulfilling personally as well as professionally. I have a division of my business I call “Young People with Big Hearts,” in which I volunteer to do publicity for kids who help the community. My current project—one that has completely stolen my heart—is doing pro bono promotion for Rocco Fiorentino,, an 11-year-old blind singer and musician He is just amazing. He’s a phenomenon because he is so gifted and also so kind and giving. I took him to sing at Birdland, a jazz club in New York City, and they loved him. Because he’s a jazz artist, I arranged for him to meet Tony Bennett. Then, this summer he told me his real dream was to meet Stevie Wonder, and meeting Stevie turned out to be my gift to him on his 11th birthday. Both Stevie and Rocco are blind for the same reason—prematurity. Rocco even played piano for Stevie. It was a dream for him and a joy for me.

In addition to her impressive public relations, teaching, and publishing and lecturing credentials, Sharla’s resume boasts numerous awards. These include the following:

• Book of the Month by the Philadelphia Children’s Reading Round Table Awards for her book Help! The Kid Is Bored (1980)
• Outstanding Writer of the Year—Philadelphia Special Olympics (1985)
• Who’s Who in the East (1985)
• Who’s Who in American Women (1986)
• Who’s Who in American Education (1994–1995)
• Hall of Fame Award—Philadelphia Public Relations Association (1995)
• Hall of Fame Award—Overbrook High School, Philadelphia (1997)
• Sarah Award—Women in Communications (1998)
• Who’s Who in America (1999)
• Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation “Unsung Hero Award” (2004)
• Who’s Who in American Education (2007–2008)

Despite her achievements, Sharla is one of the most down-to-earth and personable professional women I’ve met. She’s easy to talk to and lovely to lunch with. I’m looking forward to our next visit!

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