Elise Rivers, Mt. Airy Acupuncturist, gives back to community

Mt. Airy business works to be part of community improvements

NewsWorks.org July 18, 2013

Elise Rivers doesn’t follow all the precepts of the Community Acupuncture movement, but she does follow a passion for building a successful business and giving back to the community where she works and lives. CAMA is the 2013 winner of Best Acupuncture in Philadelphia. Nine years ago, Rivers and her husband, Max, moved here after a friend said “if Elise is interested in the environment and architecture then Mt. Airy is the place to go.”

“Mt. Airy is special because of its diversity and acceptance of that diversity,” she said. “It’s physically beautiful, green, and the architecture is unusual. There is community spirit, like a small town in a big city. Asian, black, white, gay, whatever you are is welcome here and that’s beautiful.”

She started her practice in the third floor of a doctor’s house. Her business flourished with mainly a local clientele and a business model that would make some businesses cringe: a sliding scale of $30-$45 a session.

Five years ago, she began her first restoration project: turning 6782 Germantown Avenue, which had been vacant for seven years, into a welcoming center for acupuncture. She has a staff of seven and is proud to be the only acupuncturist in the city to treat women struggling with infertility. Some have gone on to have children. As opposed to acupuncture performed with people sitting in a circle or a chair, CAMA treats patients on a table and strives to learn about the person to determine if there is stress that is causing the pains.

CAMA is located in a little patch of businesses that sometimes are overshadowed by the high activity two blocks north. In 2009, she convinced Able Plumbing Supply at 6815 to improve their façade through the grants from Mt. Airy USA. She bought containers and planted the flowers for them. Fino’s Pizzeria also improved their façade.

She joined the board of the Mt. Airy Business Improvement District in 2010. She, along with Max and a former employee of Fino’s, began the conversion of an empty lot at Carpenter Lane and Germantown Avenue into a rose garden. Flowers were donated by neighbors and BID members. Rivers received first place in the 2012 Philadelphia Gardens Contest “Best Community Garden Block” from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

Her attention shifted to the rest of the Avenue. She led the effort to obtain flower baskets and street planter containers. By the end of 2012, approximately 100 baskets were installed on pedestrian scale lamps. Through the Rivers’ efforts, 30 street containers were installed on Germantown Avenue.

Next were the “pocket parks,” capitalizing on green spaces along the Avenue. She donated $4,000 and raised $3,000 for benches in the William Allen public plaza at Lutheran Theological Seminary. Trolley Car Diner, Elfant-Wissahickon Realtor, Domus Construction and the Seminary contributed. Charles Todd of Mt. Airy Custom Furniture handcrafted the benches at cost.

Recently, she offered to match donations up to $2,500 towards the development of Lovett Library Park. CAMA sponsors Mt. Airy Outdoor Drum Circle once a month there.

“BID members have community spirit, supported my ideas and provided some funding,” Rivers said. “The environment has a positive effect on people when it is attractive and not depressing. There”s more cleanliness along the Avenue. The embellishments make a huge difference in the sense of community.”