Widely Known for Giving, Renaissance Woman Barbara Cohen to Receive Lukens Award

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Barbara Cohen inside The Foundry in Phoenixville.

She’s much more accustomed to giving, but on May 4, Renaissance Woman Barbara Cohen will receive the prestigious Rebecca Lukens Award at its 10th anniversary twilight garden party.

“My parents were both committed participants and leaders in our synagogue and other nonprofit, charitable organizations,” Cohen said. “I believe that this fostered in me the idea that giving back to the community is a positive and important aspect of life.”

And this year’s Rebecca Lukens Award, given by The Graystone Society’s National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum alongside sponsor Citadel Federal Credit Union, spotlights a list of contributions to the Phoenixville community that is almost endless. Cohen started by teaching piano lessons, serving in her synagogue, re-envisioning business environments across the Philly area as an interior designer and running for a seat in the state Legislature.

“Although I lost the election, my platform and my ideas have become part of a regional agenda to bring a new spirit and economic revitalization to this area,” she said.

That passion prompted her involvement as a director of the Schuylkill River Greenway Association; the executive director of the Phoenixville Area Chamber of Commerce; the volunteer director and later a board member of the Phoenixville Area Economic Development Corp.; a driving force behind transforming a vacant lot and neglected wall into a visual delight and Trompe L’Oeil with the creation of the Phoenixville Mural and Renaissance Park; and a voice in the resurgence of the Foundry Building, one of Pennsylvania’s nine most endangered historic buildings in 1996, through Phoenixville’s National Registered Historic District.

“The weddings, corporate and civic events and meetings that take place in the building play a vital role in bringing people to Phoenixville,” she noted. “The building also houses the Schuylkill River Heritage Center in a portion of the building. I serve as president of the SRHC. Our museum visually celebrates Phoenixville and the Schuylkill River’s industrial legacy, as well as serves as a gateway to welcome visitors to northern Chester County.”

It all sounds very similar to the pioneering spirit that emanated from Rebecca Lukens.

“We here in Coatesville are thrilled with the accomplishments Ms. Cohen has made in our neighboring town of Phoenixville,” NISHM Executive Director James D. Ziegler said. “Her dedication to her community, her family and her township mirrors the type of dedication that Rebecca exemplified. We could not be more elated over this year’s honoree.”

The Rebecca Lukens Award will be presented during the reservation-required reception from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Lukens National Historic District.

“I am very honored and humbled to be the recipient of the Rebecca Lukens Award this year,” Cohen said. “She was an amazing woman, especially given the time frame in which she lived and worked. Her inspirational story gives me the courage and inner strength to continue my quest to make history come alive and be aesthetically appreciated by all!”

Read more about the many endeavors Cohen has been a part of in previous VISTA Today coverage here.

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