A snapshot of Karen Polesir, SNAP's local director

Posted: February 13, 2012

Editor's Note: Chillin' Wit' is a regular feature of the Daily News spotlighting a name in the news away from the job.

KAREN POLESIR stands in the kitchen in her cozy one-bedroom Ambler apartment, the kettle boiling for English tea, as her cat, Harley, sits perched on a chair at the table, a scrunchie around her neck, as if she's a toddler waiting for cake.

"She's like a dog," says Polesir. "She loves hair ties. I throw them across the floor and she brings them back to me."

The name Harley seems more suited for a crazed pitbull, but here's how Polesir explains the name for her tortoise-shell cat with piercing, sea-green eyes who was abandoned on a doorstep: "She purrs like an engine."

Given that Polesir is director of the Philadelphia chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), you'd expect her to be reflective.

And yes, Polesir, 52, is serious when it comes to supporting people who have suffered years of torment after being molested by priests.

"It kills me," she says. "It just breaks my heart. Even if it's a familiar story to me, it's fresh and new for them to tell me. I cry a lot."

Polesir has volunteered at SNAP for a decade, since a few years after her cousin told her that a priest had sexually abused him when he was a child.

She also juggles two part-time jobs, as a reading specialist and a substitute teacher, and she's getting certified to teach English as a second language.

In her spare time, Polesir, who is single, walks a 3-mile loop around Ambler. She does two-day movie marathons with friends before the Oscars. And she hangs out at the Shanachie Irish Pub in Ambler at least once a week, usually on Sunday.

At the pub yesterday after leaving Harley at home, Polesir gets up from the bar to greet Tommy Morris, 22, a server who knows her as a regular. Morris recently rescued her from a bad date after the guy sat in silence and Polesir was running out of topics. Her date was also a lousy tipper, so she slipped Morris some cash.

"I feel comfortable here," Polesir says, munching on a crab-cake sandwich. "I feel at home."

- Barbara Laker

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