Opportunity knocks and the Community Resource Center delivers.
Of all the bummers of 2020, one particularly nagging one for us was our poor old empty office on Chelten Ave, at the anchor of Germantown’s business district. A lot of effort (and money) went into kitting out this 250 sq ft box into a tidy little tech hub for meetings, pop-ups and socials. And then of course the pandemic, and suddenly cozy indoor gatherings are a horrible idea. For months our office sat empty.
This fall, though, we found a small Census grant but more importantly, we found Sheena and Lenora, two of the most can-do community people you will ever encounter. All the credit goes to Monique Gailliard, one of our advisory board members and also a PR director at Tabor Services – Lenora Gailliard is her mother, a strong, no-nonsense senior. Sheena Thompson is a longtime Tabor resource parent, and general Force of Nature. Together, they’re the perfect team for civil advocacy.
Two days a week, they pulled people off the street to fill out the Census on our office computers and, while they were at it, register to vote. They went out into the neighborhood, looking for blocks of people to reach at once: churches, group homes, assisted living facilities. And they handed out candy and snacks wherever they went – especially chocolate, it turns out, was a special treat. “A lot of these people are disabled and can’t get around, so all they ever get is institutional food,” Sheena explained.
At the office, though, they liked to push the nuts and trail mix, “because people are hungry,” Lenora told us, “Let’s give them something filling.” As she & Sheena got to know the area, they were heartbroken to see so much food insecurity. They also identified another critical problem: many people were needlessly struggling because they couldn’t get the information they needed to apply for assistance that was available.
Lots of people aren’t online or aren’t internet savvy. Others have learning disabilities, mental impairments, all kinds of issues that complicate a person’s ability to navigate social services. It doesn’t help that for many Philadelphia programs, you need an email address and/or a printer and a fax machine. The problem isn’t so much lack of resources, Sheena stressed, but lack of access.
“So what are you guys going to do with the office after the election?” she asked. Cause she had ideas for 2021…
The Local Community Resource Center opened this January to connect neighbors in need with services and resources that can help them, including: rent rebates, SEPTA rail passes, low income assistance programs, utility assistance/signup, meals and food insecurity programs, COVID masks/information, unemployment info (including PUA) and job training/housing for ex-offenders.
Not just information! Neighbors can apply from here via free printer, fax and internet. Best part is, one-on-one support — basically a given, considering COVID guidelines in such a small space. Office services are by appointment only, naturally, so Sheena and Lenora can stagger slots (and sanitize between visitors).
They’re also using the space outside the office, lining the sidewalk with Meal Kits for school kids every Monday, and a general food pantry every 3rd Thursday. And this is just for starters! Quincy Lyons from Representative Darisha Parker’s office recently donated a bunch of backpacks, while Sew Philly Face Masks has reached out to offer quality cloth masks to give away.
Sheena’s taking the lead, working on partnerships with groceries, churches, businesses – even COVID vaccine providers. “It’s all connected, Sheena said. Indeed, home, food, work and health are all basic needs for human happiness and survival.
So is the need to be heard, to have agency in your life. Here’s why we’re so well aligned with Sheena’s vision. As the Community Resource Center grows to serve more neighbors, we’ll help reflect their stories and perspectives in the pages of our newspaper. Voice is a powerful tool, we are excited to enable new narratives and highlight truths often ignored, shamed or denied. As we learned from our work with the Census: everyone counts.
With Special Thanks to our CRC Supporters:
- Pat Edouards (daily food contributions)
- Ruth Mitchell Tucker Girls Youth Department of Deborah (vegetable donations)
- Office of State Rep Darisha Parker for resource assistance. Shout out to Quincy Lyons (District Office Director) for backpack donations.
LOCAL COMMUNITY RESOURCE CENTER
Help and access available for various City services, resources and assistance such as rent rebates, SEPTA rail passes, utility assistance/signup, COVID masks/information, unemployment info and support for ex-offenders.
Hours by appointment only: 9:30am – 2pm Monday, Wednesday & Thursday (call or email to schedule).
Meal Box Mondays: 5-day meal kits for school-age children (incl milk). Every Monday, 10am – 1pm as supplies last
Food Pantry: 3rd Thursday of every month