With chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and heart diseases taking a disproportionate toll on African Americans, those living in West and Southwest Philadelphia without health insurance or unable to acquire medical care, are encouraged to attend a local health center rather than avoid medical examinations altogether.
The Woodland Ave. Health Annex is a state of the art medical facility located in the shopping plaza at the 6100 block of Woodland Ave. in Southwest Philadelphia.
While health related medical problems typically affect African Americans in higher proportions than other members of the American population, Black males are said to be least likely to seek preventive medical attention.
Michael Rhoades of the Health Annex would like to attract Black men who otherwise are likely to only seek medical assistance after being afflicted with a medical problem which, in some cases, might have been prevented had they received more frequent medical exams.
“I recruit men into primary care or try to encourage them to, at the very least get a physical,” said Rhoades who speaks extensively at community meetings and other forums to raise awareness about Black health issues.
“We [the Health Annex] a variety of services ranging from primary care, behavioral health, dental, there’s a pharmacy on site in which you don’t pay more than four dollars co-pay for any medication.”
Social workers, eye doctors, foot specialists and other medical experts serving diverse needs, are also offered at the clinic for those who cannot afford treatment otherwise.
“It’s a one-stop shop here at the Health Annex and I’ll say this — insurance is not an issue,” Rhoades said. “If you are insured, that’s a wonderful thing; if you’re not insured you’re still in the same place as if you are insured.”
Rhoades noted the center not only provides physiological, social and psychological support and assistance, but that they are available to the community to “utilize in any form or fashion” related to health or anything else going on in their lives.
A sliding scale fee is used to assess billing for those who utilize the facility and receive some form of income but cannot afford to pay for individual insurance. Pay stubs are used to assess fees for those who are employed and in this way patients are billed according to what they earn.
“It’s a no-turn-away policy here at the Annex,” Rhoades said.
While the center has existed for some 10 years, it has only been at the 6100 Woodland Ave. location for two of those years.
Originally it operated at 58th and Kingsessing at a smaller facility. Rhoades explained that through the acquisition of grants, the health center was able to expand until finally it was able to occupy the larger site where it currently provides service to the community.
“A very special person really helped this place and is really the backbone and the reason for it being in the position that is now, and that person is Lorraine Thomas,” Rhoades said. “Without her it wouldn’t be here.”
Thomas, who is no longer an employee of the center, was unavailable for comment at press time.
“We have a wonderful environment here,” Rhoades said. “And most [of the staff] are very caring and have a genuine concern for people.”
If interested in more information about the Health Annex or to make an appointment, call (215) 727-4721.
They helped our country abroad when it needed them, now they need help at home. This was the message of Rebuilding Together Philadelphia who joined with Sears to help restore the home of a widow of a Korean War veteran on the 1200 block of W. Wingahocking Street in the Logan section of Philadelphia.
Daisy Hill, 79, lived in the two-story, four-bedroom home for over 40 years, where she and her husband Pierce Ray Hill raised their ten children until a fire destroyed the home March 29.
As a result of the fire, Hill’s home was completely gutted, causing the widow to leave her home with her family. She did not have fire insurance.
“It started in the basement from an electrical wire and burnt all the way,” said Hill.
“It suffered from so much smoke damage that they just gutted the whole house,” said Hill’s daughter, Elaine Menn, who explained that it was a family relative, who found and called Rebuilding Together Philadelphia while seeking possible places to find help restoring his mother’s home.
“First they gave us a grant for windows and we were able to get windows for the whole house — and later they spoke to my mother and discovered that she was the widow of a veteran and this resulted from that,” she said.
Hill has had her share of recent adversary. After the fire that displaced her and her family, she also lost her oldest son who died of liver disease while waiting for transplant. According to her daughter, Hill was one who opened her doors to those in need and was well known in the community because of her generosity.
“My mother is well known throughout the neighborhood. She had taken several people in during the holidays,” said Menn “when people didn’t have anywhere to go, my mother would invite them in for holiday dinner, there are several neighbors that live in her vicinity whom she would take to their hospital appointments, even at her age.”
Hill smiled as her daughter spoke about her trials while volunteers hammered, sawed and worked on her home during the interview. According to her daughter, the smile was a welcome sight since, after the fire, Hill suffered periods of sadness and depression.
“This was causing her to be depressed and lose a lot of weight,” added her daughter, “when she knew that they were going to come and finish her house like this, my mom is so excited. I haven’t seen her smile like this in a while. I’m overwhelmed.”
Along with Rebuilding Together Philadelphia and Sears, Hill also received significant help from friends and family members who were moved by her loss and sought to aid her in her efforts to repair and return to her home. However, according to her daughter, they are able to return to their home immediately thanks to the two supporting organizations.
Along with the volunteers from Rebuild Together Philadelphia and Sears, students from Orleans Technical School also pitched in to lend a hand.
“We’ve been volunteering for a while and once we saw this opportunity [to help] we couldn’t turn it down,” said Kevin Beckwith, classroom coordinator of Orleans Tech who said that the students needed to learn how to “give back” and made everyone feel proud in the process.
“We are doing a phase of this project, Mrs. Hill’s family has been working tirelessly for some time,” said Carrie Rathmann, executive director of Rebuilding Together Philadelphia, “so we’re putting in all new windows, installing insulation, and putting up all the dry-wall as well as doing some carpentry.”
It was thanks to a grant from Sears that the work was financed. Along with the grant that made the restoration possible, Sears also provided a team of volunteers who converged on the house with tools and materials.
“We are trying to really let everyone know that Sears is a proud partner with Rebuilding Together Philadelphia and to let them know that we are a part of the community and any services that we can provide, we are encouraged to provide that,” said Mark Martin, Sears Philadelphia Market store manager.
Martin explained that he had a proud group of volunteers from Sears who would willingly come to the aid of anyone requiring their assistance in the community.
This effort was a part of Sears’ ongoing Heroes at Home project created to help veterans in distress.
“We have Heroes at Home campaign which we have had for the past 6 or 7 years. Our job and our focus is to make sure that we are supporting the military families,” said Martin, “a lot of time they are away and they really cannot help their families.”
That’s where Sears steps in.
“They really work hard to make sure that we are safe at home and we’re here to support their families. Our Heroes at Home Program is dedicated to funding areas that we can and improving the lives of our heroes and their families,” explained Martin.
Those interested in more information about Rebuilding Together Philadelphia can contact them at: (215) 568-5044.
Hundreds filled the streets of South Philadelphia to attend the annual community appreciation day event hosted by state Rep. Kenyatta Johnson, whose district covers the south and southwest Philadelphia area.
“This is one of my favorite events throughout my legislative year,” Johnson said. “It’s an opportunity for family, friends, children and the community to come together for a day filled with food, fun and entertainment.”
While adults had an opportunity to meet and greet local legislators, community activists as well as fellowship with one another in a safe environment, children were able to play on the moon bounce and enjoy the other recreational activities provided for their entertainment as well.
“It’s always great when you can have the community come out in a day filled with fun, entertainment, free food and, most importantly unity,” Johnson said. “For me, that’s what it is all about: unifying the community and making sure our children and the community are having a good time.”
Johnson believes providing such opportunities to of live and to allow residents to enjoy themselves and get to know one another, could help to relieve some of these burdens and hardships.
“We know we are having tough economic times right now but I have made it a priority to focus on public-private partnerships to make sure that we have resources so our children, our families and our seniors can have a good time in our communities,” Johnson said.
Asked about his demanding schedule and his reputation for staying involved and active in both South and Southwest Philadelphia while being required to spend three days a week in Harrisburg, Johnson chalks it up to his love for what he does.
“This is a 24/7 job but I love my job and so for me getting up and serving the people everyday is easy because I love what I do,” he said. “When you love what you do you get a sense of joy and power based on your work and I enjoy it.”
Asked about his future plans, Johnson, who won the highly contested Democratic primary for City Council’s 1st District seat, noted his title might change once seated on the council but his mission will remain the same.
“For me, whether I am serving them in Harrisburg or in the city, at the end of the day, for me, it’s about serving the people and I enjoy doing it,” he said.
Several speakers were present at the event discussing community issues.
Jordan Harris, of the city’s Youth Commission, state rep. Ronald G. Waters and Bill Rubin, candidate for 10th district city council, took opportunities to address the crowd.
“It is communities like this that is going to bring back the neighborhoods that we once had,” Harris said. “What we have witnessed this summer is the deterioration of neighborhoods and it takes people like those gathered here today to not only enjoy themselves but to spend time with their communities that will bring back us back.”
Event highlights efforts in immediate and long-term aftermath of 9/11 attacks
Philadelphia’s veterans and law enforcement officers who served during the events of Sept. 11, 2001, the date in which nearly 3,000 American citizens were murdered in terrorist attacks, received special recognition for their service during a tribute held on Friday at the National Constitution Center.
During the ceremony, some 141 police officers from Philadelphia received special recognition for their participation in relief efforts. Others were acknowledged for serving as reinforcements for New York’s strained law enforcement by joining relief efforts at the site of the vicious terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center now known as “ground zero.”
One by one, veterans and local law enforcement officers were called forward to receive awards that acknowledged their service, dedication and bravery.
Joining them was Mayor Michael Nutter and Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who saluted the officers and members of the military and handed them their awards. Beside the podium stood a portrait of fallen officer Gennaro Pellegrini, who died serving his country and for whom a special dedication was made during the ceremony.
“We always should appreciate and express our thanks to all of the military personnel and especially those Philadelphia police officers serving their military duties and obligations. These are true heroes and we should always recognize their service,” Nutter said.
Some of the fallen officers’ comrades took a moment to stop before the portrait of Pellegrini and saluted the officer’s image in a gesture of respect for a fallen officer, prior to proceeding to the podium to receive their awards.
“I think it is important to acknowledge and recognize the officers from the Philadelphia Police Department who served our country as well as the officers who went to New York City, our crime scene officers who went up to assist the New York Police Department,” said Lt. Ray Evers, public information officer for the Philadelphia Police Department.
Evers explained that Philadelphia law enforcement officers realized that New York’s police department and rescue teams would be overwhelmed with the immensity of the task that faced them after the unprecedented terrorist attack, and made a decision to assist by sending members to give active aid and support.
Officers and military personnel who served during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan attended in full uniform. Representing all four branches of the armed services — Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines — they came together to remember their comrades who gave their lives in the struggle for freedom.
“This is in honor of the men and women of the Philadelphia Police Department that not only serve our public but also serve in the military, and they have [done so] since 9/11, over the past 10 years,” said Commissioner Ramsey, who proudly greeted each of the awardees as they received their awards.
Ramsey explained many of the police officers not only fought diligently to keep our city safe, but were also active in the nation’s efforts to protect and serve the country and its citizens as a whole.
“Many of them I know have been deployed two or three times. So not only are they willing to make sacrifices to keep Philadelphia safe and secure, but they are also making sacrifices to keep our country and our world safe and secure,” Ramsey said.
According to Nutter, 90 of the 141 officers who served in 9/11 attended the event. Additionally, six of the 15 who went to Ground Zero were also present and received special recognition.
“Anyone who sees a person in the military should walk up to them and say, ‘Thank you very much,’ because it’s their work that ensures that we have freedom and safety here in the United States,” Nutter said.
The Black Male Engagement Challenge, BME, pronounced “be me,” met at the Southwest Community Advisory Group.
It’s a group whose membership consist of representatives from local organizations, to explain the mission of saving the Black male campaign as well as to record the stories of nominees.
“This is a pilot project starting in Philadelphia and Detroit which identifies Black men who are civically engaged,” said Donna Frisby-Greenwood, program director of the Knights Foundation.
While much of today’s crimes are committed by Black men, especially youth, Greenwood noted many noteworthy and positive things are done by Black males, which are not given attention in the media.
“At the foundation, we support a lot of work around positive ways to engage people,” she said. “As we started to think about ways we can support African-American males as a segment of the population, we noted that there is a misconception that they are not civically engaged.”
Telling the stories of real, everyday Black men would help to dispel this misconception as well as to help reinforce the positive things done by Black males and to help connect community members with one another.
“One of the things we are learning is that pre-civil rights brothers are not connected to post-civil rights Black males,” Greenwood said.
This generation gap has long been a topic of debate in the Black community.
BME community coordinator Wendell F. Dingle scours the city in search of the stories of positive Black males which appear on the foundations website.
“We thought that if we could collect these stories of Black men doing positive things in the community, than we could inspire others to follow in their footsteps,” Dingle said.
In an effort to collect these stories, Dingle often be seen crisscrossing the city attending meetings, community events and public forms, wherever it is convenient for nominees willing to enter the challenge and tell their stories.
Armed with his video camera, Dingle records their stories on the spot. Once collected, the stories are uploaded onto the BME website where the public can view and vote for those nominated there.
Dingle also noted that another significant benefit of the website, which now has nearly 400 such profiles, is that it gives you something to smile about.
“We know there are thousands [of black men] who are lifting up their communities and we want them to tell their stories,” said Greenwood, who said that anyone could go to their website and tell their own stories or give a thumbs to others who have done so.
The challenge is a three-fold process. Nominations for positive Black males will be held through Sept. 30.
In October, nominees will be invited to submit proposals for their community projects or activities which enhance their communities.
Winners can receive from $1,000 to $20,000.
“We’re looking for Black and brown men, Latino men and men from Africa and the Diaspora,” Greenwood said.
To receive more information about the BME Challenge, vote for a nominee or tell your own story, go to www.bmechallenge.org.
Southwest Philadelphia resident and activist Tracey Gordon has announced plans to regain her seat as a committeewoman in the 40th ward in Southwest Philadelphia.
Gordon, who received enough signatures to win the seat in 2009, was denied a position on the committee by the ward, which invoked rule Rule 7 Art. 1 sec. E.
This rule allows members of the local committee to unseat committee people despite being duly elected by the voters.
Rule 7 art. 1 sec. E of the City Committee rule states “if at any time in the opinion of the entire ward committee, a member is unfaithful to the Democratic party and to the best interest of the party, or refuses, fails or neglects to work in harmony with the Ward Committee, The Ward Committee shall be empowered to remove such member from its membership and declare a vacancy in the membership of the Ward Committee from said committee.”
It was this rule, which was applied to Gordon who, despite having received the required votes necessary to be elected as a committeewoman in the 40th ward, was denied the committee seat.
During the fundraiser, Gordon described the experience of being asked to leave, under police escort, at what would have been her swearing-in ceremony in 2009.
Concerned residents, friends and supporters crammed the home of attorney Gloria Gilman where they were greeted outside by volunteers who took donations at the door to support Gordon’s fight to be recognized and seated as a committee person.
Inside, guests mingled and were treated to food and beverages before getting down to the business at hand — changing Philadelphia politics, which, according to those gathered is undemocratic, corrupt and rife with cronyism.
“We started about a year ago. Several of us had some really bad experiences with the Democratic Party as committee people. We heard about Tracey Gordon’s situation and [were] appalled, and I thought we had to do something,” said Gilman about her newly created organization, the Philadelphia Democratic Progressive Caucus.
It was then, Gilman said, the newly formed organization wrote a letter to Congressman Robert Brady expressing their concern about Gordon’s plight.
The group, formed nearly a year ago, was created to change the way Philadelphia politics is conducted.
“We wrote a letter saying to Brady that we were committee people and other registered Democrats in Philadelphia and that we would like to meet with him to talk about this situation,” Gilman said. “There was no due process, and ‘we would like to talk to you about this and a few other issues.’”
The letters were sent via certified mail.
According to Gilman, the letter was returned with a handwritten note on the unopened envelope, which read “refused.”
Having failed to receive a response, the organization reached out to attorney Irv Ackelsberg, who agreed to take the case and was present during the fundraiser to announce his plans to file a class action suit which, names Tracey Gordon, Nan Lee Johnson and Anthony Fisher as plaintiffs along with “others similarly situated.”
Defendants named in the class action suit include the Philadelphia County Democratic Executive Committee, Robert A. Brady, its chair, the Fortieth Ward (40b) Democratic Executive Committee and its head, Anna Brown.
“We are not saying that the Democratic Party does not have power to exercise supervision and control over members of the party,” Ackelsberg said. “The thing is that Tracey was evicted under this rule before she had the opportunity to be disloyal or whatever the standards are.”
Having never been seated, according to Ackelsberg, Gordon could not have committed the infractions of which she was accused. If Ackelsberg is successful, the rule he believes is used to usurp the rights of voters would no longer exist.
Those interested in learning more about the Philadelphia Democratic Progressive Caucus can contact Gloria Gilman at (215) 568-4990.
Over a hundred students gathered at the High School of the Future in West Philadelphia to participate in the 18th annual Philadelphia Tribune/Scripps Regional Spelling Bee hosted by the Tribune on Saturday, March 10.
Excited children waved to their expectant parents, friends and loved ones as they took their places on the stage to compete for a spot in the national spelling competition to be held in Washington D.C. The families of the young scholars appeared to be holding their breath in anticipation as they struggled to spell words put forth by the judges.
It began with fifth-graders who nervously sat on stage waiting anxiously for their number to be called to spell a word given to them by the judges.
Whenever a word was misspelled, the judges would ring a bell and provide the correct spelling. One fifth-grader audibly sighed in relief when the judge pronounced that she had spelled her word “harmonica” correctly. Those who misspelled the word given them, were eliminated and asked to join the audience in a special area reserved for the youthful contestants.
Another competitor left the stage in tears when she incorrectly misspelled the word “interrupt”. Overall, the students, though excited and nervous, appeared to have a good time. One student shrugged in resignation as he received the ringing of the bell indicating his word was spelled incorrectly. Others were visibly disappointed.
“This is one of the events that I look forward to every single year,” said Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds-Brown who attended the spelling Bee as a judge. “As a mother, as a former teacher, and as a judge, I get a lot of joy in seeing the richness of young people.”
Brown said that you could always tell by the way the students approached the question regarding the origin of a word how well they prepared for the challenge.
“If a person asks for the origin of a word, than that’s a clue to the judge that they have done their homework; if a young person asks that the judge use the word in a sentence, than that’s an additional clue that they have clearly remembered the teachings of their teachers,” said Brown who said she had attended the spelling bee every year for the last twelve years but says she was never really a good speller herself.
The challenge consisted of two sections, the first challenge was made up of fifth-graders who competed against one another to go on to the national challenge and the second phase of the competition consisted of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.
The winner of the fifth-grade phase was Kejsi Ruka of John Moffet Elementary School who successfully triumphed over competitors who tripped up over words such as ‘diphthong’ to become winner of the fifth-graders challenge.
“It was easy, it wasn’t very hard. All I had to do was to practice every day for at least two hours,” said Ruka. Ruka said that she utilized friends and family members to help her prepare. Being on stage in front of all of those people was nerve wracking but she succeeded.
Lena Greenberg, 14, was the winner of the sixth-, seventh- & eighth-grade portion of the competition. Greenberg was visibly excited when called to spell words and was bubbling with energy each time she approached the microphone.
“I am so happy! I loved going to Washington last year and made lots of new friends,” said Greenberg who also won the contest in 2011 and is being home schooled. Greenberg doesn’t believe that the fact that she is homeschooled has made much of a difference in her success in the challenge.
“Even if I was in school I would really like spelling. It was a lot of study, a lot of stress but it all really just played off,” said Greenberg when asked what it was like preparing for the spelling bee. Greenberg met two friends from her experience in the national competition last year, one who resides in Canada, and another in California, whom she kept in contact with through the online video conference medium, Skype, which allows computer users to communicate using video images, in her preparations for yesterday’s event.
The 2012 Philadelphia Tribune/Scripps Regional Spelling Bee was sponsored by The Philadelphia Tribune, Keystone Mercy and Wells Fargo. Winners of this event will move on to the national competition in Washington D.C.
“She heard a sound and thought it was one of her cats,” said the son of an 81-year-old woman who was brutally beaten and raped in her Southwest Philadelphia home two weeks ago.
The incident occurred on Fri. Sept. 23 around 10 pm. The victim, who will not be identified in this article out of respect for the wishes of relatives and law enforcement investigating the crime, was asleep in her home on 51st Street near Kingsessing when the attack occurred.
According to statements from family members and police, the perpetrator entered the victim’s home while she was asleep.
“Don’t turn around,” the assailant was reported to have warned the victim who was then beaten repeatedly when she turned to see who was behind her.
In an attempt to stop the assault, the victim was said to have told her assailant that she was 81.
To no avail, the perpetrator continued in his assault and raped the woman who resided in her Southwest Philadelphia home for fifty-one years.
Law enforcement officials will not discuss the case, which is still under investigation. However, it is known the victim is recovering in the home of a relative.
In response to the attack, concerned neighbors, local organizers and family members of the victim held a prayer vigil last Wednesday on the 1300 block of S. 51st Southwest Philadelphia where the attack occurred.
Organized by Gregory Benjamin of the Kingsessing Fifth Division Community of Neighbors, some twenty-five people turned out to pray and call for community residents to remain vigil.
“One of our block captains who are a part of our organization, Kingsessing Fifth Division Community of Neighbors, called me Friday evening. Once we had a chance to speak to the family about the incident, we decided to have our prayer vigil,” said Benjamin who explained that one motivation for the vigil was to begin a process of support and healing for the family.
Benjamin shied away from using the word “rape” during his interview but chose instead to refer to the sexual assault as “an unwanted act.”
“They [the perpetrator] broke into her home and she was caught totally off guard. They assaulted her and committed some unwanted act,” said Benjamin, who went on to describe the victim as traumatized.
Known for helping out her neighbors during times of need, baking cakes for them during birthdays and otherwise performing acts of kindness in the community, the assault shook the residents of 51st Street and served to bring the community together to protest the assault.
One organizer, Tom Henry of the Kingsessing Advisory Council and chair of the Southwest Action Coalition, hoped that community would stay together long after the vigil ended.
“I think it (the vigil) was community coming together to answer a call that was so needed and so desperate in our community, and that is that we communicate,” Henry said.
He noted it was the responsibility of the community to make sure that an 81-year-old mother and grandmother could be safe on the streets as well as in her home.
“We have to make sure that our communities are safe,” Henry said. “The way we do that is to not only come out when we have an incident but that we come out everyday, speak to one another, communicate and, when one is hurting that we go to the rescue of that individual.”
When the residents of Southwest Philadelphia need assistance, they often turn to the non-profit organizations for help.
But, when those organizations need help themselves, they have the option of turning to City Lights.
Started seventeen years ago by Wayne Presbyterian Church, City Lights began as a group of concerned citizens in suburban Pennsylvania communities, whose members wanted to help inner-city non-profits serve their communities.
“We had an adult-education series at the church that dealt with urban education and some of the disparities between urban and suburban schools,” said Carey Davis, the group’s director, about the origins of City Lights. “People were just frustrated and wanted to know what they could do to be helpful to make schools more equitable and boost the schools that are in the city.”
Meetings began with groups and individuals with residents, service providers and organizers in the Southwest community. What began as an effort to help improve the quality of education in Southwest Philadelphia expanded to include a host of other services.
“Through that we met a lot of really wonderful people that were working really hard in the neighborhood and finding that they would sometimes mention a need for resources — but the people really didn’t really know one another,” Davis said.
City Lights assisted by serving as a link between groups and organizations that needed services and resources and those that could provide those services and resources.
For example, a local church that needed office equipment would be connected with an organization or individual who had furniture they wished to donate.
This role was not limited to physical resources but also extended to services and labor.
“A lot of what City Lights initially did was to try to provide volunteers for particular projects or events happening in the community,” Davis said. “If there was some expertise that was needed for a particular organization, they would try to find someone able to help with that; they helped collect when goods or donations were needed.”
“A lot of times it was just how we could play a support role, not so much deciding what would happen in the neighborhood, but how we could support people that are already doing that,” said Davis.
In order to find out what resources and services are available, City Lights holds monthly meetings for Southwest Philadelphia groups and organizations as a means of networking.
“We continue to hold monthly meetings to not only see what is available but to find out where there are gaps, where there are things missing that needs to be available in the neighborhood,” Davis said.
Job counseling was one area she found lacking in the Southwest community.
“For people who were looking for jobs there was nothing to help them, so a bunch of groups recognized that this was a real need,” Davis said. “So a few organizations started working together and thinking that through to see if we could hire someone part time initially to take on that role, and later, find ways to continue it. That’s one of the things we would do as a network.”
Working together, Wayne Presbyterian Church and the Southwest Community Development Corporation (SWCDC) were able to hire someone to serve as a job counselor to help residents with employment issues.
“A lot of how we spend our time is with just staying in touch with community partners, community organizations and hearing what’s going on, what they are trying to accomplish and how can we help them,” Davis said.
For Davis there is another, more spiritual dimension to her work, the work of encouraging those serving communities which often require great personal sacrifice.
“People face a lot of obstacles, they face families that are dealing with a lot and that’s sometimes overwhelming,” she said. “A part of City Lights’ role is to say ‘we really appreciate you, we appreciate what you bring to the community and we want to back you up any way we can.’”
For more information on City Lights, contact Carey Davis at (267) 270-2489.
After raising their own children to adulthood, parents often find that they are compelled by circumstances to raise their children’s children as well. Grandparents who find themselves in this situation are receiving some much needed attention and support on Oct. 8 during the People’s Caravan hosted by its founder, Leola M. Stowall.
The People’s Caravan, formerly called the Poor People’s Caravan, is an annual fundraising and awareness event designed to raise both funds and awareness about the plight of struggling people in America.
This year, the event will be hosted at South Philadelphia’s Clef Club on Broad Street and will feature food and entertainment.
Founded in 1994 in response to proposed budget cuts which threatened to reduce medical benefits for people over 55, the Caravan has gone on to engage in numerous struggles covering a diverse range of issues.
“They were contemplating removing people 55 and over from medical benefits and we lobbied against the governors to get them reinstated, and we were successful in doing that,” said Stowall.
This wasn’t the only battle that the organization took on. According to materials submitted by the group, the People’s Caravan helped to organize buses for the 30th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington, lobbied the White House and Senate to increase the minimum wage and held annual school supply drives for needy children and more.
“We’re done so wrong as African-American people,” says Stowall, “I’m just a little grassroots organization and right now we are working on Senate Bill 119 which is a bill to assist grandparents raising grandchildren.”
The People’s Caravan received significant support from the late Senator, Roxanne H. Jones, who was an active member of the organization.
According to Stowall, there are over 200,000 grandparents raising their grandchildren in Philadelphia. She said the bill sponsored by Senator Anthony H. Williams would help provide them with affordable and sizable housing.
“The concept [of the People’s Caravan] arose from my desire to always be there to lend a hand and to assist with those who are less fortunate. I am less fortunate myself but I always see the needs of people who are in more need than I am,” Stowall said.
Before becoming ill, Stowall worked for numerous legislators including former state representative Harold James, Rep. Mark Cohen and Congressman Thomas Foglietta where she was able to assist constituents with state and local concerns.
However, things changed in 2009.
“I developed kidney failure in 2009 — and my high blood pressure and diabetes elevated to such a level that it caused my kidneys to malfunction,” said Stowall. “They put me on a dialysis machine and I am being tested and will be placed on a list to receive a kidney.”
Despite her own difficulties, Stowall still works from her living room to help others whom she considers less fortunate than herself.
The Oct. 8 fundraiser will benefit the non-profit, Grands As Parents (G.A.Ps), an advocacy group for grandparents raising grandchildren and will be dedicated in memory to the late Dinah Washington.
Tickets are $15.00 per person and will be held at the Philadelphia Clef Club located at 738 S. Broad Street in South Philadelphia. For more information call (215) 893-9912.