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All things are possible, according to our new President Barack Obama. His historic election represents what is actually possible when individuals are mobilized around a common vision to do good. His election strategy was based on fundamental principles of community organizing: listen to people and understand their needs, fears, strengths and hopes; respond to what they want; and engage them in creating a future for themselves and others. Mobilizing millions of individuals through the power of social networking, President Obama was able to raise more money – largely through small donations— than any other presidential candidate.
Well in light of the economic challenges that we all face, we must learn from President Obama’s effective utilization of what I call “relational donating,” and apply this model to help support the thousands of non-profits that are struggling today. Our member agencies, which provide essential social services to more than 100,000 children, youth and families per year, are faced with the daunting task of helping more and more people in need while city, corporate and private money steadily decreases. Exacerbating the problem is the long delays from the city in paying non-profits for the work they do. Bridge loans and lines of credit were safety nets for our members during these lag times, but now these supports are few and far between. Without a safety net for our members, there will be no safety net for the more than 100,000 children, youth and families they collectively serve per year. More families will be faced with making painful choices such as feeding their children or heating their homes.
So we are asking you all to contribute and become part of movement that is mobilizing all people to act in the name of social justice. We have already witnessed through the election of Barack Obama that when each of us takes action, including giving, together we can achieve the improbable.
Read what the Greater Philadelphia Federation of Settlements had to say in The Philadelphia Inquirer about the Inauguration of President Barack Obama. Visit …
On May 21, 2008, I became the new Executive Director of the Greater Philadelphia Federation of Settlements. During the past year, I have learned much about this great organization and its affiliate members. I learned that for over 100 years, the Federation has serviced children, youth, adults and families by strengthening neighborhoods through collaborative efforts. They have helped thousands of families find homes, learn English, gain employment, enhance their children’s education,
enhance their children’s education, create safe and nurturing environments for their children, and build safe, healthy neighborhoods where families would flourish.
Today, the Federation continues to build stronger neighborhoods through enhancing the capacity of our affiliate members - 17 community-based anchor institutions that collectively provide culturally sensitive programs and services to more than 100,000 children, youth, adults and families in 45 neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia per year.
The Federation and our network of neighborhood anchors are literally lifelines for the many people we serve. A youth from North Light Community Center wrote, “North Light influenced me more than any other aspect of my childhood. It molded me into an individual who is compassionate, hard working and honest. As a result, I became a teacher.” A parent from Cunningham Community Center told me that the Federation’s parenting program not only helped me to become a better parent to my children, but a better human being. A family from Friends Neighborhood Guild stated that the Guild was the only place in the city where all of their needs were addressed.
The Federation and its network are improving and saving lives everyday, but more work needs to be done. Working Families are still forced to make choices between buying food for their family or buying asthma medication for their children. 50% of 9th graders do not graduate from high school. 42% of adults living in the city are not in the labor force.
So where do we go from here? What kind of city do we want to live and work in? The problems that our city and other cities face today are complex. The social sector cannot solve these problems alone. The faith-based community cannot do it alone. The governmental sector cannot do it alone. The private sector cannot do it alone. We can only tackle these complex social problems by working together around a common mission to invest in all Philadelphians, in all members of our society.
So the Federation is building new partnerships to address three key issues that are critical to the future of our city and our country at large. They are workforce and economic development, youth development and neighborhood development. Our vision is for the Federation to become a leading force in shaping city, state and national policy around these three key issues.
Our newest and most exciting partnership is with ARAMARK, which was officially launched in January 2008. For the next three years, GPFS and ARAMARK will work together to build the capacity of community centers across the Philadelphia region. Through grants, in-kind contributions, employee volunteerism, programs and events, ARAMARK will support the Federation’s community centers in the areas of Workforce Readiness, Health and Wellness, and Basic Human Services.
Earlier this month, we held a successful Career and College Fair at R.W. Brown Community Center (this month's featured affiliate organization) in partnership with ARAMARK. This event was a huge success with over 250 youth and adults attending the fair to meet with recruiters and representatives from local schools and businesses, and to attend professional workshops. This is a shining example of the kinds of contributions we can make to our community through these partnerships.
Ultimately, our vision is to live in a country where all neighborhoods provide opportunities where people excel, ideas grow, and dreams are realized. Our vision is great, our opportunities are boundless, our efforts are tireless and our hope for a better city, a better country is strong.
What can I do?