In the last year alone, Chester Eastside, Inc., provided 120,000 healthy and nutritious meals to families and individuals in need, and 775 young people and their families were helped to lead more productive lives. New this year are: o A Technology Training Program for high school students, where they not only learn the latest techniques in the digital world but teach those skills to young children; and o HiSET, where people who dropped out of school along the way are able to earn that all-important high school diploma; And this is only the beginning. On the drawing boards are:
o A special program for middle school students, at a critical time in their development, when they’re sorting things out and figuring out what they want to do with their lives; and
o Food Matters!, a food and nutrition program for people needing special diets, to be run in collaboration with Crozer Keystone Health and Immaculata University.
But the thing that makes this work is people like you, who are making a big difference in the lives of Chester folks of all ages through their dollars and hours of volunteer time.
P. O. Box 36
Chester, PA 19016
In the coming months, we will be telling about some Chester Eastside programs whose biggest payoff may come months or even years in the future. These programs impact people of all ages – from elementary school children, to people in their late teens and twenties and even their thirties who need to complete high school to prepare for higher education, or the world of work, to parents struggling with the realities of raising children under challenging circumstances.
This month, we take a look at Camp Phoenix, our summer enrichment program for young people. Like the bird of ancient mythology, this Phoenix rises up beyond its origins, taking our children with it. Happy campers
For the first time this year, Camp Phoenix had a distinct theme: Civic responsibility in a democratic society. It thus went way beyond simply an enriching few weeks to an experience in grappling with what it means to live in a society that espouses the inherent value of each of its members and how each of us can help to bring the day-to-day reality closer to that ideal.
Under the able direction of Ms. Kathryn Redd, who has led the CEI summer camp program for the past 12 years, and her assistant, Ms. Vida Johnson, Camp Phoenix is “soaring to new heights,” in the words of Executive Director Rev. Zuline Wilkinson.
From the visit to the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia to the ending ceremony, where the young people gave inspiring presentations, that theme was brought home to the 33 young campers in multiple ways:
• Increasing knowledge of one’s community and one’s civic role in it.
• Developing peer leadership skills.
• Creating opportunities for self-expression through the arts and computer technology.
• Maintaining academic skills, under the guidance of experts in their fields from area universities and other settings.
• Improving social skills like group decision-making and conflict resolution.
How does one involve active young minds in this kind of content? By giving a different meaning to the kinds of phrases that it’s so easy to turn into empty slogans: Examining words like “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” written in a time when thousands of men and women were held in bondage and women were clearly not treated as equal.
Giving a positive spin to “Black lives matter,” to instill a “YES I CAN” attitude and unleash one’s capacity to make a difference in the world.
But lest this sound like a rather heavy dose of serious business for midsummer, a traditional time away from school, Camp Phoenix also included lots of fun outdoor activity like swimming at the Swarthmore Swim Club.
The gift that never stops giving.
Some campers come back to work as counselors. Edward Nelson, now a student at Morehouse College, for example. Speaking of what the experience at Camp Phoenix has meant to him, he says, “I always think of Ms. Redd saying ‘You’ve got to get your work done before you can play.’ In college there are a lot of parties and other temptations, but my approach is still focused.” And talking with Edward, you quickly become aware that throughout his life, he will stay focused.
Said one mother attending the wrap-up ceremony, where her child and others shared their creative art and other works, “This is wonderful. It should be extended over the whole summer. And I will help raise the money to make it happen.”
So there is a lot of payback at Chester Eastside. When you lend your support to Camp Phoenix and other CEI programs – or to the basic funding for Chester Eastside, Inc., the organization that makes this all possible – you are investing in the future. It is truly a gift that never stops giving, as lives impacted by CEI affect other lives, that in turn will affect still other lives over the years ancient mythology, this Phoenix rises up beyond its origins, taking our children with it.
Camp Phoenix: Soaring to New Heights
CHESTER. Knowing how decisions are made in Washington – decisions that have a major
impact on them and their families – was never more important for young people – not just in Chester, but in all parts of the country. And this year the summer campers at Chester Eastside’s Camp Phoenix are getting major lessons in the nuts and bolts of the political process.
As you can see from the delighted expressions on the faces of these Chester young folks,
learning is fun. These picture were taken during a visit by thirty campers and counselors from CEI’s Camp Phoenix to the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.
And there is still plenty of time for swimming and other outdoor activities at Camp
Phoenix. That mixture of fun and serious business is something that sets this camp apart from many such programs. The lessons will stay with them for a lifetime – and later as adults, they’re more likely to want to become involved in the political process; maybe even run for office some day. Or at the very least, introduce their kids to the amazing goings on at the Constitution Center.
So they’re not only learning history, they’ll be helping to make it.
Children from the Chester Eastside After-School Program were recently treated to a big league baseball game at Citizens Park, as special guests of the Philadelphia Phillies. They were hoping to see them win against the Colorado Rockies, but the Mighty Phils ended up on the short end of 7 to 2 trouncing. But while there may have been no joy in Mudville that afternoon, it carried a powerful lesson for a group of young people who may sometimes feel like they are on the outside looking in.
What do the Phillies do when they go down to defeat? Quit? Uh-uh. They get back up, learn from their mistakes, and go on to the next game and the next one after that. An important lesson for children to learn early in life: Get back up and keep on keeping on. Whether it’s on the diamond or the basketball court or in the classroom, you don’t give up. It’s a lesson that is reinforced over and over again in the After-School Program. And it pays off, with these young people getting help with schoolwork and learning about computers and consistently getting decent grades and aiming for success in life.
As a special bonus, the students got to meet the Phillie Phanatic and watched themselves on the Jumbotron. Here’s Kashawn Butler, STEM Academy senior and an intern in the new CEI Technical Training Program, doing a selfie with none other than the Phanatic.
Special thanks to Kashawn Butler, STEM Academy senior in CEI’s new Technical Training
Program, for the photography.
Turkey mushroom tacos with avocado filling. Rhubarb & strawberry crisp. Menu
items at an upscale restaurant? No, actually a celebratory meal at Chester Eastside,
Inc., cooked by none other than a group of After-School students.
It was on a recent evening that a couple of Board members, along with
Executive Director Rev. Zuline Wilkinson and a number of guests, enjoyed these
delicacies, all prepared and served by the students under the watchful eye of Sallie
Anderson, a volunteer from My Daughter’s Kitchen.
For the past eight weeks she’s been teaching a group of sixth and seventh
graders the finer points of cooking appetizing but simple and affordable dishes –
along with some lessons in healthy eating habits. The recipes have included things
like Moroccan chicken couscous and minestrone and banana applesauce cake.
My Daughter’s Kitchen was the brainchild of Philadelphia Inquirer Food
Editor Maureen Fitzgerald a number of years ago and is now operated in
collaboration with Vetri Community Partnership. Its mission is simple: to teach
young people to cook healthy, affordable meals from scratch. The 8-week program
takes students from groceries in the bag to a family-style dinner on the table. And it
works. Says mentor Sallie Anderson, “While it has been wonderful to see the
kids become enthusiastic chefs, what has been even more rewarding is to see how
they have developed a sense of teamwork and cooperation among themselves. I
hope they will carry these skills with them when they leave the kitchen.”
She adds, “Putting a healthy meal together requires lots of preparation,
particularly chopping of vegetables. But by the end of the eight weeks, my junior
chefs had become quite skilled at this and eager to help. The only job that everyone
was reluctant to take on was peeling and chopping onions, but by taking turns at
this, they got it done.”
So far it’s been girls benefiting from the Chester program. At first the boys
weren’t interested. But now, having seen the results, they want in, too. So they’ll
have their chance in the next round of My Daughter’s Kitchen classes at Chester
Eastside, slated for the fall.
This is only one of the many ways Chester Eastside introduces young people
to new and exciting experiences in the wider world and gives them a new sense of
By Leslie Krowchenko
UPPER CHICHESTER >> Ministers typically preach thinking, being or doing sermons.
Rev. Bernice Warren personifies the last type.
The recently-retired pastor/director of Chester Eastside Inc., Warren’s 21 years at the helm were celebrated recently with a gala at the Ballrooms at Boothwyn. More than 225 family and church family members, high school and undergraduate friends, colleagues in the ministry and representatives of Chester Eastside joined to praise her service, announce the Cultural Arts Program to be created in her name and formally introduce her successor.
“When other people were designing and planning, Bernice would say, ‘We don’t have time for this – we need to be doing,” said Rev. Dr. Carroll Jenkins, interim pastor of Thomas M. Thomas Memorial Presbyterian Church. “She is the match that lights the fire that results in a raging flame.”The first African-American woman ordained as a minister in the Philadelphia Presbytery, Warren served as pastor and assistant pastor of churches in Baltimore and Wilmington before being appointed to Chester Eastside in 1995. Raised in one of Chester’s public housing projects, she was surprised to see the changes such as jobs lost to companies leaving the city, the proliferation of illegal drugs and gun violence.
Chester Eastside, founded 10 years earlier in Third Presbyterian Church, creates an accepting and inclusive environment for city residents. At its core is a food-service program providing more than 100,000 meals a year to community members. The organization compliments the service with GED, parenting and food and nutrition education, a youth summer camp, food outreach and emergency aid and referral and recently inaugurated a learning center which provides a safe and stimulating space for its growing afterschool program.
When the aging facility could no longer support the organization, Chester Eastside moved in 2013 to its current location at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. It also changed its status to a not-for-profit 501 (c)(3).
“St. Paul’s welcomed them in and it has been really growing,” said Chester Eastside board member and retired Episcopal priest Rev. Bill North. “Bernice has a personality that completely welcomes you and takes you in.”
Warren did not want Chester Eastside to merely be a service agency, but “a strong voice and advocate.” She regularly attended meetings of the Chester Upland School District Board of Control, where police once removed her in handcuffs for refusing to sit during a protest, co-chairs the Delaware County chapter of Heeding God’s Call, a faith-based anti-gun violence group, and is active with Chester Watch, which addresses issues affecting immigrants.
“When she came back to her hometown, it was not to rest on her laurels, but as a woman on a mission,” said retired school psychologist Dr. Janice Hoffman Willis. “When state budget cuts resulted in a lack of school of supplies, Chester Eastside made sure the students had what they needed.”
Warren made certain the children had not just needs, but wants, by incorporating cultural arts education into Chester Eastside’s program. The new center will allow the youngsters to continue painting, dancing, writing and other forms of artistic expression.
Rev. Zuline Gray Wilkinson, a social worker and second-career minister with a Master of Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania and Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary, was introduced as “the new face of Chester Eastside leadership.” Wilkinson stood with CEI board president John Mackey as he presented Warren with a plaque honoring her remarkable service.
“I wish you could be in my place and feel what I feel,” said Warren. “It has been a wonderful journey with my Lord and I am grateful to God for the time.”
It was a full house at Chester Eastside’s first ever Gala on April 29, which took place in the Ballrooms at Boothwyn. And what a celebration it was. Special honor went to Rev. Bernice Warren, who stepped down at the end of 2016 from the post she had occupied since 1995, as Executive Director of Chester Eastside.
The more than 200 people who gathered for the occasion were also honoring Rev. Zuline
Gray Wilkinson, who is now leading the agency to new ventures and an expanded role in the community. And there was a special ‘Thank you’ to Mary Payne, who oversaw the event.
Also on the agenda at the Gala was introduction of the Rev. Bernice Warren Cultural Arts
Program, which will help young people expand their horizons through various arts media. Proceeds from the Gala will go to support this program, an enduring way to honor the legacy created by Rev. Warren.
Highlights of the evening included tributes to Rev Warren and Rev. Wilkinson by former
mentors and associates, and musical selections, one of them rendered by Rev. Warren’s gifted sister, Ms. Eva Henry.
It was both a time to reminisce and to look toward a promising future, as Chester Eastside carries on its mission of meeting basic human needs, helping people of all ages be all they can be and working for a more just society.
Whether or not you were able to attend the Gala, you are invited to make a contribution
to the Rev. Bernice Warren Cultural Arts Program and the many other programs of Chester Eastside, Inc.
Thank you to all who came out to support more than 100 food pantries, soup kitchens and anti-hunger agencies at the 2017 Thomas’ Walk Against Hunger! Check out some of our favorite scenes from the day. Can’t wait to see everyone again next year!