Last week we hosted our first Parents Association meeting for our education programs. Thanks to all of our great students, parents, and guardians!
Our third Cohort of Food Matters! has begun. This healthy food initiative is changing lives in Chester! Thank you to our partners @Shiloh Baptist Church of Chester and Crozer-Keystone Health System
Now enrolling for our next FoodMatters! session. This healthy eating initiative is hands on and provides everything you need! Call 610-872-4812 today for more information.
Food Matters! is a program of Chester Eastside, Inc. in collaboration with Crozer-Keystone Health System, Immaculata University, Philabundance, Shiloh Baptist Church, Harvin Foods and the City of Chester. Food Matters! is underwritten by a grant from the W. W. Smith Charitable Trust.
Chester Eastside has been busy this summer! We have enhanced many of our education programs as part of our PHOENIX initiative. The Technology Training Program is now enrolling student INTERNS that learn valuable skills that also mentor in our Phoenix After School Program. Enroll your student TODAY in this dynamic hands-on program! Zuline Wilkinson
Have you heard? We are reshaping the future by reshaping our programs! Register your student today for the relaunched Phoenix After School Program. Like and share to help us celebrate! Call (610) 872-4812 for more information. Zuline Wilkinson
Chester >> The Rev. Bernice Warren was known for being a strong-willed, truth-telling woman who strived to make the Chester community the best it could be. For 20 years she served as the pastor and director of the Chester Eastside Inc., a non-profit group that encourages city residents to achieve their goals and promote peace and social justice.
Warren was an advocate for public education and had a strong rapport with the community youth to empower them to be confident in themselves. To prove it, she once allowed herself to be taken out of a Chester Upland School District Board of Control meeting – the district was under state control — when she adamantly protested lifting the cap on the number of students who could attend charter schools, knowing it would drain local school resources.
This trailblazer of strong community and spiritual convictions died on July 13, leaving behind a commitment of positive activism that will be carried on by others.
“Her shoes will be hard to fill and she’s going to be sorely missed,” said Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland Monday afternoon.
According to a biography on the Chester Eastside website, Warren was a 1970 graduate of Chester High School who would obtain degrees from Kutztown University and a Master’s of Divinity from Johnson C. Smith Seminary at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta. She would teach high school equivalency classes in Chester before attaining pastoral duties at congregations in Baltimore and Wilmington.
She returned to Chester in the mid-‘90s to be pastor of what was then called Chester Eastside Ministries. Warren was tasked to rebuild the organization’s programs and to not try to be another “service agency” to the city. In viewing how much the city she grew up in has changed upon her return, she used the poor performance of the Chester Upland School District to make herself heard in the community.
Warren worked at Chester Eastside until she retired from the organization in 2016, at which time the Rev. Zuline G. Wilkinson was brought on board as executive director. The two worked closely together for a couple of months for a smooth transition between Warren’s end and Wilkinson’s start.
“When I met her, it was very clear that she was a person of strong determination, (with) a strong point of view and a doggedness about seeing right prevail,” said Wilkinson. “She welcomed me as someone who had not come from Chester, as someone with a long history in human services. She welcomed me with open arms.
“We chatted frequently; she was always willing to help me.”
Wilkinson had come to Chester with many careers in a number of cities in the Northeast region of the country and said Chester Eastside provided a perfect blend of qualities that she wanted in a position. Like Warren, Wilkinson said she was called to this line of work by God, and it went beyond the value of altruism that comes with working at a center like Chester Eastside.
As contemporaries in ministry, Wilkinson said Warren would tell her exactly what she needed to hear about the city, especially to listen to what people are saying and understanding them. Ultimately, Wilkinson said Warren always strived to show the good that lives in Chester.
“She was just an untiring advocate for the people of this city. She saw them as strong, determined, resilient,” said Wilkinson. “She had nothing negative to say about her city. She really felt that there was opportunity for change, for growth in the Chester community. That’s how she lived her life.
“She felt that change was possible when you reached out and you touched the lives of children and families. She felt that the horizons of children in Chester were limitless, and so she had a positivism about Chester that was unshakable.”
Mayor Kirkland complimented Warren for the services and programs she helped provide to the city youth, especially educational opportunities with after school and tutoring programs. He said that she was a strong-willed person who was confident in her abilities to reach people.
“(There was a) willingness to go after those things she believed in, willingness to stand firm on values of education, willingness to stand firm on values of religion, (and) her belief in God and her commitment to make sure the young people had an opportunity to do better,” said Kirkland. “Bernice was one of the ministers and pastors in the community who was very highly respected, not just by myself, but others.”
Kirkland went on to say that Warren was always herself and never a phony. He said she created a positive change that was needed and a change that would be instilled in others to give them the confidence they needed.
It will be hard in Chester without Warren, Kirkland added, but in the spiritual real God has a purpose for everyone, and Warren has fulfilled her purpose and is going home to her reward.
“She will be sorely missed, and her purposed has been fulfilled.”
“Even with all of that, her activism and focus on justice and truth-telling to those who are in power, she was a warm, compassionate, caring person and I called her a friend,” said Wilkinson.
Wilkinson added, “The work that we do is very necessary to make our community a better one and we plan to keep going. That’s a message to keep going. Chester Eastside has continued in the legacy of Rev. Warren and her predecessor. We’ve been here for a while and we expect to be able to continue.
“I can say unreservedly, she was loved. We loved her and we miss her and we were all inspired by her.”
A celebration for Rev. Bernice Warren is scheduled for July 25 at St. Luke’s Community Christian Church, 320 Tilghman St. in Chester. The viewing will be held from 9 a.m. to 10:45 a.m., with the service to begin at 11 a.m.
In honor of Rev. Warren, Chester Eastside will be closed on July 25 for staff, volunteers and program participants to participate in the service.
Chester Eastside, the City of Chester and the world mourns the passing of a tireless advocate and outspoken truth-teller. After a lengthy illness, The Reverend Bernice Warren transitioned this morning, July 13, 2018 surrounded by loved ones. She finished her course and is now at rest in the arms of her Savior and Lord.
Through her decades of service to the Chester community, Rev. Warren touched thousands of lives and gave hope to children, families and countless individuals who turned to Chester Eastside for help. Young people, who came from humble beginnings, have gone on to achieve much success, despite the disbelief of outsiders who doubted the good that could come from within the city of Chester. Doctors of Philosophy, computer scientists, educators, medical personnel, ministers, office workers, auto mechanics, entrepreneurs and Gates Scholars have attributed their accomplishments to the influence of Rev. Warren. The Board of Directors, the staff and the many volunteers of Chester Eastside extend our deepest condolences and offer our support to Kearni, Rev. Warren’s devoted daughter; her loving sister, Eva Henry and the entire Warren family. Funeral arrangements have not been announced.
With prayers for the family and thanksgiving for the life of Reverend Bernice Warren,
Reverend Zuline Gray Wilkinson, M.Div., MSW
Biographical Information Rev. Bernice Warren:
It was with lots of fond memories and few regrets that Rev. Bernice Warren retired at the end of 2016 from the position she had held for more than 20 years, as Pastor/Director of Chester Eastside, Inc., formerly Chester Eastside Ministries,. “I see it as freeing me up to expand my ministry on behalf of social justice on a global scale,” she said at the time.
Already on her agenda was becoming more active locally, nationally, in Haiti, and in Africa. She also felt called to continue to help young people be all they can be, a necessary component of her mission of promoting social justice.
Rev. Warren grew up in the Ruth L. Bennett Homes public housing project and attended Thomas M. Thomas Memorial Presbyterian Church, where she was influenced by the advocacy efforts of two of the pastors, the Rev. Carroll D. Jenkins and the Rev. Johnnie Monroe.
“They made me understand how the church can be instrumental in changing the life of the community,” said Rev. Warren, who remembers one of the pastors opening the church to educators wanting to teach children when they couldn’t attend school because of a prolonged teachers’ strike. “You can’t just sit in church when you see poverty, violence, injustice and schools collapsing around us,” noted Rev. Warren. “Jesus spoke to this issue. He didn’t just stay in the temple. My ministry is a ministry of justice and I’m very clear on that.” She was also strongly influenced by her late mother, Lillian Warren, who she remembers “had no problem speaking out against injustice.”
A 1970 graduate of Chester High School, Warren earned her undergraduate degree in education from Kutztown State College, now Kutztown University in Berks County, and her master’s of divinity degree from Johnson C. Smith Seminary at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Ga.
In between she taught high school equivalency classes in Chester. In 1980 Warren became the first African-American woman ordained ax a minister in the Philadelphia Presbytery. She served as the assistant pastor for outreach at the Knox Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, MD., until 1984, underwent chaplaincy training at Delaware State Hospital, then served as pastor of First and Olivet Presbyterian Church in an underserved area of Wilmington, Del., for 10 years. In 1995 she was appointed by the Philadelphia Presbytery to replace the Rev. Tom Torosian as director and pastor of Chester Eastside Ministries, that was founded in 1985. Because the position had been vacant for several months, Warren had to rebuild programs. “never wanted Chester Eastside to be just a service agency. Chester has enough service agencies. I didn’t want to be just a service provider but to be a strong voice and advocate,” said Warren.
When she returned to Chester, the minister was surprised at how it had changed since the days of her youth in terms of jobs lost to companies leaving the small city, the proliferation of illegal drugs, and gun violence. But her greatest impetus to become heard in the community was when she realized the sorry state of Chester Upland schools that have been under state control for more than 20 years because of poor academic and fiscal performance.
She started regularly attending meetings led by the state-appointed Chester Upland School District Board of Control and was once led out in handcuffs by police for refusing to sit down when protesting the proposed removal of a cap on the number of students attending charter schools because she felt that would drain much-needed funding for public schools.
“I thought, ‘I’ve sat down long enough, maybe I’ll just stand.’ It really galled me that people from the outside were telling me to sit down because I was expressing my concern about Chester schools,” said Warren, who also once led a few verses of “We Shall Not Be Moved” at a school board meeting.
Rev. Warren’s voice has also been strong against gun violence. With Fran Stier, a member of Ohev Shalom Synagogue in Nether Providence, Warren is co-chair of the Delaware County chapter of Heeding God’s Call, a faith-based anti-gun violence group that campaigns against what members describe on their website as the highly developed illegal trade of gun trafficking made possible through “criminal entrepreneurs, traffickers, the straw buyers who stand in for them to make their bulk purchases and gun dealers who look the other way and enjoy the profits.”
She is also active with Chester Watch, a group working on issues affecting immigrants.
For Immediate Release
Chester, PA – Chester Eastside Inc., announced they have been awarded $127,500 over three years from the United Way of Greater Philadelphia & Southern New Jersey. Funded programs include Out of School Time (afterschool programs) and early literacy efforts in Delaware County.
2019 United Way of Greater Philadelphia & Southern New Jersey’s grant award focus is on ending intergenerational poverty. Chester Eastside will be awarded $42,500 annually for three years.
Chester Eastside, Inc. offers Out-of-School Time (OST) educational programs for youths in grades K-8 year-round. The grant will support the expansion of the program and outcomes in an evidence based model.
Programs seek to:
– Provide a safe and supportive learning environment,
– Promote positive interpersonal interactions, good decision-making and conflict resolution skills,
– Assist students in planning, reflecting on their actions and taking responsibility, and,
– Supplement and enhance the academic learning provided in the student’s public school.
About United Way of Greater Philadelphia & New Jersey
United Way fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in every community. Their mission is to end intergenerational poverty in our region by harnessing, leveraging and strategically investing the collective power of donors, advocates and volunteers, to help individuals and families break the cycle of poverty.
For more information, please contact:
Rev. Zuline Gray Wilkinson, M.Div., MSW
Chester Eastside, Inc.
Chester Eastside, Inc. – 610.872.4812