Creating safe space for Chester’s children takes many forms – News from Chester Eastside, Inc.

Taking young people to the seashore may seem to have little to do with safe streets and

the problem of gun violence in Chester, but it is all part of the work of making parents
and children feel more secure in a sometimes threatening environment. Just one of the
many ways in which Chester Eastside, Inc., seeks to meet people’s needs wherever they

     Rev. Bernice Warren, CEI Executive Director, has worked closely with Heeding
God’s Call to End Gun Violence, an organization dedicated to reducing the threat of gun
violence. CEI Board member Will Richan was instrumental in involving a local group in
working on the theme of peace in the streets, looking toward a special program during the
Martin Luther King weekend in January, 2017. And the two of them are working with the
Chester Upland School District in fulfillment of the District’s anti-bullying policy. Some
years ago, CEI helped launch the Peace Leadership & Arts Camp, dedicated, among other
things, to helping teenagers find peaceful ways to settle their differences. And in 2015,
the CEI Board passed a resolution affirming the agency’s commitment to seek to reduce
the threat of gun violence.

Confronting reality.

     A feature article in the September 11 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer told Chester
something no city wants to hear: Between the years 2000 and 2014, the average number
of homicides, mostly from guns, in relation to population size in Chester was the highest
of any city in the United States. And the majority of such cases were never solved,
meaning perpetrators might still be free to walk the streets. Victims were as young as two years old. A 14-year-old was gunned down while running an errand for his mother. More typically, young men in their twenties and thirties were the victims.

     It’s not just the outright loss of lives, but also the impact on those who have been
shot and survived, to say nothing of parents worried about whether their children will
make it home from school or the play yard, and the trauma that impacts the very young
for years to come. To say nothing of the numbers people who feel impelled to keep
loaded weapons in their homes on the false assumption that they are thereby safer.

     But Chester, if nothing else, sees bad news as a challenge, similar to how the
American people viewed the events of 9/11/2001. And so Chester Eastside, Inc., and
others in the community are actively seeking ways to reduce the threat of violence.

Heeding God’s Call.

     Rev. Bernice Warren and others in this faith-based grassroots movement work to end gun violence on many fronts: holding vigils outside gun shops; asking how a person who is
not authorized to have a handgun gets one anyway through a so-called “straw purchase;”
demonstrating that one can walk into a gun shop and buy any number of weapons;
pushing for legislation to limit the trade in weapons. And then there is the work with
young people to convince them that owning a gun does not make you powerful but is
actually a sign of weakness. And those trips to the seashore and other activities to give
kids a break from the stressful conditions they live under.

     “We are talking about changing a whole culture that these children grow up with,”
says Rev. Warren.

Peace in the Streets.

     When CEI Board member Will Richan invited agency professionals gathered at the
monthly meeting of Communities That Care (CTC), an offshoot of the Chester Education
Foundation, to join him in working to include peace in the streets as a theme during the
Martin Luther King celebration in January, he got an immediate response from a number
of people, including sponsors of the meeting. Out of this has come a plan to devote a
major part of one of the monthly CTC meetings to the subject.

     A panel of people from advocacy organizations and law enforcement, along with
those who have lost loved ones, will look at what can be done to stem the violence, then
invite the audience to join in the search for answers. “We still want to do something on
the Martin Luther King weekend,” says Richan, “which, after all, is about a young black
man who was the innocent victim of gun violence. But the work needs to begin long
before that and continue afterward.”

     Richan noted that politicians have traditionally shied away from the issue of gun
control, often intimidated by the National Rifle Association, but this year both U.S.
Senate candidates from Pennsylvania are vying to show that they are the real ally of gun
control. “We may have reached a tipping point on the issue, with those preaching sanity
regarding guns being more willing to speak up. And what better place than Chester?” he

Bullying: a different kind of violence.

     It started with a series of physical bullying incidents on a school bus, one in which the
driver and an aide did nothing, not even report them to higher ups. Eventually it came to
the attention of top administrators of the Chester Upland School District. To its credit,
the District has been working to turn things around on the bullying issue.

     Bullying, which can range from nasty messages on Facebook to serious physical
abuse like that on the school bus, is sometimes written off as just kids being kids. But it
can have devastating effects on children that can stay with them through life, even to the
point of suicidal thoughts in the victims. And, yes, in a few cases resulting in actual

     From the start, representatives of Chester Eastside, Inc., have been following up
with school officials to make sure those fine words in the District’s anti-bullying policy
are translated into action at the classroom level and beyond. Rev. Bernice Warren and
CEI Board member Will Richan, working in league with psychologist Dr. Janice
Hoffman Willis, met recently with the Lead Nurse at Chester High School, who is
overseeing the anti-bullying training program for teachers.

     One more way that Chester Eastside, Inc., is helping to create a safe space for
Chester’s children.

By timmreardon

‘Make a Change’ was more than just a slogan at CEI’s Summer Enrichment Camp – News from Chester Eastside, Inc.

CE Camp 2016

It was a jubilant wind-up session of Chester Eastside, Inc.’s Summer Enrichment Camp at the end of July: young campers and their counselors celebrating the experience and each other through song, dance, and art.

But there was a serious side to the closing event and to the camp season that preceded it. “Make a Change” was the theme, and the change they were talking about had to do with everything from avoiding gun violence in the streets to getting a quality education.

What struck the observer most forcefully was the love-in between campers and the folks who had been doing the enriching on a daily basis for the previous six weeks. The campers waited patiently for a good half hour before the program got underway. No fidgeting. Nobody yelling at anybody. Quite a departure from people’s stereotype of Chester, or what goes on in some classrooms where a lone teacher is trying to manage 25 or more restive children and hoping to teach a little something as well.

The program started with a salute to the people who had helped to make it happen. Counselors introduced themselves – young people, many of them products of the same enrichment camp experience and the CEI After School Program. Then came a series performances by the campers, ranging from six-year-old Leanna Dyitt’s solo, Take me to the King, to middle schoolers expressing their hopes and fears in dance, and the display of massive camper-created portraits of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistan woman who braved Taliban death threats and bullets in her fight for education of women.

The finale was a rousing rendition, by everybody, from Rev. Bernice Warren and Summer Enrichment Camp Directors Kathryn Redd and Vida Johnson on down to the youngest camper, as well as parents in attendance, of Man in the Mirror:

I’m gonna make a change, for once in my life
It’s gonna feel real good, gonna make a difference
Gonna make it right...

Performance was at the center of the final session, but has  been only one part of the enrichment experience. Everything from helping kids get over the hurdles in reading and math to broadening their world through swimming lessons and visits to museums.  

The staff and volunteers have served as marvelous role models, people the campers haven’t watched from a distance but have become their close companions over the course of the camp experience.  

But the learning has not all been one way. As counselor  Janni Moody, who is headed for a law degree at Widener University, put it, “Working with the kids convinced me that a had to become an advocate.” 

Make a change? The campers have already been doing it, maybe without even realizing it. 

By timmreardon

Edward Nelson, Jr.: young man with a mission – News from Chester Eastside, Inc.

Edward Nelson’s goal is no less than having a major role in helping the Chester Upland School District, or one like it, provide the kind of education he wished he had had coming up through the grades from K through 12. Quite a tall order for a guy just out of high school.

But talking with Edward, you get the idea that it will really happen. “My father taught me to have faith in my own ability; to know that nobody’s better than me.” The father, Edward, Sr., has been a major inspiration to Edward, Jr., going to bat many times for a decent education, not only for his son, but for all Chester children. That sense of confidence was important in earning young Edward a coveted Gates Millennium Scholarship, one of only 1,000 in the country, and making him captain of the football team for his four high school years and finally senior class president. The Gates scholarship guarantees a four-year college education at any school in the country. Edward’s long-term aspiration is to earn a PhD in education, something Gates can also help with.

Most recently, he’s been a counselor in the Summer Enrichment Camp at Chester Eastside, Inc., before he heads off for Morehouse College in Atlanta in the fall. In a way it’s payback for the experience he had in the After School Program at Chester Eastside.

It was in the After School Program that Edward was helped to master things ranging from reading and writing to math. “I owe a lot to Ms. Redd, (Kathryn Redd, the After School director) and Rev. Bernice Warren, who both taught me how to stay on task and keep from getting distracted.

This summer, in the Chester Eastside Summer Enrichment Camp, he counseled a group of young campers, serving as a mentor and role-model. He was the youngest of the counselors but moved into the new role with ease.

In opting to attend Morehouse, a prestigious, historically black college, Edward has chosen a school with a first-class reputation. Among its graduates was Martin Luther King, Jr.

Growing up on Chester’s East Side, Edward noticed at one point that he and some of his friends were moving in different directions. Along the way, he lost some friends through gun violence. More recently, a beloved teacher was a victim of gun violence.

Now focused on his long-term career goals, Edward still identifies with the community that nurtured him. So we’re confident you’ll be hearing about Edward Nelson, Jr., in  the future. So is Edward.

By timmreardon

Chester pastor’s ministry is one of justice – Delco Times


The Rev. Bernice Warren has been pastor and director of Chester Eastside Inc., formerly Chester Eastside Ministries, for 21 years. She plans to retire in December. PATTI MENGERS — DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA

By Patti Mengers, Delaware County Daily Times

Posted: 07/31/16, 9:00 PM EDT | Updated: 1 week, 5 days ago


The Rev. Bernice Warren, right, pastor and director of Chester Eastside Inc., formerly Chester Eastside Ministries, chats with Deeanna Parks, who has volunteered at Chester Eastside’s food and clothing center for at least 15 years. PATTI MENGERS — DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA

Eleven o’clock Monday morning and the energy is pumping in the basement of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in the 300 block of East Ninth Street, site of Chester Eastside Inc.

Along the far wall, bushel baskets of fresh produce and bags of bread create a cornucopia effect as men and women of all colors, creeds and ages line-up for food to bring home to their families.

The group’s original home in the Third Presbyterian Church of Chester about a block away had begun to crumble and Warren, who has been pastor and director of Chester Eastside since 1995, had to find a new space for the organization and it’s approximately 10 social service programs she has cultivated over the last two decades with the help of a small staff and volunteers.

“How ya’ doin’? Hey girl!” says Warren this particular July Monday as she greets the Chester residents who avail themselves of the more than 100,000 meals a year provided by the non-profit organization.

It is one of the parts of her job that she will miss come December, when she plans to retire.

“I’ve loved being here and doing what I do. I feel at home. It’s a real blessing to come back to Chester and have God use me this way. I love every minute. It brings me much joy,” said the 64-year-old Chester native.

The second of three daughters of Lillian Warren, she 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 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.

She was also influenced by her now-88-year-old mother who she remembers “had no problem speaking out against injustice.”

“You can’t just sit in church when you see poverty, violence, injustice and schools collapsing around us,” noted 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.”

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 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 impoverished 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.

“They graciously allowed us to come here after we couldn’t maintain our building,” explained the Rev. Bernice Warren, referring to the pastor and congregation of St. Paul’s who have been hosting Chester Eastside Inc. for about four years.

“The fact that I was going to be in the community dealing with people through social service and social action, it was everything about my ministry rolled into one,” said Warren.

Because the position had been vacant for several months, Warren had to rebuild programs. In addition to the food and clothing programs and summer youth camp, services offered by Chester Eastside now include emergency aid and referral, after-school education and tutoring and education programs in parenting, high school equivalency and food and nutrition. But one of the most important elements of her job, noted Warren, has been to provide a voice for the people of Chester.

“I never wanted Chester Eastside to be just a service agency. Chester has enough service agencies. I don’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 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 now for more than 20 years because of poor academic and fiscal performance.

One day, when the minister visited Chester High School after she heard a fight had erupted, she was horrified to see that one of the girls she knew from Chester Eastside programs had been maced by police.

“They kept changing superintendents and there was a lot of discord, so a group of us started meeting the children at school and greeting them so they felt maybe the adults had not abandoned them,” said Warren.

She also 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.

She is proud of how Chester students such as Sarah Poole, who is now a Yale University faculty member, have succeeded despite the school district being “broken.”

Warren’s voice has also been strong against gun violence that so far this year has been responsible for the deaths of at least 15 young black males in Chester. One was only 14. With Fran Stier, 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.”

“Her passion for social justice will always be an inspiration to me,” noted Stier.

A member of Ohev Shalom Synagogue in Nether Providence for more than 30 years, Stier has known Warren for about a decade through delivering hundreds of Thanksgiving food baskets from the synagogue for families in need to Chester Eastside.

“Rev. Warren has kept these programs going through many difficulties and funding shortages, through sheer force of will,” said Stier.

Because of funding cuts, Chester Eastside Ministries separated from the Philadelphia Presbytery about 18 months ago, said Warren. Although it still receives some funds from the Philadelphia Presbytery and has received small city and county grants, the organization relies mainly on donations from churches, synagogues and corporations, grants from foundations and volunteer support from the Chester Boys and Girls Club, Strath Haven and Sun Valley high schools, Swarthmore College and Widener University.

In her retirement, Warren hopes to become more focused in her advocacy and not spread so thin. She announced her December 2016 exit last fall so as to give board members time to find her replacement.

“I think ministry is a 24/7 job because you’re always on call,” noted Warren.

She lives in Chester with her mother whom she cares for with the assistance of her sister, Eva Warren Henry, an elementary school teacher, and her daughter, Kearni Warren, a production manager and series host for Kieserman Media. Her other sister, Shirley Warren Douglas, who is now deceased, was a music teacher.

In the last 15 years, the minister has made about 10 trips to Haiti where she has delivered medical and school supplies, food and clothing to a clinic and school operated by Maureen Olivier. Warren hopes perhaps to expand that mission in Haiti which she noted has many of the same issues arising from poverty and disease that Chester does, but no government support. She has also made educational trips to many countries that have experienced slavery, with Johnson C. Smith Seminary professor, Marsha Snulligan Haney.

Warren hopes to continue them and also “maybe do a little relaxing.”

“The way I see it, I’m on a new journey. Where I’m going, I don’t know yet, but I’m going,” said the minister.


By timmreardon

Rev. Warren ready to move on, but her mission is far from over – News from Chester Eastside, Inc.

WarrenCome December, Rev. Bernice Warren will be retiring from the position she has held for more than 20 years, as Director of Chester Eastside, Inc., formerly Chester Eastside Ministries, with lots of fond memories and few regrets. “I see it as freeing me up to expand my ministry on behalf of social justice on a global scale,” she said recently. On her agenda is becoming more active locally, nationally, in Haiti, and in Africa. She also feels called to continue to help young people be all they can be, a necessary component of the mission of promoting social justice.       

         The impetus for this wider mission is the same sense of social responsibility that brought Rev. Warren back to her native Chester in 1995 to head up Chester Eastside Ministries. Growing up in the Bennett Homes public housing project, she knew first-hand both the joys and challenges facing Chesterites. “But I had to get reacquainted with my home town. It had changed over the years since I had left in 1977. Many people I had known were gone and there were new folks in their place.”

         In the interim, she served churches in Baltimore and Wilmington. “These were urban churches dealing with problems ranging from hunger and homelessness to drug abuse.” Looking back, she thinks of these pastorates as, in a way, preparation for  the central role she would play in an evolving Chester Eastside, Inc.

         Now, as Rev. Warren gets ready to move on, she views with satisfaction what she and Chester Eastside, Inc.,  have been able to accomplish in those twenty- plus years. In particular, bringing people from very different backgrounds together to create a welcoming place. Suburbanites have learned from urbanites and vice versa. The other accomplishment that gives her a sense of pride is the impact on young people

         If there is one thing she regrets, it is that Chester Eastside, Inc., has not been able to involve more Chester churches in the work that she has devoted her life to. But that has not deterred her from energetically pursuing the mission.   

         Clergy was not Rev. Warren’s first career choice. “I was thinking along the lines of social work or teaching,” she said. In fact, her first job after college was running a  GED program. But there was something missing. That something was a spiritual base. Meanwhile she was becoming increasingly fascinated with the way ministers were interpreting the Gospel, in many cases inspired by Liberation Theology, a movement in response to the plight of economically and politically oppressed with its roots in Latin America. It was a natural fit for someone who, from an early age, identified with the downtrodden  and those wanting to take up their cause.

         Chester Eastside, Inc., is currently in the process of doing a search for Rev. Warren’s successor. Anyone interested in applying for the position of Director should go to and job opening under executive director position.   

By timmreardon

Planting seeds: Sarah’s story – News from Chester Eastside, Inc.


Sarah Farmer started life under less than ideal circumstances. Her early years were spent in a section of Chester marked with high rates of poverty, abandoned houses, and weed-covered fields. Today, on the verge of earning her PhD from Emory University and about to begin her new duties as associate research scholar with the Adolescent Faith and Flourishing Project at Yale Divinity School, Sarah stands as an exemplar of the human capacity to succeed in life despite seemingly impossible odds.

Three things stand out in Sarah’s mind as critically important influences in her early years. One was a mother who was determined not to let her surroundings drag her children down. Another was grounding in a deep religious faith. And a third was Chester Eastside Ministries, now Chester Eastside, Inc. (CEI), just across the street from where Sarah lived.

From early on, she participated in after-school activities there.

It was at CEI that a remarkable gift for self-expression through the written word was first noted by staff and volunteers. From the beginning, Sarah was a self-starter. She once created and presented a puppet show featuring Annie, an African American doll from the American Girl series.

As for Chester Eastside, Inc., it “exposed me to relationships and opportunities that helped me see beyond my local context. They also allowed me to exercise agency. For instance, in middle school, I held my first job helping in the library at CEM. Secondly, they allowed me to help others with reading. These opportunities built confidence in me and planted the seeds for my passion to teach and for the arts. Lastly, CEM has continued to serve as a resource throughout my vocational journey. I am really proud of and believe in the mission of CEM, and feel like there is much to learn through their efforts.”

In time the family moved south, where Sarah finished high school. But she never lost her dedication to the people of Chester and her attachment to Chester Eastside, Inc. In the early 2000s, as a student at Berea College, where she would later graduate cum laude, Sarah returned to CEI to help initiate the Peace, Leadership & the Arts Camp, which continues to this day.

She is the author of several articles in scholarly books and journals and the recipient of numerous awards. Sarah’s deep commitment to people facing major challenges in their lives is exemplified in her doctoral dissertation: Hope in Confinement: Moving Toward a Pedagogy of Restorative Hope. It concerns the plight of Black women in prison.

Sarah Farmer is now married and the mother of two children.  Like her own mother, she is determined that they will have every opportunity to develop and use their gifts to the fullest. Under very different circumstances, it should be added.


Here is a letter Sarah penned to the Board of Chester Eastside, Inc.

I am writing this letter to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation of Chester Eastside Ministries and Rev. Bernice Warren.  Chester Eastside Ministries (CEM) represents a beacon of light in the city of Chester.

CEM has been an abiding presence throughout every stage of my life. As a young girl, I lived across the street from CEM. Its programs were a site of exposure for me. Through its cultural arts program, CEM introduced me to ballet, tap dancing, piano, drama, and visual arts. Volunteers worked with me to advance my reading daily. I held my first job at CEM as a librarian, and then was invited to serve as a tutor with the volunteers who came from outside of the city. People such as Rev. Warren, Ed Dunlap, Elizabeth Dunlap and Bunty Barus connected me with Upward Bound, People’s Light Improvisational Theatre and Growing Up Female stage play. They also gave their time to take my brother and me to museums. These experiences fed into my sense of knowing that we did not have to be a statistic. These formative experiences provided exposure and an outlet, creating a pipeline to college (as opposed to a pipeline to prison).

Throughout my college years at Berea College in KY, I continued to return to CEM to assist with their summer camp as an English teacher. On one of my return visits, Bunty Barus encouraged me to start a peace camp. During my junior year of college, I connected with Rev. Warren and Wanda Moore (director of Peace in the Streets at the time) to make this vision a reality. Youth Arts Peace Camp was a huge success in Chester. As a college student, it taught me significant skills of comprehensive collaborative community-building. In this sense, CEM became a site of learning. As a native of Chester, it provided an avenue for me to pour into the lives of other youth. In this sense, CEM became a site of ministry.

Perhaps it is the merging of learning and ministry at CEM that fed into my desire to pursue a Master of Divinity at Candler School of Theology in Atlanta. I tuned in to courses that uplifted the principles of religious education and community building.  In addition, new questions emerged from my work with the Youth Arts Peace Camp and drove me to pursue doctoral studies. Although under different leadership, the Youth Arts Peace Camp continues. It has expanded in amazing ways.

Currently, I am pursuing my Ph.D. in Religion. My research centers on the concept of hope in populations of confinement as well as the role of art in critical emancipatory pedagogies. I work with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women. The foundation of this research has its roots in the transformative experiences I gained as a young girl in the City of Chester. From CEM, I learned that hope wells up in the most unsusceptible places.

In a world that is so unstable for Black and Latino boys and girls, CEM has remained consistent, committed, and concerned. Their concern for the needs of the City of Chester drives its programs. I have no doubt that CEM would not exist without the persistence of Rev. Bernice Warren. She serves as a living testament of the love of Christ. Her social witness is a critique of ministers who are distant from the tangible needs of the people they serve and an encouragement for ministers who seek to transform society. Despite the difficulty of raising financial support in this economy, Rev. Warren remains loyal to the vision of CEM. I have continued to grow as a wife, mother, minister, and academic because of her mentorship in my life. She is a manifestation of what faith and works can do. Her efforts are truly a source of life and hope in the City of Chester. For her hard work and compassion, Rev. Warren deserves any and every honor given her.

By timmreardon

Help them spend those summer days the way they were meant to be spent – an appeal from Chester Eastside, Inc.

Dear Friends.

CEM SummerSummer should be a happy time for children. But for many Chester parents, summer is a time to worry about their childen’s safety. In the words of one mother, “We live amid the constant threat of guns and violence in our neighborhood.” A few years ago, one of her son’s close friends was killed. Last summer was different for this mother. Her three children attended Chester Eastside’s Summer Enrichment Camp, and for the first time, “the children not only felt safe but had the chance to talk about their fear.”

The Summer Enrichment Camp is about a lot more than children’s fears. It opens new horizons – experiences like learning to swim and exploring museums. One can see children responding as their world opens up beyond their immediate surroundings.

It’s also a time for them to appreciate ways in which they can impact on that world. Last summer’s theme, “My city needs something – and it starts with you and me,” resonated with the young campers, as reflected in the original poems some wrote.

You can be part of that awakening experience. A small investment can pay rich dividends that go on for years. By contributing $220, you can pay the cost of giving one child that summer camp experience. $300.00 will cover the cost of one bus to take our children on local trips. $500.00 will allow us to pay a stipend to an art teacher to work one day a week for four (4) weeks.

So please consider making a donation (tax deductible) to ensure that our camp is fully funded and that our children receive the best enrichment and educational opportunities possible.

We look forward to your continued support.


Rev. Bernice Warren Executive Director

By timmreardon

Chester children visit the White House – News from Chester Eastside, Inc.

Trip of  lifetime: Chester children and their adult guides checking out the White House. Second row center are Professor Mark Wallace of Swarthmore College and Kathryn Redd, Director of the After-School Program at CEI, one of the trip’s sponsors


Thirty-five Chester children, including many from Chester Eastside, Inc.’s, After- School Program, and their adult chaperones, took a trip on April 2 that they will never forget. They got to see the inside of the place President Obama calls home.

No, they didn’t shake hands with the President, who was busy dealing with things like foreign policy and global warming. But they did get to see the elaborate security apparatus that constantly surrounds him and the rest of the First Family. Needless to say, they were impressed with what’s gotten to be a daily routine for the Obama children.

In a way this was a payback visit. During his 2008 campaign the President visited Chester.  Of course the young Chesterites who were even around then would have been too young to remember.

In the words of Kathryn Redd, director of the After-School Program at Chester Eastside, Inc., one of the sponsoring organizations,”This was a wonderful history lesson for these children, one they will never forget. As the first black President of the United States, President Obama is someone they can emulate.”

Swarthmore College and the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility helped to arrange the Washington trip, which was sponsored by Chester Eastside, Inc., and other faith-based organizations.

The White House was not the only stop in the nation’s capital. The young people also visited the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. They seemed particularly impressed by the giant pandas. But what will stay with them for the rest of their lives was that brush with history at the site where major decisions are made every day.

By timmreardon

Working to end gun violence -News from Chester Eastside, Inc.

Gun ViolenceIt’s become almost routine to see the TV images and newspaper  headlines regarding the latest mass shooting in the U.S. Less spectacular but more common are daily incidents of gun violence in urban America. In Chester alone, eleven gun-related homicides since the beginning of 2016. Plus other shootings, such as the non-fatal incident involving two teenagers alighting from a school bus.

        Chester Eastside, Inc., already having committed itself to work on behalf of  sensible gun policy, is taking new steps in that direction, The CEI Board recently  voted unanimously to sign on to a Declaration of Principles sponsored by PA United for Background Checks. The statement speaks forthrightly about the need to keep guns out of the hands of people who pose a danger to the rest of us.

        Rev. Bernice Warren, Chester Eastside’s Executive Director, recently co-authored a letter to the editor of the Swarthmorean, on behalf of Heeding God’s Call, a faith-based organization which works to end gun violence in Chester and elsewhere. The letter talked about two crimes in that school bus incident mentioned above: that of the teen who pulled the trigger,  wounding another student, and the action of the “straw purchaser,” the one who supplied a weapon to someone too young to qualify to buy it.

        As a 501.c.3 tax-exempt organization, CEI is forbidden to engage in outright lobbying and other explicitly political activities. But, contrary to a common perception, the law allows organizations like CEI the opportunity to inform the public regarding a range of issues, including gun violence.

        It is an opportunity that CEI has seized, because to do otherwise would be irresponsible, considering the danger guns can pose, not just to urban communities like Chester, but to all of us, wherever we live. Aside from the terrible toll in terms of victims and their loved ones, there is the psychological trauma that a violent world can cause, especially among the young.

        One more example of where CEI sees its role, not just as helping to repair broken lives and meet basic needs,  but to address underlying causes as well.

By timmreardon

Building Bridges – News from Chester Eastside, Inc.


As more than one observer has said recently, Chester Eastside, Inc., is all about building bridges. There are bridges between past and present, and there are those that link different sides of a common stream.

A bridge over troubled water

For those who came of age in the 1970s, Simon and Garfunkel’s rendition of Bridge Over Troubled Water was a kind of anthem for people committed to making a difference in the world.

In recent years, Chester Eastside has had its own ‘bridge over troubled water’ as it dealt with a major loss of financial support on top of loss of the church building it called home for so many years. But we are nothing if not builders. Thanks to the support of countless organizations and individuals, Chester Eastside is continuing to make that difference in so many lives. In the words of the song, “When you’re down and out…. I’ll take your part.”

Still on that journey into the future; still able to make good use of that dedicated support from our friends.

A bridge between different worlds

One of the most basic functions of Chester Eastside, Inc., is bringing together a number of diverse people and organizations. College students who may not even have been aware there was a Chester, PA, when they enrolled in school and local residents who may have wondered if anybody out there really cared. Religious community members who wanted to live out their faith in action and Chesterites who helped them do it.

The recent dedication ceremony for the Judy Coslett Learning Center, held in the sanctuary of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, epitomizes that bridging function. The center, funded by a $20,000 grant from Presbyterian Women, was named after the late Judy Coslett, who for 27 years devoted her life to serving Chester children through the After School and Summer Camp Programs of Chester Eastside, Inc.  Here were members of St. Paul’s; other faith communities in Delaware County; young children from Chester wanting to express their gratitude for the years of dedicated work by a woman they called “the party lady” and “the secret Santa;” Coslett family members; fraternity members from Widener who had given generously of their time to Chester folks – and gained so much in the process.

Bridges: Never more urgently needed than in a time when the shrill voices of anger and recrimination, fear and suspicion seem to dominate the news.

By timmreardon