Chester Eastside Ministries Charts a New Course – The Swarthmorean Newspaper

(Re-printed from an article which appeared in The Swarthmorean Newspaper)
In January 2014, Chester Eastside Ministries will enter a new phase in its long history of service to the people of Chester as it becomes an independent nonprofit organization. For many years as a minis-try of the Presbytery of Philadelphia, Chester Eastside has offered essential services, including emergency food and clothing, education and cultural enrichment programs for the young and the old, spiritual support and advocacy for social justice. In recent years, however, as Presbytery itself has faced economic challenges, financial support has declined. About 70 percent of CEM’s revenue now comes from other sources, including area churches.

The board of Chester Eastside last spring began a deliberative process to chart its future. It is currently engaged in long-term strategic planning so that it can pursue its mission and develop its potential in new ways. But early this fall, the board had to turn its attention to an immediate crisis: CEM’s aging building was found to have major structural problems, moving the Trustees of the Presbytery to close it for safety reasons, pending further assessment.

Reacting quickly, Chester Eastside found a home for many of its programs at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, a block and half from the old building. The Food Pantry and the After-School Program are already up and running. The office has also moved there. The Adult Education/GED Program will also reopen soon. The Parents First Program will begin in January and the Clothing Program is uncertain until a storage area is found.
Last Fall, Chester Eastside and the Presbyterian Community Ministries of the Delaware Valley (PCMDV), the body that has overseen Presbytery’s urban ministry programs, agreed this fall to terminate their relationship. PCMDV will allow Chester Eastside to continue to use its tax-exempt status, as well as its registration with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Charitable Organizations, while Chester Eastside applies for its own 501(c)3 status. Shortly thereafter, the Presbytery trustees approved the separation, agreed to provide payroll and other back office services through 2014, and allocated $69,000 in support for 2014 (less than the $100,000 in 2013, but more than expected). The trustees also urged CEM to find a permanent facility in the Eastside community.
Working with Jim Leming (a Swarthmore Presbyterian Church member) as an independent consult-ant, and inviting many stakeholders in to the conversation, the Chester Eastside Board continues to develop its new strategic plan that will reflect a continued commitment to ministry on the east side of Chester, its new physical circumstances, and a push to expand its circle of support.
Recently, Chester Eastside received a boost from a new supporter. The Philadelphia Phillies pledged $7,500 and invited CEM to the team’s annual charity dinner on December 16, where they further promote the programs of their non-profit guests. They have also received new grants from Boeing and other area organizations.
Mert Hinkle has been instrumental in helping them get some of these grants. We continue to support Chester Eastside and hold them in our prayers as they take new steps in the year ahead.

Rev. Warren would also like to personally thank Chambers Presbyterian Church, Princeton Presbyterian Church, Swarthmore Presbyterian Church, Wallingford Presbyterian Church and all of our partner churches.

By timmreardon

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