Chester Eastside celebrates 35 years of service


From left, Chester Eastside Inc. Executive Director Rev. Zuline Gray Wilkinson honored Kathryn Kelly-Redd, Bill Henderson, Jim Leming and Gwen Smith at the group’s recent gala.

UPPER CHICHESTER — When Chester Eastside, Inc. hosts a gala, it doesn’t disappoint.
More than 250 friends and supporters attended the organization’s third annual evening to celebrate its 35 years of creating a welcoming environment for city residents and honor those who have been instrumental in its efforts. The event, highlighting this year’s theme “Reach, Grow, Thrive,” was held at The Austin Room.

“Thank you for caring and your support of Chester Eastside, Inc.,” said Executive Director Rev. Zuline Gray Wilkinson. “It is only because of you that we are able to do so much for the Chester community.”

Founded in 1985 as Chester Eastside Ministries, the organization serves residents in the poorest part of Delaware County. Originally operating in the former Third Presbyterian Church as an outreach of the Presbytery of Philadelphia, it was invited to relocate at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church when its aging facility required a move. In 2014, Chester Eastside incorporated as a as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3), reshaping from a Presbytery mission into a faith-based community organization.

Through intergenerational education, safety net and healthy food initiatives, community advocacy and engagement, Chester Eastside creates a setting that encourages and enables city residents to achieve their goals and aspirations while promoting peace and social justice. It also provides more than 100,000 meals a year to community residents.
The night’s honorees have contributed to each aspect of Chester Eastside’s story. The growing relationship with St. Paul’s has served each entity similar to the way they serve the city and its residents.

“When I learned I was receiving the humanitarian award, it made me think,” said Rev. Z. Mark Smith, the church’s former priest-in-charge. “I have never met anyone who went through the doors of Chester Eastside who was not a humanitarian.”{

Board chair emeritus Bill Henderson (Legacy Award) guided the group through a period of funding difficulties and the move to St. Paul’s, then helped re-shape the board into one with both advisory and governing status. The latter accomplishments were the result of a strategic plan navigated by Swarthmore-based organization development and change consultant Jim Leming (honorary co-chair).

“Bill’s commitment is unlike anyone’s I have ever seen and now I’m walking in his footsteps,” said current chair John Mackey. “I am on the board because of Jim, who introduced me to Chester Eastside, and I consider him a mentor and friend.”

Crozer-Keystone Health System’s (Partner Award) connection with Chester Eastside began when Springfield Hospital President Gwen Smith worked with the late Rev. Bernice Warren, Chester Eastside’s founding pastor, to provide needed vaccines to aid missionary work in Haiti.

Smith and the health system then embraced Chester Eastside’s idea of addressing cardiovascular, diabetes and obesity concerns prevalent in the community. The outcome was Food Matters!, which provides essential education and as a result, aims to reduce the rate of hospital re-admission.

The most recognizable face, especially to the table of teens, was Chester Eastside Education Director Kathryn Kelly-Redd (Service Award). Known to students and staff alike as “Mrs. Redd,” she guides the Phoenix Academic and Enrichment Program, Technology Training Program and Phoenix Enrichment Summer Camp.

“When the lights are on at Chester Eastside, you know she is here, because she gives the children her constant attention,” said Wilkinson. “They love her and we love her, too.”

Wilkinson noted gala contributions help to fund Chester Eastside’s year-round programs, as well as summer projects such as the community vegetable garden. The organization was designated as a Zone of Peace earlier this year by the Religious Leaders Council of Philadelphia and will soon be partnering with St. Paul’s and Widener University to open a free medical clinic.

“Chester Eastside, Inc. would not be without the holy spirit working through the church to provide regular, consistent support in many different ways,” she added. “Together, We Are One Chester, working to inspire integrity, dignity, love and respect for all people.”

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By timmreardon

This Week’s Food Matters Program

Healthy food is delicious. This week’s Food Matters! class talked about recommended daily servings from the various food groups, then dined on tilapia, couscous with roasted red peppers and herbs and zucchini. Yum! #foodmatters #healthyfood #dailyservings #shilohbaptistchurch #chestereastside

By timmreardon

We’re almost ready for Saturday night’s Gala!

We’re almost ready for Saturday night’s Gala. Mary, Rev. Z, Janiece and Ruby are showing off some of our silent auction items and there will be a number of raffle baskets. Need a ticket – check our website for more info. #silentauction #rafflebaskets #gala #chestereastside


By timmreardon

Chester Eastside takes 1st place in Master Gardeners competition – Delco Times

By Leslie Krowchenko

Special to the Times

SPRINGFIELD >> When actress Audrey Hepburn said “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow,” she could have had an organization like Chester Eastside Inc. in mind.

The budding horticulturalists captured first place in the Community Gardens category of the Delaware County Master Gardeners 27th Annual Garden Contest. Their blue ribbon was one of many presented Saturday at the Fall Fest in Smedley Park.

“The judges agreed that you had a wonderful all-season garden with a nice variety of vegetable plantings,” said contest chair Patty Rahi. “They were impressed you donated the produce to the church cupboard. Continue the good work!”

To accommodate their bountiful harvest, the Chester Eastside crew leased nine beds from the Master Gardeners, who own 26 plots adjacent to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Chester. The beds are rented to community members for $10 each. The masters started cold weather plants from seed in February, and warm weather ones in March, selling them for $5 per flat at the beginning of the season.

The project was intergenerational, as gardeners of all ages tended to the crops. Sweet potatoes, zucchini, butternut and pattypan squash shared space with tomatoes, strawberries, watermelon and sunflowers and the tweens, teens, millennials and baby boomers were all responsible for planting, weeding, watering and harvesting.

The display included a pollinator garden designed with specific nectar producing plants to attract insects such as bees, ants, butterflies and moths. The children made signs to identify each item.

“I liked that we got to see all the plants grow,” said Jeidalys Collado. “It was fun to see how each of them smelled.”

Enjoying the fruits (and veggies) of their labor was an added bonus. Eating string beans one helped to grow is much tastier than opening a can or frozen bag.

“We could take one thing at a time so there was enough for everyone,” said Nalia Diaz. “We shared them and if our parents wanted them, we took them home for dinner.”

The children also learned about the creepy crawlers who laid claim to the dirt.

“We captured a caterpillar and watched it become a butterfly,” said Lu’Nique Deedon.

The contest was open to all residents of Delaware County and Community Gardens was one of six categories. In addition, first place awards were presented in Ornamental Birds, Bees and Butterflies (Helga Hartung, Swarthmore); Ornamental Landscape Design (Caroline McGeehan, Trainer); Ornamental Native/ Wildlife (Linda Coulston, Middletown); Youth Gardens (Chester Boys and Girls Club); and Residential Vegetable Garden (John Steenberge, (Morton). Ribbons were also given for second and third place and honorable mention.

Fall Fest was a gardener’s paradise featuring a symposium, plant sale and marketplace. Workshops and lectures were available on topics including tool maintenance, corn husk/sunflower wreaths and an autumn craft workshop for children and adults.

“Everyone who participated learned what it means to really work in a garden,” said judge Elaine VanGeyten. “For the children, it provided the added benefit of growing nutritious foods and learning about sustainability.”

Members of Chester Eastside Inc.’s garden club display their blue ribbon in the Community Gardens category of the Delaware County Master Gardeners 27th Annual Garden Contest.


By timmreardon