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.”

For more information, visit

Article link:




By timmreardon