Board of Directors
William Henderson, Chair
Rev. Zuline Wilkinson, Chester Eastside, Inc.’s new Executive Director, has worked in a number of cities – her native Philadelphia, the Boston area in Massachusetts, and Trenton, New Jersey, to be speciﬁc – during a remarkable career as a social worker and member of the clergy. So one might be moved to ask, Why Chester? Without hesitation she replies, “I feel called by a passion and commitment to serve those in need in cities like Chester.
“I am excited about joining Chester Eastside, Inc. and building upon the strong foundation that has been laid by Rev. Warren,” say the new Exec. “It has long been my desire to offer my gifts in a faith-based context and I look forward to working with the CEI Board, staff, community volunteers, government agencies, religious organizations and stakeholder groups.”
There are needs that are common to any of these communities, she says. But she knows that Chester, like other urban centers, has its own distinctive characteristics. “It’s too easy to focus just on the problems and forget the strengths.”
Rev. Wilkinson starts her new duties on October 31. For the ﬁrst two weeks, she is busy getting acquainted with Chester Eastside and the community, working closely with Rev. Warren.
Rev. Wilkinson has a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary. As an undergraduate at Temple University, she majored in Spanish. Over the years, she has developed her leadership skills in senior positions at several social service agencies and medical facilities.
And she comes with a wealth of knowledge about communities like Chester; as she says, their strengths as well as their challenges.
Bringing two worlds closer together
Together, Pete Washington and Anne Pike exemplify the typical special mix of volunteer gifts that make Chester Eastside, Inc., the unique kind of agency it is.
One thing Lewis “Pete” Washington and Anne Pike have in common is their deep devotion to the hundreds of people who come to the Chester Eastside Food Center for basic necessities every month. Another is their exceeding modest.
“I’m just a worker bee.” says Pete. In actuality, it’s hard to imagine the massive twice-a-week operation going off so smoothly without Pete at the center of it. People readily follow his directions in assembling the food and distributing it.
When Anne was asked how much time she puts in at Chester Eastside, she said, “Just a couple of hours a week,” a classic understatement of her volunteer time in the Food Center alone. Somehow she neglected to mention the monthly meetings of the Mothers’ Club she organized, along with time spent arranging for outside speakers. And the hours involved in collecting and giving out gifts to 100 families at Christmas time. To say nothing of the seemingly endless Board and committee meetings she faithfully attends. But in so many ways, Pete and Anne come from different worlds.
Giving back to his community
Pete Washington remembers a very different East Side community where he grew up not far from the site that Chester Eastside, Inc., now calls home. “There were houses where there are vacant lots now,” he says, “and businesses – including two dry cleaners and a movie theater.” Things began to change in the 1970s, as the closing of one major industry after another took the props out from under Chester.
One of the positive influences in Pete’s life was a loving family that made sure he stayed inline. And the warning from a neighbor that “I’m going to tell your mom” was often enough to head off serious trouble.
The other was the round of activities like Boy Scouts and the church-sponsored basketball league that did a lot more than “keep me off the streets,” in terms of education and character development. “My mom made sure I attended those things,” says Pete.
Now, with child rearing more of a challenge than ever for people, those organized activities are all the more essential, he says.
Pete went on to earn a degree with a major in music at Cheyney University. But his talent as a drummer led him into a playing at bars and club, “a bad environment for me,” he says. Then an invitation to perform at a church opened up a whole new world for him. “I haven’t played at a bar or club since.” Joining the team at Chester Eastside, Inc., was a natural step. “I knew the Lord was calling me to do this,” says Pete.
Getting more back than one puts in
When Anne Pike drives the seven miles from her home in Middletown to Chester Eastside, Inc., it’s like entering a whole new world. “I get a lot more out of the experience than I put in,” she readily admits.
It all started when she heard an inspiring presentation by former Chester Eastside Pastor/Director Tom Torosian many years ago. Having known Chester in the days when people came from all over to shop and go to the movies, it was second nature for Anne to want to invest something of herself in this community.
Anne’s the kind of person who sees an opportunity and acts on it. She realized that people who came for food had other kinds of needs as well. That prompted her to create the Mothers’ Club. Now once a month women have an opportunity to learn new ways of coping with the practical problems of daily life – from healthy living to managing on a limited income.
It was a natural step to invite Anne to join the Board of Chester Eastside, Inc. Her hands-on experience with the people receiving the services is invaluable to the ones making policy decisions and raising the money that makes Chester Eastside possible.
This kind of commitment is infectious. Now Anne’s two daughters have caught the bug and are giving generously to the work of Chester Eastside
Together, Pete Washington and Anne Pike exemplify the special mix of volunteer gifts that make
Chester Eastside, Inc., the unique kind of agency it is.