Chester Eastside kids get an unscheduled lesson from the Phillies – News from Chester Eastside, Inc.

Phillies1Children from the Chester Eastside After-School Program were recently treated to a big league baseball game at Citizens Park, as special guests of the Philadelphia Phillies. They were hoping to see them win against the Colorado Rockies, but the Mighty Phils ended up on the short end of 7 to 2 trouncing. But while there may have been no joy in Mudville that afternoon, it carried a powerful lesson for a group of young people who may sometimes feel like they are on the outside looking in.

What do the Phillies do when they go down to defeat? Quit? Uh-uh. They get back up, learn from their mistakes, and go on to the next game and the next one after that. An important lesson for children to learn early in life: Get back up and keep on keeping on. Whether it’s on the diamond or the basketball court or in the classroom, you don’t give up. It’s a lesson that is reinforced over and over again in the After-School Program. And it pays off, with these young people getting help with schoolwork and learning about computers and consistently getting decent grades and aiming for success in life.

As a special bonus, the students got to meet the Phillie Phanatic and watched themselves on the Jumbotron. Here’s Kashawn Butler, STEM Academy senior and an intern in the new CEI Technical Training Program, doing a selfie with none other than the Phanatic.


Phillies3Special thanks to Kashawn Butler, STEM Academy senior in CEI’s new Technical Training
Program, for the photography.

By timmreardon

Chester Eastside has a lovely spread, thanks to a group of After-School students – News from Chester Eastside

MyDaughtersKitchenTurkey mushroom tacos with avocado filling. Rhubarb & strawberry crisp. Menu
items at an upscale restaurant? No, actually a celebratory meal at Chester Eastside,
Inc., cooked by none other than a group of After-School students.

It was on a recent evening that a couple of Board members, along with
Executive Director Rev. Zuline Wilkinson and a number of guests, enjoyed these
delicacies, all prepared and served by the students under the watchful eye of Sallie
Anderson, a volunteer from My Daughter’s Kitchen.

For the past eight weeks she’s been teaching a group of sixth and seventh
graders the finer points of cooking appetizing but simple and affordable dishes –
along with some lessons in healthy eating habits. The recipes have included things
like Moroccan chicken couscous and minestrone and banana applesauce cake.

My Daughter’s Kitchen was the brainchild of Philadelphia Inquirer Food

Editor Maureen Fitzgerald a number of years ago and is now operated in
collaboration with Vetri Community Partnership. Its mission is simple: to teach
young people to cook healthy, affordable meals from scratch. The 8-week program
takes students from groceries in the bag to a family-style dinner on the table. And it
works. Says mentor Sallie Anderson, “While it has been wonderful to see the
kids become enthusiastic chefs, what has been even more rewarding is to see how
they have developed a sense of teamwork and cooperation among themselves. I
hope they will carry these skills with them when they leave the kitchen.”

She adds, “Putting a healthy meal together requires lots of preparation,
particularly chopping of vegetables. But by the end of the eight weeks, my junior
chefs had become quite skilled at this and eager to help. The only job that everyone
was reluctant to take on was peeling and chopping onions, but by taking turns at
this, they got it done.”

So far it’s been girls benefiting from the Chester program. At first the boys
weren’t interested. But now, having seen the results, they want in, too. So they’ll
have their chance in the next round of My Daughter’s Kitchen classes at Chester
Eastside, slated for the fall.

This is only one of the many ways Chester Eastside introduces young people
to new and exciting experiences in the wider world and gives them a new sense of

By timmreardon

Retiring Chester Eastside leader celebrated – Delco Daily Times

DelcoTimes3By Leslie Krowchenko

UPPER CHICHESTER >> Ministers typically preach thinking, being or doing sermons.

Rev. Bernice Warren personifies the last type. DelcoTimes2

The recently-retired pastor/director of Chester Eastside Inc., Warren’s 21 years at the helm were celebrated recently with a gala at the Ballrooms at Boothwyn. More than 225 family and church family members, high school and undergraduate friends, colleagues in the ministry and representatives of Chester Eastside joined to praise her service, announce the Cultural Arts Program to be created in her name and formally introduce her successor.

“When other people were designing and planning, Bernice would say, ‘We don’t have time for this – we need to be doing,” said Rev. Dr. Carroll Jenkins, interim pastor of Thomas M. Thomas Memorial Presbyterian Church. “She is the match that lights the fire that results in a raging flame.”The first African-American woman ordained as a minister in the Philadelphia Presbytery, Warren served as pastor and assistant pastor of churches in Baltimore and Wilmington before being appointed to Chester Eastside in 1995. Raised in one of Chester’s public housing projects, she was surprised to see the changes such as jobs lost to companies leaving the city, the proliferation of illegal drugs and gun violence.

Chester Eastside, founded 10 years earlier in Third Presbyterian Church, creates an accepting and inclusive environment for city residents. At its core is a food-service program providing more than 100,000 meals a year to community members. The organization compliments the service with GED, parenting and food and nutrition education, a youth summer camp, food outreach and emergency aid and referral and recently inaugurated a learning center which provides a safe and stimulating space for its growing afterschool program.

When the aging facility could no longer support the organization, Chester Eastside moved in 2013 to its current location at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. It also changed its status to a not-for-profit 501 (c)(3).

“St. Paul’s welcomed them in and it has been really growing,” said Chester Eastside board member and retired Episcopal priest Rev. Bill North. “Bernice has a personality that completely welcomes you and takes you in.”

Warren did not want Chester Eastside to merely be a service agency, but “a strong voice and advocate.” She regularly attended meetings of the Chester Upland School District Board of Control, where police once removed her in handcuffs for refusing to sit during a protest, co-chairs the Delaware County chapter of Heeding God’s Call, a faith-based anti-gun violence group, and is active with Chester Watch, which addresses issues affecting immigrants.

“When she came back to her hometown, it was not to rest on her laurels, but as a woman on a mission,” said retired school psychologist Dr. Janice Hoffman Willis. “When state budget cuts resulted in a lack of school of supplies, Chester Eastside made sure the students had what they needed.”

Warren made certain the children had not just needs, but wants, by incorporating cultural arts education into Chester Eastside’s program. The new center will allow the youngsters to continue painting, dancing, writing and other forms of artistic expression.

Rev. Zuline Gray Wilkinson, a social worker and second-career minister with a Master of Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania and Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary, was introduced as “the new face of Chester Eastside leadership.” Wilkinson stood with CEI board president John Mackey as he presented Warren with a plaque honoring her remarkable service.

“I wish you could be in my place and feel what I feel,” said Warren. “It has been a wonderful journey with my Lord and I am grateful to God for the time.”

Article link:

By timmreardon

Chester Eastside Celebrates its Past, Present, and Future – News from Chester Eastside, Inc.

It was a full house at Chester Eastside’s first ever Gala on April 29, which took place in the  Ballrooms at Boothwyn. And what a celebration it was. Special honor went to Rev. Bernice Warren, who stepped down at the end of 2016 from the post she had occupied since 1995, as Executive Director of Chester Eastside.

The more than 200 people who gathered for the occasion were also honoring Rev. Zuline
Gray Wilkinson, who is now leading the agency to new ventures and an expanded role in the community. And there was a special ‘Thank you’ to Mary Payne, who oversaw the event.
Also on the agenda at the Gala was introduction of the Rev. Bernice Warren Cultural Arts
Program, which will help young people expand their horizons through various arts media.  Proceeds from the Gala will go to support this program, an enduring way to honor the legacy created by Rev. Warren.
Gala3Highlights of the evening included tributes to Rev Warren and Rev. Wilkinson by former
mentors and associates, and musical selections, one of them rendered by Rev. Warren’s gifted sister, Ms. Eva Henry.

It was both a time to reminisce and to look toward a promising future, as Chester Eastside carries on its mission of meeting basic human needs, helping people of all ages be all they can be and working for a more just society.

Whether or not you were able to attend the Gala, you are invited to make a contribution
to the Rev. Bernice Warren Cultural Arts Program and the many other programs of Chester Eastside, Inc.


By timmreardon

Walking Against Hunger – News from Chester Eastside, Inc.

Rev. Zuline Says…
Walking against hunger

Hunger Walk

Some 30 Chester Eastside, Inc., Board members and volunteers joined hundreds of others from Philadelphia area organizations sponsoring  food pantries and feeding programs  in the Walk Against Hunger at Lincoln Financial Field on April 8. They got a cup of coffee and maybe a pretzel for giving up a Saturday morning, but the real purpose of the event was somebody else’s hunger, not their own.  
Chester Eastside was distinctive, in that its delegation walked around the stadium that the Philadelphia Eagles call home and then outside the perimeter of Lincoln Financial behind a banner that let people know that hunger is a big issue for Chester Eastside. More than a walk in the chilly breezes that felt more like February than April, the Walk Against Hunger netted over $2,000 for Chester Eastside’s Food Center that serves hundreds of people every month.  
The Walk Against Hunger is sponsored each year by the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, which connects people with food assistance programs and nutrition education; provides resources to a network of food pantries; and educates the public and policymakers about responsible solutions that prevent people from going hungry.  
This was Chester Eastside’s first year to participate. It won’t be its last. And in the meantime, that banner will not  sit rolled up in a dusty corner somewhere. Folks are going to know Chester Eastside is out there working on its mission of meeting human needs, helping people of all ages be all that they can be, and working for a more just society. 
Special thanks goes to Ashley Charles from Swarthmore Presbyterian Church, who organized and provided overall coordination for the effort. Thanks also to Tonya Warren for taking care of coordinating at Chester Eastside. 
Missed the event? That’s O.K., you can still be part of that mission of meeting basic human needs through your donations and volunteer hours. For details, check our website, www,

Rev. Zuline Gray Wilkinson,
Executive Director

By timmreardon

Bag painting: A simple way to connect city and suburban children


Swarthmore and Chester: three and a half miles distant, but it can be like a hundred miles to children growing up in those two communities. How to bridge that gap between city and suburban worlds?

The Swarthmore Presbyterian Church and Chester Eastside, Inc., came up with a simple but ingenious way: bringing children from the respective communities together to decorate bags that would be used to supply families with the essentials at the Chester Eastside Food

Center.  “Those bags will be distributed during the week before Easter week,”

said CEI’s Executive Director, Rev. Zuline Wilkinson. “Colorful bags represent the hopefulness that comes with spring.

Not sermons on race and class. Not self-conscious discussions about difference. Just bring those children together to work on a joint project. Bring them together, furthermore, at the site where food is distributed twice a week. For the children at Swarthmore Presbyterian, maybe

for the first time ever, there’s something about being there that makes issues like hunger a little less abstract.
As for the Chester children, meeting up with a group of peers from what is in many ways another world is in itself an important learning experience. And what better tool than taking paints and markers and creating something new?

To learn about other new initiatives at CEI and how you can become a ‘change agent’ in support of them, check out

By timmreardon

Defying the Odds: Chester Eastside’s new Technology Training Program

Technology TrainingThese days, expertise in digital technology is becoming a necessity for anyone wanting to rise to the top in just about any field. And now Chester Eastside, Inc., is launching a program to help Chester youth do exactly that. Through CEI’s new Technology Training Program, two students at Chester High School’s STEM Academy, Kashawn Butler and Raquan Fisher, will be learning everything from programming and system administration to 3-D printing. 
“The media are full of news about the odds stacked against Chester youth,” said CEI Executive Rev. Zuline Wilkinson. “Here is some good news about how they’re defying the odds.”
Helping Kashawn and Raquan master the digital technology will be a crew of experienced mentors, all of whom are donating their time to the endeavor.  “We know computers but we’re not professional educators,” says Alan Levi, who runs his own Swarthmore-based consulting firm, “so it will be a learning experience for us as well.” 
Not the only ones who will benefit from the experience. The young interns will eventually be passing their knowledge on to other youth in the CEI After School Program and in high school. 
CEI Board President John Mackey likened the project to a Sequoia tree, which starts out as a tiny seed and emerges as a 375-foot-tall giant. “The top of the tree may sway in the wind, but the roots hold it firmly to the ground. We are all those roots,” he added, gesturing to the group that had gathered for the launching at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, home of CEI. They in turn assured him and themselves that “Yes we will.” 
Chester Eastside is partnering with the STEM Academy in putting on the Technical Training Program. More than a dozen individuals and organizations have lent their support to the endeavor. 
For more information about how to support the Technology Training Program and other programs and services offered through Chester Eastside, contact: Tonya D. Warren at 610-872-4812 or via email at

By timmreardon

A special celebration of all those wonderful folks who make Chester Eastside, Inc., possible – News from Chester Eastside, Inc.

Volunteers, staff, Board members. They are what make Chester Eastside, Inc., a living reality – not to mention the many loyal churches, organizations, foundations, and individuals with their financial support. And on December 10 we had a big “thank you” event, complete with food and carols and just plain fun. It is our special way of bringing the CEI family together each year. As for the thank you part, more than one person has said they get more out of the giving than whatever it is they give us.


Prime example: The Busy Bodies It was just by chance that former CEI Executive Director Rev. Bernice Warren and  a group of retired craftsmen from nearby Ridley Park who call themselves the Busy Bodies learned about each other back in 2005.  They were all volunteering along the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Though not many miles away, Chester was still sort of foreign territory to the men. But by the time they came back north, a new resource for CEI and a new volunteering opportunity for the Busy Bodies were underway; it’s a bond that continues to this day.


You can still be part of the celebration by making your tax-exempt gift to Chester Eastside, Inc. You can give on line at or send a donation via major credit card or Pay Pal or by designating a contribution to Chester Eastside in your United Way donation (#8253). And if you have already made a gift, many many thanks!


By timmreardon