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,chestereastside.org.

Rev. Zuline Gray Wilkinson,
Executive Director
610-872-4812

By timmreardon

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

Bag5

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 www.chestereastside.org

.
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 twarren@chestereastside.org.

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.

vols1

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.

vols2

You can still be part of the celebration by making your tax-exempt gift to Chester Eastside, Inc. You can give on line at www.chestereastside.org 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

In their own words: Thank you, Chester Eastside, Inc.

“I needed an extra bag of food last week. I was really nervous about asking. You all were more than kind and also invited me to more events you are sponsoring. The man who handles the food is always singing God’s praise. You feed us lunch and do things for our family with such loving kindness. I pray God’s blessings on each of you. Thank you!”
                                                                                                               – A Chester motherfood1

“We live amid the constant threat of guns and violence in our neighbor-hood. “This summer for the first time, the children not only felt safe but had the chance to talk about their fear.” 
                              -Mother of three first-time participants in the Chester Eastside, Inc.
Summer Enrichment Camp.

food2
In this holiday season, as you think about gift giving, you are encouraged to think about a special gift to  Chester Eastside, Inc. It’s one of those gifts that never stops giving, in lives sustained and a better start in life for the next generation and for generations after that. 
 
Chester Eastside, Inc., P.O. Box 36, Chester, PA 19016, is a 501.c.3 tax-exempt community organization. You can give on line at http://www.chestereastside.org via major credit/debit card, 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

Chester Eastside, Inc.: Changing lives

“[Chester Eastside, Inc.] exposed me to relationships and opportunities that helped me see beyond my local context…. In middle school, I held my first job helping in the library at [CEI]. Secondly, they allowed me to help others with reading. These opportunities built confidence in me and planted the seeds for my passion to teach and for the arts. Lastly, [CEI] has continued to serve as a resource throughout my vocational journey. I am really proud of and believe in the mission of [CEI], and feel like there is much to learn through their efforts.” 
-Dr. Sarah Farmer, faculty member, Yale Divinity School.

farmer1In this holiday season, as you think about gift giving, you are encouraged to think about a special gift to  Chester Eastside, Inc. It’s one of those gifts that never stops giving, in lives sustained and a better start in life for the next generation and for generations after that. 
 
Chester Eastside, Inc., P.O. Box 36, Chester, PA 19016, is a 501.c.3 tax-exempt agency. You can give on line at http://www.chestereastside.org via major credit card, Pay Pal or by designating a contribution to Chester Eastside in your United Way donation (#8253). 
 
And if you have already made such a gift, many, many thanks!

By timmreardon

Chester Eastside is expanding its food program in the face of urgent need and new challenges – News from Chester Eastside, Inc.

nov-28-16       Numbers can be numbing: The equivalent of more than 120,000 meals provided by
Chester Eastside, Inc., in a year. Over a thousand people receiving food in the month of
October alone. But behind every one of those statistics is an individual or family
struggling just to get by: a person with a disability; a young mother raising a family on
her own; an elderly person beyond the work years. Or just somebody laid off from a low-
paying job and needing a temporary lift to get back up and keep going.
       Already one of the largest such operations in the area, Chester Eastside is looking
to expand its food program: being open more days each week, adding one or more
another sites. That means a greater effort from everybody with a stake in Chester
Eastside’s mission of meeting basic human needs, helping people of all ages be all that
they can be, and working for a more just society.
nov-28-16-1
       Nearly half of the people being served by the Chester Eastside Food Center are children.
A new report by Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY) shows the toll that
poverty is taking on children in Delaware County as a whole. Needless to say, Chester,

reputed to be one of the most poverty-beset cities in the nation, is a special case in point

in that regard. In the County overall, the share of children experiencing economic and
related hardships was higher in 2015 than in the depths of the recession of 2008. The rate
of poverty among children was 14.1% as compared with 5.6% for seniors. And child
poverty has immediate ramifications for everything from child wellness to success in
school to the chances of winding up in prison.

New Challenges

     The timing for the expansion couldn’t be better. Since the Great Depression of the 1930s, government at all levels has provided the social safety net that is the mark of any
civilized society. But there are signs that government may be less of a resource for social
welfare programs in the future, at least in the near term. As one person close to the
Washington scene put it recently, “We the people have the responsibility to take care of

the indigent in our society. It’s not the government’s job.”

       While ‘we the people‘ can be interpreted as neighbors looking out for their
neighbors, an admirable sentiment to be sure, in reality in a place like Chester, struggling
with major economic challenges, it boils down to the lion’s share being borne by agencies
like Chester Eastside working together to create their own social safety net. There are
many such agencies at work in Chester, doing a great job of looking after those in need.
Now they will be facing new challenges, very likely with less help from government

programs.

Hidden costs

      What people sometimes overlook are the hidden costs behind every one of Chester
Eastside’s programs: managing the basic agency functions, keeping the lights and heat
on, paying for custodial services, and maintaining and upgrading the premises. Think of it
as the ‘overhead’ for running any operation.

      In this holiday season, as you think about gift giving, you are encouraged to think about a special gift to Chester Eastside, Inc. It’s one of those gifts that never stops giving, in lives sustained and a better start in life for the next generation and for generations after that.

     Chester Eastside, Inc., P.O. Box 36, Chester, PA 19016, is a 501.c.3 tax-exempt organization. You can give on line at http://www.chestereastside.org via major credit card or Pay Pal or designate a contribution to Chester Eastside in your United Way donation (#8253).

 

By timmreardon

New Executive at Chester Eastside ready to take the reins: Rev. Zuline Wilkinson comes with an impressive resume

Zuline1.pngRev. 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.

By timmreardon

Huge Thanksgiving bounty from the County to benefit Chester Eastside’s people – News from Chester Eastside, Inc.

thanksgiving1

It was a massive undertaking by anybody’s measure: Getting thousands of pounds of food stored away at Chester Eastside and distributing the remainder to other food cupboards in the Chester community. But when the Delaware County Council designated Chester Eastside as the main delivery point for its annual Thanksgiving Food Drive this year, they picked a center who’s staff and volunteers are known for taking on a big job and doing it with style. 
 
The annual drive’s goal of 25,000 pounds of nonperishables  was ambitious, to say the least. That will go a long way to helping the more than 600 men women, and children who receive food aid from Chester Eastside every month. 
 
Open two days a week, Chester Eastside’s Food Center is one of the busiest such programs in the County. But it’s not just bags of food that people receive. It’s also a hot meal, useful information on a range of services, and, most of all, a warm welcome that says, “You matter.” 

By timmreardon