Tuesday, October 30, 2012

West Philadelphia High School A Safe Haven For Hurricane Sandy Evacuees

red cross volunteers smile as they pass out oranges

helen mae reisner & norma edwards volunteer nurses

A hurricane can be defined as a tropical cyclone, a storm with winds that blow at a minimum of 74 miles per hour. Along with strong winds a hurricane can be accompanied with heavy rain, thunder and lightning. Hurricane Sandy made her presence felt late Sunday afternoon with temperatures dropping, sporadic gusts of wind and heavy rain. Mayor Nutter, through a press conference, urged “to all residents if you live in a low line area, if you live in a flood prone area you need to relocate right now.” To assist evacuees that do not have anywhere to go, The City of Philadelphia has provided emergency shelter to its residents at West Philadelphia High School, Roxborough High School and Samuel Fels High School. Mayor Nutter explains those site were picked for a reason, “they are large, they are relatively new and they are able to accommodate a large number of people as well as pets,”  At West Philadelphia High School, the emergency response team appeared prepared and ready to serve Philadelphian evacuees. There are Red Cross workers, Police Officers, Civic Volunteers walking quietly through the hallways. ” My apartment is on the Mill Creek and last year my whole apartment was flooded and I was unwilling to learn that lesson again.” I am disabled , I came here so that me and my grandchildren would be safe.” “Once Mayor Nutter had said The New West building, I was out,” Ms. Iceland of the Lucien Blackwell Apartments  explained. ” I am glad that I came and I feel safe,” she continued. The Gymnasium was quiet with neatly lined cots covered in Red Cross blankets. “I am homeowner,” Mrs. Jenell  Anderson of South West Philadelphia explains . “I am scared to death of trees falling on my house. ” “The roof is not stable and it may collapse.” “ I rushed so fast to West Philadelphia High School that I brought my school books but forgot my clothing and personal items.” The Red Cross has been great they gave me a sweat suit and a bag of toiletries,” Anderson revealed. There is an intergenerational group of volunteers in the building that range from  seniors to college students .  Helen Mae Reisner a nurse administrator for the United States Postal Service and a volunteer nurse for this Hurricane Relief effort  explains,” I have been doing this for a long time I am here to serve and offer comfort to the evacuees. “ Alongside Helen is Norma Edwards a 21 year nurse veteran for the City of Philadelphia . “I worked for the city for 21 years at health center #4.” “This is what we do, we are involved in many civic operatives regarding nursing.” “We are with the medical reserves, first responders and today volunteers for the relief effort implemented here at West Philadelphia High School,” Edwards explained.  If you are a pet owner, there is also a section in the school for pets. At that time the shelter contained 5 cats.  Janet from the Philadelphia County Animal Rescue Team PCART explains , ” After Katrina people were unwilling to leave their animals and so the Red Cross concluded that shelters should be set up for residents  and their pets.” In the cafeteria Red Cross workers are anxiously passing out sandwiches and fresh fruit. The area is quiet and there is a sense of contentment. People are playing cards, game boards , children’s feet are kicking under the table gently as they wait in anticipation for their mothers to peel their oranges. It still is the beginning and the storm has yet to arrive but amidst this potential crisis The City of Philadelphia  is prepared with what feels like a safe haven for its South West and West Philadelphian Residents. Karimu Abena Hamilton                                                                             

ms. iceland of lucien blackwell apartments


Tuesday, October 2, 2012


1100 Block of Wilton Street Moving On Up
grant larry palmer block captain

Through the Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee

The Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee is a community based initiative designed to encourage and support residents in gaining control of their immediate environment. This is implemented through a series of city wide agencies such as The Office of Sustainability which explores food, energy and greening initiatives. The Office of Neighborhood Services through their Community Life Improvement Program CLIP addresses graffiti, abandoned buildings, lots and overall sanitation issues and finally ,The Office of Community Services which provides Philadelphia residents with Omni –gender and age,family ,education and employment services. Last week Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee PMBC hosted its annual clean block contest. The contest is held after a seasonal city wide cleaning schedule. The Program is designed around short term projects that require a neighborhood leader or Block Captain and participating residents or Block Association. The 1100 block of Wilton Street in South West Philadelphia is a participant this year. Grant Larry Palmer like most residents on this street is a home owner and a second generation resident. “As block captain” he expresses proudly, “I intend to take full advantage of the resources the City of Philadelphia has made available to us.” “I would like to restore the block to its original state where all of the houses have the Corinthian style columns and lamp post that light the street.” ”I was raised on this block and this was my mother’s house.” Larry explained as he passed out supplies of push brooms, paint and paint brushes to his neighbors.” “Its Judgment day and the sensation of community pride are infectious.  School is out thus, the children ride their bikes up and down the side walk with anticipation of a special surprise.  Elderly women hustle and bustle to arrange tables and table cloths with tin foil pans toppled over with southern based comfort foods like fried fish, chicken, kale and collards, string beans, sweet potatoes, cole slaw, upside down cake and sweet potato pie. Judges look on beaming and impressed with the strong sense of unity that is exhibited among the block residents.  Wanda Jones an administrator for The Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee explains, “The block is judged on several different aspects. “Community involvement, the history of the block, block unity, cleanliness and beautification projects.” “Resident community involvement and awareness is key components to the success of block beautiful contestants.” Wanda Jones reiterates. The bouncer has arrived, an antiquated Philadelphia trolley is parked at the end of the street and soul music is playing. The judges of this contest detail a cross demographic of civic leaders from former block captains, elected officials, church leaders and even other city agency administrators. Essentially individuals who have made an impact through demonstrating strong leadership and organizational skills are qualified to judge in this contest. Tara E. Smith a community support specialist under the Town Watch integrated service divisions and also functioning as one of the judges for the contest states” I have a lot of respect for block captains and their ability to enroll the community, taking into consideration everyone’s busy schedule it really is an accomplishment for blocks to enter the block beautiful contest.” Also as an liaison for the South West division of Town Watch the competition is an excellent promotional There is a great since of accomplishment amongst the residents this afternoon. The Block Beautiful contest can be considered a stepping stone, grooming neighborhoods to explore and secure other neighborhood development projects like planting trees, home weatherization,healthy food initiatives and implementing a community business improvement district. City wide initiatives and support systems partnered with concerned organized residents is the recipe for sustainable communities.  karimu abena hamilton