Author: Lawrence Schofer

Club meeting, September 12, 2018 – Urban Resources Development Corporation

Joe Waldo presented the work of the Urban Resources Development  Corporation. This group was founded in 1995, and is now sponsored by 12 religious congregations devoted to community stabilization in Northwest Philadelphia.

 

Initially, the group was involved in housing rehabilitation. It purchased and renovated over 30 homes, with a focus on “the first abandoned house” in a block. Prevention of that first deterioration is a way of preventing the deterioration of the rest of the block. Home prices in Germantown have begun to rise, and now the organization spends only about 10% of its resources on this program.

 

The major focus of the organization is now assisting low income, elderly homeowners with home repair. The group identifies and manages contractors and helps provide low interest loans through Univest bank. Currently, about one house every 10 days gets this work done on the outside of the house, and there are now 52 families on a waiting list.

 

Rotary could get involved in this by sending individual volunteers, contributing to a specific project, or in many other inventive ways. The URDC receives no governmental funds; all financing is done through foundations and individual contributions.

August 29, 2018 – Education Law Center

Deborah Gordon Klehr, executive director of the Education Law Center, explained the work of her group that is dedicated to ensuring access to a quality public education in the state of Pennsylvania. There are 3 major strategies:

  • access to quality public education for all children in Pennsylvania
  • dismantling the school to prison pipeline (this means reducing punishment that is meted out to children who are too young or who are discriminated against in various senses)
  • fight for fair funding for all school districts in the state.

The center, which is funded by foundation grants and individual contributions, receives many comments and complaints about issues in the schools. The center looks for patterns that it considers inappropriate in the schools, and works to provide remedies. Although the group does go to court if necessary, the preference is to solve issues by discussion and by emphasizing policies that are mandated by existing laws.

 

Further information can be found on the website of the group at www.elc-pa.org

August 15, 2018 – Beds for Kids

Becky Sednak, executive director of One House at a Time, describe the work of her organization, and in particular its focus on “beds for kids”.

 

Initially working with furniture for the formerly homeless, this organization for the past 17 years has focused on providing children a bed of their own. Originally, the group provided a box spring, mattress, a sheet set, and a blanket. This led to a discussion of the bedbug problem, and steel frame beds have been now substituted for the box spring. In addition, the Temperapedic mattress company has agreed to supply high quality mattresses free, with the organization paying only for transportation.

 

More recently the group has added pillows, mattress encasement, stuffed animals to choose from, and educational materials. In conjunction with a professor from St. Joseph’s University, the group has found that children with their own bed sleep 30 minutes more per night.

 

Their healthy sleep habits initiative now includes toothbrushes, brushing instructions, and books as alternative to using electronic materials at home. The academic study has led the group to emphasize several sleep education messages: in bed before 9 PM; no caffeine (e.g., iced tea); and no electronics in the bedroom.

 

The need for such beds in the greater Philadelphia area is approximately 6000 beds per year. Currently, the group can supply 2000 to their clients, who are found through the social service agencies of the area.