Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, has seen its share of hard times. This city of neighborhoods is often divided among geographical, economic, ethnic, and racial lines. As with any large urban area, crossing one street to another can land one in what feels like a completely different world. Fortunately, there are many residents who have formed or participate in organizations to help combat urban blight, crime, and decline.
There is no shortage of volunteer opportunities in and around my neighborhood in the Philadelphia’s Port Richmond Section which runs adjacent to the Delaware River. This section is bounded by the south by up-and-coming Fishtown and Bridesburg to the North. The Western edge shares a long border with the perennially troubled Kensington section.
Founded in 1989, the Port Richmond Town Watch (PRTW) has meets every Friday and patrols the streets of the western blocks that run into Kensington. The actual border between the two neighborhoods is subject to much debate, but generally, streets West of Aramingo Avenue suffer from much crime and quality-of-life issues. All of this area is covered by the Police Department’s 24th District.
To supplement the, policing efforts, PRTW’s indefatigable leader, longtime resident Mary Ann Trombetta reflects “We are the eyes and ears for the Police Department.” In addition to the weekly patrols, the group is regularly in attendance with local police and political leaders. The group meets every Friday in Campbell Square Park on Allegheny Avenue and needs as much man power as possible. Volunteers should meet the fiery Ms. Trombetta by seven pm and can walk or patrol by car. In addition to coordinating the patrols, Trombetta oversees an informative email list and regularly posts relevant news on Facebook.
As a veteran high school teacher in Philadelphia, I have seen first-hand the effects that crime and poverty have had on the negative climate of schools and the under-achievement of many of the students. One volunteer exists for those who wish to help make a difference in signing up for the organization City Year. I have worked alongside members of this group. They are often spotted throughout the city as individuals entering or exiting the numerous school buildings. They are best known for their uniforms of red windbreakers, khakis and the statement “Give a Year, Change the World.” According to http://www.cityyear.org/, volunteers provide:
- Academic support
- Attendance and positive behavior encouragement
- Community and school improvements
Check out the website for testimonials and criteria for admission. Bear in mind volunteers will attend training and that opportunity is a ten month commitment.