Point Breeze: Diversified Community Services
Thirty pairs of hopeful eyes gazed up at Mitch Little with anticipation as he cracked open the first pages of a children’s book.
Surrounded by press and unfamiliar dignitaries of the South Philadelphia area, this high school sophomore volunteered his time to read to the children of the community.
Years later, Little is planning a book reading for next week in the same area of Point Breeze; only now, instead of volunteering it will be a part of his job.
“Here I am years later as an adult doing some of the same work,” Little said. “It’s just interesting how things come full circle and I had no idea that I’d be back here doing the work that I’m doing.”
For over eight years, Little has been working at Diversified Community Services (DCS), an organization that offers an array of helpful programs for the people of Philadelphia. Starting as a social worker helping citizens with issues of abuse and neglect, he worked his way up to his current position as deputy director.
Aiming to provide a helping hand to the city of Philadelphia, DCS first began its mission in 1968 when settlement houses were rapidly spreading throughout the area. The merger of various University of Pennsylvania settlement houses that provided needed services to the community is what developed this organization into what it is today. Though there are only six settlement houses left in Philadelphia, DCS is still a growing establishment that has a huge impact on the city.
“[We offer] everything from safety net services to men’s programs, parenting programs, workforce development and after-school programs,” Little said. “ I think that is one of the things that makes us such a unique and integrated organization in the community- because of our history.”
Since this organization has been established for over 40 years, DCS has been able to develop many programs that provide a wide range of services. Little explained that one of its core facilities is the Mamie Nichols Center, located on 1529 South 22nd St. This location serves as the administrative office and also offers work force development programs and green job readiness programs, which offer hands-on classes for those who want to integrate themselves into the workforce.
Another core branch of the program is their two licensed daycare-learning centers, both of which are accredited. While promoting an educational and artistic atmosphere, the centers also are very accessible, making it easy for all members of the community to take advantage of their services.
For the older children of the community, DCS offers various after school programs for grades kindergarten to eighth. The aim is to offer the children activities that would teach them lessons that might not be learned in a classroom setting. Nadine Hall, DCS’s out-of-school time coordinator, explained one of the summer activities called “Project Earn and Learn.” She described it as an entrepreneurial experience that gave the students a chance to sell their own products and talk to bank associates about budgeting, banking, check cashing and ATM understanding.
“Our children were very excited about it and all the products that they sold we gave them the money, so that went over really well,” Hall said.
Though every facility offered by DCS is influential to the community, Little said that The Dickson House is the organization’s most important. This is the location where many of the classes and community events are held.
The people of the community heavily rely on word-of-mouth communication when it comes to spreading the different events and opportunities that DCS offers. Because of the changing times, technological advances have made it substantially easier for this group to promote their services.
“We’ve caught the digital wave so from Facebook to YouTube, we do it all in really trying to get the word out,” Little said. “ [We] network as well [by] letting our city partners and community partners know about what’s coming up next.”
By involving other city organizations and informing the whole community,DCS tries to positively affect the whole city of Philadelphia and address issues that are troubling the whole city and even the world.
Jennifer Swain, the Internet coordinator of DCS, explained how her experience in the military gave her the opportunity to travel and help other nations who are struggling. Throughout her journey, she realized that many of the problems facing foreign nations are similar to the local issues that DCS is helping to solve.
“You see the need not only where you are from, which [I] grew up right here in South Philadelphia, but I also see the need in other countries,” Swain said. “It gives you a different perspective and it also pushes you to continue [to help] because you see that its’ not just where you are. All of us are
suffering to some extent.”
This idea that people aren’t getting the help they need to be successful in this world is one of the driving forces behind DCS. The organization is steadily growing because they see the need in the Philadelphia community for assistance in all aspects of life.
“I think that Diversified Community Services has nothing but growth ahead,” Little said. “I think that we will continue our mission to assist families, children and young people towards self-sufficiency. “
To get involved with this organization and help people succeed in their journey to self-sufficiency, visit the Diversified Community Services website site at http://dcsphila.org/ or visit the Facebook page to find out upcoming events and opportunities.
“The need for partnership and collaboration is now bigger then ever as we understand that both natural recourses and funding streams are shrinking,” Little said. “We just all need to get together and take a part and do more for the community.”