By Andrea Jordan and Samantha Byles

South Philadelphia: Civic Association Focuses on Building a Community

South Philadelphia: Civic Association Focuses on Building a Community
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The Lower Moyamensing Civic Association does not have its own dedicated office space.

Instead, this organization utilizes the back office at the Fumo Family Branch Library, 2437 S. Broad St., for its general body and committee meetings. Although the organization has used space inside the library since its founding in 2007, it has established a role in South Philadelphia that extends far beyond the branch’s doors.

“The buzz they have created in the neighborhood within the past six years is really amazing,” Fumo Branch head librarian Renee Pokorny said. “Regulars to the library have come to acknowledge the group and after they check out a book, they may wander to the back room and sit in on a meeting. And before you know it, they’re attending a fundraiser event.”

Local residents enjoy pizza while discussing community initiatives at the LoMo fundraiser event.

Local residents enjoy pizza while discussing community initiatives at the civic association’s fundraiser event.

The Lower Moyamensing Civic Association, also known as LoMo, has made it a mission to improve the quality of living in the neighborhood it serves located between Broad and 8th Streets from Oregon to Snyder Avenues.

LoMo Vice president, Todd Schwartz, says that without a doubt, Lower Moyamensing is a good area. But, as with many urban neighborhoods, there is a need for improvements.

“Every neighborhood has its good and its bad,” Schwartz said. “Lower Moyamensing is a great place to live…We just hope we can make it a little bit better.”

Schwartz, who joined the organization in its first year, said that he thought joining the organization was a fun and effective way of improving and joining the community.

“I saw a flyer looking for residents to join the Lower Moyamensing Civic Association and I thought it was a great way to be a part of the community that you live in.”

For LoMo President Kim Massare the organization is an extension of her connection to South Philadelphia and the Lower Moyamensing area.

“I remember growing up and walking to school with my mom and being able to wave and say hello to all the older neighbors that lived on my street,” Massare said. “That bond and connection to the community is all I really know.”

Massare, who now lives in her mother’s childhood home, which is blocks away from the house in which she herself was raised, considers building social and communal relationships just as important as improving the community.

“Being a member of the group is an easy way to knock on neighbor’s doors, meet them and say hello,” Massare said.

Beginning this year, LoMo began to collect membership dues for incoming members. Lower Moyamensing residents can purchase an individual membership at $25 a year that permits a vote in the organization’s board of directors election and other matters that the board sees fit for members to vote on. An associate membership for $20 a year is open to residents and business owners. While an associate membership does not grant  voting rights, such members are still welcomed and encouraged to share their opinions on matters within the community.

“I think it’s just really important being a part of your neighborhood. It leads to a unique living experience, because you can be involved in what’s going on,” Massare said.

South Philadelphia residents come together to support Lower Moyamensing Civic Association.

South Philadelphia residents come together to support Lower Moyamensing Civic Association.

When the organization began, it had four committees. Now, six years later, the organization has grown to six different committees. The original four committees are: outreach; environment; public safety and planning plus the all important zoning. The two committees additions are finance and fundraising and education.

The finance and fund raising committee grew out of the annual Lower Moyamensing Flea Market-the first being held in April 2010. The Flea Market allows residents to purchase a  craft table and sell their crafts at a street fair held at the intersection of Broad and Snyder streets from Snyder to Jackson streets.

In a similar fashion, the education committee was established as the organization grew.

“The addition of the education committee was a natural progression in the growth of a civic association,” Schwartz said.  In order to be an effective civic association, Schwartz and the group believe in being flexible to the community and its residents.

“They have their hands in everything,” 1st District City Councilman Mark Squilla said. Squilla of the 1st District encompassing Lower Moyamensing, briefly attended the organization’s first fundraising event held at the end of the February at Stoagie Joe’s Tavern. “They are the eyes and ears of the community,” Squilla said. “So everything they do really reflects what the community is worried about, what is important to them.”

The Lower Moyamensing Civic Association board members at the fundraising event.

The Lower Moyamensing Civic Association board members at a fundraising event.

“They look out for the community,” Ed Hogarty said, who points out how he was personally welcomed to the community by the organization when he moved to the area late in 2007. “It’s nice to feel like you belong somewhere where people actually care.”

Hogarty attributes the group’s attentiveness to the community and its residents as reason for the six-year success of the organization and its continued success in the future.

This year, the Lower Moyamensing Civic Association has scheduled its annual events, such as the Flea Market, scheduled for April 27, and several neighborhood cleanups throughout the neighborhood. Also on the itinerary is an initiative partnering with South Philadelphia High School to improve the green garden space at the school and to create a green roof. Using the fundraising website, Projexity, the organization will start a campaign to collect $10,000 towards a green roof with Roofmeadow, a landscaping company specifically focused on green roofing projects.

“Once people hear about what they have going on, residents will want to come out and support and be a part of it,” Hogarty said.

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