Arcides DeJesus is a master networker. For 15 years, he’s been helping communities in Philadelphia get housing, food, emergency care and the information they need to survive. With seven years working for foster care provider Southern Home Services in Germantown and eight years with Catholic Social Services under his belt, DeJesus has made a lot of contacts.
It’s his job to find out what the community members need and hook them up with the agency that can help them.
As the Social Work Supervisor at Catholic Social Services’ Casa del Carmen Family Center in Hunting Park, he oversees dozens of programs and workshops that the people of north Philadelphia rely on to keep their families together, safe and healthy.
Residents from all over the city come to Casa for services such as emergency food and rent, doctor referrals for pregnancies, parenting skills classes, day care and ESL classes.
According to DeJesus, the most important service Casa provides is knowledge of the social care network in Philadelphia. “Information is power, you know,” he said. “I connect people right away.”
With such a bleak economy raising unemployment levels across the city, DeJesus spends a lot of time trying to set residents of Hunting Park and north Philadelphia up with companies that are still hiring.
“We have a good connection with Express Employment Services downtown. They have workers for hotels, the airport, private companies and manufacturing,” he said. “They always take someone if they have the opportunity and the person is qualified.
Despite having so much to supervise every day, DeJesus is looking forward to the new program expansions Catholic Social Services has planned for Casa del Carmen.
“By April we’re going to have foster care and adoption,” he said. “We wanted to provide more services to the community.”
The increase in services will also come with a building renovation, which is good news for DeJesus and his cluttered office. The hundreds of agency and business fliers currently in stacks on the desk and window sill will have more room to spread out and the walls will finally be large enough for his key chain collection. Only a fraction of them fit in his space now.
“I had only two, but people thought I was starting a collection. They just started to bring them to me. A lot of friends who visited other countries would bring one back,” he said. “I have a plastic bag full of them. I have to organize them in my new office.”
For now, DeJesus will continue to assist the people of Hunting Park in finding the programs and information they need to survive and grow while living in Philadelphia. “It is very nice when you help somebody,” he said. “It’s satisfying when they become successful at what they want to do after so long.”