Located at 6148 Cedar Ave., the Community of Compassion Community Development Corp. is trying to do its part to make the neighborhood a better place to live.
Some of the most important outreach programs, which are extensions of the service ministry for the Church of Christian Compassion across the street, include groceries in partnership with Philabundance Food Bank and SHARE Food Program.
“We started off with SHARE in 2009,” said Elder Linder Brooks, a minister at the church. “We ran SHARE from 2009 to the present. In between that time, we became interested in doing more. I went to Philabundance knowing that I had put myself into a program with SHARE for over six months, so we got into Philabundance,” she continued, “and now Philabundance comes out weekly with tons of fresh fruits and vegetables and also groceries.”
Brooks described the partnership with Philabundance as the largest program that serves a wide variety of people in need. “Weekly we have lines come in from around the corner, individuals standing in that line could reach up to 200 people,” explained Brooks, “Including the individual and their family household could be over a thousand people fed in a week. Our normal drop is 8,000 pounds [of food] in a week.”
The participants in this program come from a wide variety of ages, background and unlike the SHARE program are not limited geographically to the neighborhood. But Brooks said that she believes seniors make up a significant portion of the participants. “What I’ve noticed is that we have a lot of elderly people that are foster care parents now,” she explained, “and we have the elderly parents who are taking care of their grandchildren and in some cases their great-grandchildren because for whatever reason their parents are not there now. So now grandma and grandpop have to raise the children. And because they’re on a low income and food stamps isn’t enough. That’s where Philabundance comes in.”
In addition to seniors, the program serves a wide variety of people including the unemployed, low-income families and single mothers like Esther Marshall. “I started coming because my income is low and I have a son in college. So that helped me out because grown men eat a lot,” she said with a laugh. “A lot of times I don’t have the money to buy food so this is a blessing in itself.”
The program is staffed entirely by volunteers. In the morning they unload and organize the food from Philabundance and see that the participants fill out the necessary paperwork and make sure each family receives a correct amount of food. Afterward, the volunteers eat lunch together.
The volunteers largely come from the church congregation, and have what Brooks described as a genuine compassion and desire to help others. Additionally, some of the volunteers were participants in the program. One of them, Gregory Jackson, was homeless for three years. Jackson said he credits the charitable work of the Community of Compassion and Church of Christian Compassion specifically with helping him to get back on his feet.
“I’m not afraid to admit that practically everything I have on has been a blessing from this church to me,” Jackson said. “You have many churches in the neighborhood, but not all of the churches have the structure or the blessing to help the community develop.”
“They had the clothes drive, I have better clothes than when I was living on the street,” Jackson said, speaking gratefully of the outreach programs that helped him. “They have helped me financially, I was blessed with being one of the people who painted the new church. The food from Philabundance, the food from SHARE, that’s been a blessing all from this one church.”
Jackson, who volunteers to help with the Philabundance program every Wednesday, is currently living with his sister and working as a painter.
In addition to the Philabundance and SHARE food programs, the Community of Compassion also hosts a 12-step program and children’s clothing drive.
The community center also hosts programs for all members of the church and neighborhood such as a bible study group, line dancing classes and creative activities like the “Stamp-It” scrapbooking class that Brooks herself participated in. Additionally, education classes in literacy and computer science are offered.
Speaking of the impact the center and programs have on the community, Brooks said “the community benefits, as well as the members of the church.”
For more information about the Church of Christian Compassion and Community of Compassion CDC, visit www.philly.compassion-ministries.com.