The uniquely triangular section of Francisville connected by the 1600 blocks of Ridge Avenue and Poplar Street is home to five community outreach organizations. Although the groups offer different services, they share similar goals to provide assistance to the community.
Southwest Nustop, a drug and alcohol treatment center on the block, opened its doors to the neighborhood in 2007 when its partner center in Southwest Philadelphia was asked to expand. Located on 1609 Poplar St., the center serves as a behavioral heath outpatient clinic with a capacity of 350 to 400 members.
CEO and founder of Southwest Nustop Dr. Tom Reid said the programs provided by the treatment center work to build relationships between its members and the community.
“We provide social events throughout the year so that the community will get to know our clients and vice versa so that the clients can begin to react and interact with the community surrounding us,” Reid said.
One of these programs is a “day of respect” where it has a picnic and outdoor events for members and their families. The event ends with a softball or basketball game between Southwest Nustop and a law enforcement group.
An emergency shelter service called Trevor’s Place is across the street from Southwest Nustop. The establishment is located at 1624 Poplar St. and offers an array of programs. Trevor’s Place specializes in serving women and children in need. Constance Lindsay, the director of Trevor’s Place said the facility houses 21 families and nearly 33 children. Some of the programs include life skills courses, case management, adult education and after-school programs for children.
The shelter received its name in 1983 when an 11-year-old boy named Trevor Ferrell made it his mission to assist the homeless in Philadelphia. He created Trevor’s Campaign for the Homeless which developed into Trevor’s Place.
“Part of our mission is to be a part of the community, to educate the community about homelessness. Because we are a service provider. It is also to provide services to the community,” Lindsay said. “I think there’s a lot of people that are in need in North Philadelphia still.”
Next door to Trevor’s Place is the Church of the Living God. The church offers religious services but does not limit its efforts solely to the people of its congregation. Every Monday at noon volunteers from this Pentecostal church meet at the building at 1632 Poplar St. to provide an open lunch for the homeless. Volunteers at the church lead participants in a prayer service followed by a home-cooked meal and desserts. Members of the congregation donate clothes for distribution after the meal.
Some attendees come from local homeless shelters including Trevor’s Place. Lindsay said she believes the members appreciate the hot meal even though Trevor’s Place provides three meals a day.
“Sometimes the church might have fried chicken or fresh fried fish and we’re having a cold cut sandwich. If you have a choice between a bologna sandwich and a fried chicken platter, you’re going to take the fried chicken platter,” Lindsay said.
The Church of the Living God also supports the community by preparing children in the neighborhood to go back to school each fall.
“We give out school supplies. Every time that it’s time to go back to school we give out backpacks and everything,” said co-chairman and administrator of the church Alice McBryde. “It’s usually a Saturday we do that. We let the kids come and have fun and we just give out hot dogs and cheeseburgers just to let them know that the church is here.”
Each of these organizations has helped residents from across the city with funding provided from outside or inside donations. Trevor’s Place is contracted through the city of Philadelphia and Southwest Nustop is licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Programs. However, two of the blocks’ other institutions are the efforts of dedicated individuals and families.
The Sultan Jihad Ahmad Community Foundation Center is a nonprofit organization created by a husband and wife. Sultan and Harriet Ahmad became advocates against youth violence after losing their 15-year-old son to peer gun violence. Their organization was named after their son and has been located at 1646 Ridge Ave. for six years.
When the community center was first founded in 1993, its primary goal was to raise money to provide youth scholarships. Ten years later the foundation shifted its focus from scholarships to expand its programs.
“What we are trying to build is an institution, not just a program. Programs come and go based on their funding, but institutions have longevity so were hoping to create a way to stabilize us as well as create future growth for us,” Ahmad said.
Ahmad said he believes his community center is welcome in the neighborhood.
“Francisville is a very family-oriented community. We have fit in well. We have many friends here in Francisville,” Ahmad said. “We have children who live in this community who have interacted with us in our programs here.”
Located a couple of doors down from Sultan Jihad Ahmed Community Foundation Center is the Mary Jane Home Enrichment Center at 1622 Ridge Ave. It serves as a shelter and offers nightly dinners for homeless people in the area. The center is the brainchild of a woman named Edna Williams who, like Sultan Ahmad, runs the center with the help of family and friends.
Sebastian Simmons is a volunteer at Mary Jane Home Enrichment Center who became involved through a friendship with Williams’ son.
“Mrs. Williams just houses people who are in need. She has sons that work with her,” Simmons said. “It’s mostly people in this neighborhood, but word travels so you get people coming from Lehigh or Diamond, over on the other side of Parrish. We got people that will be riding by and will stop and get clothes and so forth.”
Together these five organizations give the community a chance to collaborate and work together. With such a dense concentration of organizations in one area, residents have the opportunity to network with these foundations. Director of clinical services at Southwest Nustop Pat McGarvey said she believes in enriching the members of the treatment center with the knowledge of the other community organizations.
“Besides what we provide of services directly here on-site, we try to bring in as much of the community as we can,” McGarvey said. “When they leave here they can know other places within the community. They can go get all the support that they need.”
Ahmad said he believes the ability to collaborate is very important.
“The idea is that there is no one answer to these many problems that were looking at,” Ahmad said. “I think the success of most organizations is going to have to do with collaborations.”
Unlike most city blocks, the 1600 blocks of Ridge Avenue and Poplar Street have proven to be a tight-knit community stitched together by the collaborative efforts of five organizations working to improve the lives of local residents.
“I think all of us have the same motive of trying to improve the quality of life and trying to help folks get results. The groups in this area seem to all have a designated purpose but a collective idea of trying to make a difference,” Ahmad said.
Soundslide: A Look Inside the Church of the Living God