South Philadelphia: Neighborhood Association Unites the Community

Dalzell also discussed how SOSNA has helped with the zoning process in Graduate Hospital.

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The South of South Neighborhood Association continues to strive to better the community through its nonprofit initiatives. Since its founding in 1989, SOSNA has taken on many roles for its neighborhood.

Program coordinator Andrew Dalzell has had a major impact on the community through SOSNA.
Program coordinator Andrew Dalzell has had a major impact on the community through SOSNA.

“[SOSNA] had a thrift shop at one point. It did a lot of housing counseling. It even partnered with real estate developers to do affordable housing projects and rehab, things like that,” said Andrew Dalzell, program coordinator of SOSNA. “It helped keep seniors in their homes or if their house were falling apart, it would help them find them a new home near by.”

Dalzell said its mission is simple: to stimulate community and economic development.

“I think we see [community development] as creating lots of connections and ties between people in the community, themselves and the places here so that we are one,” he said. “They say that a neighborhood is experienced by every person different and so we try and have shared experiences and shared goals.”

SOSNA currently focuses on its work based on five initiatives: clean and green, community impact, economic development, safety and zoning. Although Dalzell is the only official staff member for SOSNA, these initiatives are supported by a number of volunteer members from the local community.

“We have a lot of professionals in the neighborhood who volunteer their time and expertise. We have people who do insurance, lawyers, architects who work with our zoning committee,” said Jennifer Leupold, vice-chairwoman of SOSNA and senior program director of the Christian Street YMCA.“So there are just so many people with skills in the neighborhood and SOSNA is sort of the clearinghouse where we try to identify neighborhood needs and then see what the resources are in the neighborhood to meet those needs.”

Over the past year, SOSNA has helped develop and bring two new parks to the community. A pocket park was built at 22nd and Catharine streets with $5,000 from a fundraiser organized by SOSNA and the community. People who donated over $150 were awarded with monogrammed bricks which were used in the park. Dalzell said parks like this one will provide residents with a place where they can bring their kids and socialize with one another.

Catharine Park has been a nice new feature to the neighborhood according to many residents.
Catherine Park is one of two parks SOSNA has helped organize funding for in the construction and maintenance.

SOSNA has hosted community socials which gives residents a chance to talk with each other about new businesses or changes they would like to see in the neighborhood. The organization also has provided officer appreciation socials that aim to bring residents together for the purpose of thanking and getting to know local police officers and fire fighters.

The clean and green initiative has also helped SOSNA bring the community together to support energy efficient resources solar trash cans. Although these trashcans were an initial $4,400 investment, they cut down the long term costs for gas, fuel and labor.

One area SOSNA has struggled in is engaging older residents, particularly those who have lived in the neighborhood for many years. This has led some people to think certain residents may feel under represented in SOSNA’s work.

“A lot of what we do is technology and web based. We don’t like to use flyers because flyers just create litter,” said Lauren Vidas, the clean and green initiative leader. “Then you have folks who don’t have cell phones and don’t have the internet. So how do you get them engaged and part of the process so you can ensure that you are reaching out and basically representing every sort of facet of the neighborhood?”

Dalzell said he is not surprised this has been a struggle within Graduate Hospital.

“There’s a divide in any neighborhood. Whether it’s between renters and homeowners, or businesses and homeowners, old residents verses new residents, old people and young people, there is always a divide,” he said.

Dalzell said this divide is not divisive to the community. “There are differences of opinion,” he said. “Some people on all sides of the issue take it way too seriously and think that they are being pushed out and any new family moving into the neighborhood is essentially kicking them out, and that is not the case.

Dalzell also discussed how SOSNA has helped with the zoning process in Graduate Hospital.
Dalzell discussed how SOSNA has helped with the neighborhood’s zoning process.

“On the same side there are families who think that this area is in shambles and that they’re saving the neighborhood or something like that. Neither of those are true. It’s somewhere in between that,” he added.

PlazaPalooza, one of SOSNA’s biggest events of the year, aims to bridge this divide within the community by bringing residents together. This year’s PlazaPalooza will be held Saturday from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. and will feature live music, deals from local businesses, and activities for children. The event takes place at Grays Ferry Avenue between 22nd and 23rd streets.

Through its five initiatives projects, SOSNA has aimed to serve as a resource to local residents and businesses. Whether it is a block party, the town watch, solar trashcans or anything else in between, this organization has continued to make the neighborhood a better place.

To learn more about South of South Neighborhood Association and future events, visit its website online.