Sipping a coffee at the Bean Exchange three blocks from his home on Bainbridge Street, Bella Vista resident Joel Palmer spoke in disgust about a trash container.
“Why this one has been allowed to stay out there, only the Streets Department could answer,” said Palmer. “We’ve reported it for the better part of two years, and there it sits.”
A ten-year resident of Bella Vista, Palmer has always been interested in eliminating blight from the neighborhood. Upon arriving in Philadelphia for the first time, he laid eyes on a house at the end of his street that needed some work.
Palmer partnered with then councilman, Frank DiCicco, to fix up the house along with an abandoned Veterans of Foreign Wars building. With that success, Palmer incorporated a small company, Scioli Turco, to go after properties that need rehabilitation under the state’s Act 135 legislature.
Pennsylvania’s Act 135 law is a process of assigning court-appointed conservators to take possession of blighted and abandoned buildings that have been ignored by owners.
“Bella Vista is a very desirable neighborhood,” said Palmer. “Hardcore crime is not an issue in this neighborhood.”
Because of the neighborhood’s attraction, volunteers, like the two pictured above, spend a lot of time working on, what Palmer calls, “housekeeping.” Picking up trash, painting over graffiti and tending trees have all been focuses of past neighborhood cleanups through the Bella Vista Neighborhood Association.
In addition to neighborhood residents, the association brings in outside volunteers for various cleanups. Vanguard, a financial services company for retirement investors, recently partnered with a transitional workplace program, Ready, Willing & Able, to paint and cleanup the area around Palumbo Park.
Angela Gaffney, an employee of Vanguard and lifetime resident of Philadelphia, volunteered as part of Vanguard’s Day of Caring that the company requires of its employees each year.
“One of the things that’s really important for Vanguard is to give back,” said Gaffney. “We’re investors as well, and we like to invest in our neighborhoods.”
Ready, Willing & Able provides paid work for homeless men that have previously been incarcerated or battled with substance abuse. The program provides dormitory-styled housing, in which the men pay room-and-board from their work, in hopes that they can continue the process once graduated from the program.
Robin Tama, chair of the Beautification Committee for the Bella Vista Neighborhood Association was happy to have additional help, especially from Ready, Willing & Able.
“They are the greatest guys,” said Tama. “We’ve worked with them before, and they always arrive 100 percent ready to work.”
– Text, video and images by Alex Snell.
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