Frank Anderson is the case manager at Germantown Life Enrichment Center, located at 5722 Greene St. The center is a historic interfaith association for culture and fitness. The GLEC offers a full aquatic program with a swim team as well as swim lessons. The center also features CPR training, a complete weight room and a fitness program with a variety of classes. The center has partnered with the Germantown United Community Development Corporation and the First United Methodist Church of Germantown.
What services does the Germantown Life Enrichment Center offer the community?
We offer narcotics anonymous meetings on Saturdays, and Monday and Tuesday evenings. We also provide housing for men right off the street. But, of course, they must have some type of job or revenue that allows them to pay for their room. There are fitness services across the building offering programs like pilates, yoga, karate and swimming.
What is your role in these services?
I wear a lot of hats here. I work closely with guys that are looking for housing opportunities, GED classes, and guys looking for help with their drug and alcohol addiction – as well as any other addiction you can think of. I help with the Homeless Assistance Program reports for the state and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s homeless assessment reports. I write reports for every department in the building and turn those in while balancing my own workload. Aside from finance, I deal with almost every aspect of running this building.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Meeting like-minded guys that want to succeed. Not everybody is here because they did it to themselves, a lot of guys are here because they fell on hard circumstances. I get to speak words of encouragement to a lot of the guys.
Did you grow up in this community and what made you want to do this work?
I grew up in North Philadelphia, actually. I grew up in Strawberry Mansion, which is not the best neighborhood. There are three things that allowed me to do what I’m doing now. One is the fact that my faith in God is through the roof. Second, I was allowed to be a kid for as long as I possibly could. As a kid, I was separated from a lot of stuff in the street. I was in the parks. I was in school. I was playing football. I was wrestling, running track and playing baseball. So, I really didn’t know what the real world had in store for me.
I knew I was going to be helping folks out, I just didn’t know how. I went to three different universities where I studied elementary education and minored in early childhood development. I went to Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. I transferred and went to Morris College where I became a Kappa. Then I transferred out of there and went to Rollins College in Orlando. From there, I taught first grade in Clermont, Florida. My mom caught ill, so I left and came back to Philadelphia. (When) I was done with the military, I came back to Philadelphia to help my mom out and I started working for Red Cross. Red Cross pretty much led to a job here.
Where in the community has the GLEC made the largest impact?
First and foremost, it’s one of the only black-run businesses in Germantown, along with the church on Germantown Avenue right across from the Wells Fargo Bank. So, it’s one of the only black-owned businesses in the Germantown area, still standing.
For two, it’s helping to get a lot of the guys that are from this area off the streets. For example, the way this building is run and what it’s instilling in a lot of the guys that are here, it’s teaching the outsiders that there are some positive aspects to living in a poverty-stricken neighborhood. I think that’s pretty much the biggest thing. Every day you go out there, you see the drunks on the corner, you see the fiends and things that are in the streets, but this is shedding another light on people who are called “homeless” individuals and it’s saying that it’s a positive way out of your negative situation.
— Text and images by Cherea Hatcher and Tiana Huckaby.