Kensington: Community Center Works to Serve Neighborhood’s Needs

The Community Center at Visitation (CCV) is one of many outreach facilities dedicated to improving the quality of life in Kensington.

Led by Sister Betty Scanlon, a Sister of Mercy and director of CCV, the center tries to fill the gaps in services needed by local residents.

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“We learn so much from the community. This facility is used by so many different organizations,” said Scanlon. “So we’re constantly asking, what does the community need and how do we respond to that instead of just running your typical rec center?”

Currently, CCV provides programs for all ages, from young children to seniors. Some of these programs include a food pantry, sports and recreational programs, community outreach, job training and health services. On Monday mornings, pantry volunteers help give out food using a ticketing system, a program that serves more than 100 families a week.

In addition to the food pantry, members of the CCV community can walk upstairs to the gymnasium to get their blood pressure checked and speak with nurses. Two of the nurses, Katie Keating and Michele Manning, bring a holistic approach to treatment. Aside from giving health advice on eating well and exercising, the two childhood friends sit with the clients to pray and talk about whatever is going on in their lives. The two women, along with Sister Connie Haughton, use this time to spiritually help the community.

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“We’re here so that people can get the health-care support that they need, and the idea is for them to have a safe place to come to and be able to talk and receive help,” said Haughton.

This is just one way in which CCV is reaching out to the community. Scanlon described the center’s dedication to providing programs that the neighborhood really needs. In addition to sports and recreation programs for the youths, CCV provides educational programs for adults that include computer classes, vocational training, interview coaching and resume writing.

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When CCV was built in 2003, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was in charge of the facility. It wasn’t until 2010 that CCV was fully taken over by Visitation BVM Parish. A board of directors, staff and volunteers now control the center. Scanlon, who has been director for four years, explained funding for the center.

“I figured that after some time of being here we would have some kind of nominal fee, but we realized that it was a deterrent,” said Scanlon. “In this community, it is truly problematic so we decided it would all be free. We’re lucky to be able to offer free programming because of fundraising.”

Amid all of the work and programs CCV is implementing, Scanlon is passionate about starting work with the Latino Partnership Initiative to increase awareness of and help end sex trafficking and exploitation in the area.

Scanlon and the rest of the staff at CCV are looking forward to new programs and opportunities to help the Kensington neighborhood. Their most recent fundraising event, the second annual Hope Gala, was held April 8.

– Text, images and video by Coleen O’Hara