Germantown: Building Community One Conversation at a Time
Keith Schenck sees familiar faces on every Germantown corner.
Schenck, a photographer, is involved in an artists’ collective as a leader and mentor. He and fellow artists organized two One Love Guns Down events to raise funds to fight gun violence in Philadelphia. He works closely with the Friends of Germantown Northwest to host fundraisers and community-building activities in Germantown. Schenck and fellow neighbors recently held a Germantown Avenue clean-up.
Above all, Schenck, who has been in the neighborhood since he was 13, believes there is no better way to improve a community than by using teamwork and establishing personal relationships. He believes a neighborhood can only be built with strength through people, and this mission drives him to connect with his community daily.
How are you helping people in the community through the artists group?
Our focus is arts and activity and project-based learning, so that’s how. When you’re involved with people and you’re doing an activity, it’s natural. You learn so much about a person and you can filter out any biases and prejudice you have already just by observation.
How do you get people engaged in community projects and events?
Looking for the human potential, the good in each person, leading by example, providing a model, being non-judgmental, being consistent, attending to yourself and others’ needs, meaning being present. So, having a purpose when you’re doing the work.
It’s more about the relationship and building a relationship.
What sparked your getting so involved?
It’s a story of transformation and healing and redemption.
I lived another way. I was involved in subculture. It was counter-productive.
It’s just the optimal health benefits of living the right way and doing the right thing. I’m always about restorative justice, so that the other person’s rights are being respected.
You moved here as a kid, grew up here, have your own kid and now work with kids. What really draws you to working with kids?
They’re phenomenal beings. Give them a crayon and you have an artist. I believe in one child. I certainly believe in them being lifelong learners and capable learners. They can shape the world around us.
What’s the reward you get from doing community service?
It’s a positive reinforcement for the core values that keeps us healthy.
Why do you feel like it’s important to connect with neighbors?
How else could you have a neighborhood if you didn’t know your neighbors?
-Text and images by Drui Caldwell and Margo Reed.