Residents closed off the street on the 300 block of North Edgewood Street to celebrate a new fall-themed block party on Saturday, Nov. 3.
But unlike most autumn festivals focused on the harvest, changing leaves, Halloween, and Thanksgiving, this event was organized primarily to connect all neighbors in the area with city resources.
More than 100 people came out to the Rock-the-Block: Fall Resource Harvest Festival to eat free sausages and hot dogs, listen to music, play games, and learn about useful resources like getting a job with the City, re-enrolling in school, and learning about mental health services.
Councilmember Curtis Jones, Jr. of the Fourth District teamed up with Trades for a Difference to create the event.
Other politicians who made an appearance at the event included Mayor Jim Kenney, U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans and P.A. Rep. Morgan Cephas. Both Evans and Cephas addressed the crowd.
With the party occurring three days before Election Day, Cephas said she would usually be campaigning. However, she chose to spend the day with her constituents.
“We’re actually just doing the work of the people,” Cephas said in her speech.
The festival featured tables that provided information on getting a job, helping pregnant women, aiding people with mental health issues, getting free recycling bins, free food for seniors, and teaching people how to avoid foreclosures.
“Really, I think it’s wonderful,” said Audrey Parker, who lives on the block, about the event. “They bring the young people and the senior citizens all together. And we’re going to make a better place for the community.”
According to Crystal Tann, the district manager for Jones, there were 38 different organizations that set up resource tables at the block party.
“This particular area, we have a large population of seniors who are not on the internet, so we bring the resources to them,” Tann said.
Local residents echoed this need.
“I think it’s important for them to have this because a lot of the senior citizens, they don’t get out and they don’t know about things like this,” said Mary Pinckney, who lives in the neighborhood.
The City of Philadelphia’s Office of Human Resources set up a table to help people find jobs with the City. The office had step-by-step guides on how to complete an online job application.
The table featured list of open jobs for the City including plumbers, electricians, and machinery equipment mechanics. The yearly salary for these jobs ranges from $40,860 to $106,934.
“Being able to have us come to the community and you just have to come outside and get this information, I think it’s phenomenal,” said Valerie Hosendorf from the Office of Human Resources. “I’m really excited about all the vendors who are out here because it’s for the community and everything I see out here is to help the people of this community.”
Aneesha Evans set up a table to provide information about the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services. The office offers a range of mental health and substance abuse services.
“I’m here today to just spread information about behavioral health services and about promoting health wellness overall,” Evans said. “And breaking the stigmatism of mental health.”
Evans went on to explain how she grew up in the area and wanted to help her neighbors.
“I just felt the need that I should be here today and I like coming out here to educate the community,” Evans said. “And just to be a part of the community because I am a product of this community, this is one of the ways of giving back.”
Tiana Wilson represented The School District of Philadelphia’s Re-Engagement Center at her table. The center helps people who never graduated from high school with re-enrollment services and access to GED classes.
“We just want you to know that it’s never too late to graduate,” Wilson said.
Wilson said resource festivals are the best way to let people know about their center.
“One of our biggest referral sources is word-of-mouth,” Wilson said. ”Being out at events like this really helps us to get the word out to different community members, especially parents and grandparents of young people who may not be inclined to visit the [school] district on their own.”
While the free food stands attracted a lot of people, there was also a stream of people at the resource tables throughout the four-hour event.
“Looking at how everybody’s enjoying themselves,” Tann said. “I would like to see us do this at least twice a year on this level.”
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