Jason Cohen sells roses, 3 for $6, on a narrow island dividing the noisy, rushing north and south bound traffic on Stenton Avenue. For several years, an amiable elderly man from Mali known to your correspondent as Joseph, sold flowers at this busy location where Bethlehem Pike branches off from Stenton at Paper Mill Road. The flowers come from a wholesaler in Glenside and the vendors generally get dropped off in the morning and picked up in the evening. Cohen, from South Philly, has been selling flowers for a few years mostly in center city and came out to where Chestnut Hill borders Springfield Township about a month ago. Before that, he was making rolls in a bakery but it wasn't for him or he wasn't for them. How does he weather the 8 to 9 hour-long days? “I’m a people person so I just talk to people.” Watch video and interview of vendor selling roses in heavy traffic here
Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery County, PA supported by a coalition of community partners including AmeriCorps National Community Service members along with sweat equity put in by the Thompson family made a home of their own in Pottstown, PA a reality for the Thompsons. This is a short video collage of the dedication celebration.
Dee Servance was canvassing door-to-door on a bitter cold winter night to raise support for a paid sick leave bill in Philadelphia. As it is now, low paid workers who get sick have to miss out on needed pay or come in to work sick, neither of which is good for anyone. The bill is before Philadelphia City Council and now that members are up for re-election, Servance’s organization, Working Families, which has worked on getting the minimum wage raised and on Pennsylvania Governor-elect Tom Wolf’s successful campaign, is urging citizens to call city council members who have not yet come on board, to support the bill. The bill would require employers with 10 or more employees to allow employees to accrue one hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked. Watch video here.
Eighty-seven year old Pat Sellers, laid off from the Philadelphia Cricket Club three years ago, has started doing what she has seen young people doing to try to make ends meet. Since July she has been busking on the street. She serenades passersby on her electric keyboard with show tunes and old time favorites outside Kilian Hardware, with electricity provided by the store, in the hope they will put money in her donation bag. On a recent Sunday, the musician, striking in her poofy, coifed silver hair and smart blue and white pants outfit, tapped out songs from Les Mis and Nat King Cole. Watch video and interview here.
Saleece came smiling and protectively gloved out of the brand new Goodwill Donation Center in Mount Airy as soon as I pulled up in my car. Located on Lincoln Drive below the CVS Pharmacy at Mount Pleasant where a gas station used to be, the facility caught my eye with a large “NOW OPEN” banner.
Saleece was happy to accept the jigsaw puzzles and books I had stored in my trunk for a planned drop-off either at the Whosoever Gospel Mission store in Germantown or the Salvation Army store in Roxborough. She says the Goodwill facility has seen a lot of traffic in the short week and some days it’s been open and credits advertisements in the Mt Airy Times with sparking anticipation in the community in advance of the opening.
Already, large cardboard bins in the garage staging area were nearly full of clothes and toys. The items get sorted here and then will be shipped to Goodwill’s retail outlets in South Philadelphia and the Northeast.
Saleece knows of no plans for the current, and relatively small building, to serve as a retail outlet.
Donations benefit Goodwill’s training and assistance programs for youth, seniors, disabled and those with a criminal background in getting jobs. See www.goodwill.org
Most students at the Antonelli Institute of Graphic Design and Photography in Erdenheim, Pa, just outside of Philadelphia, enroll coming out of high school. They must first study traditional film and wet process darkroom photography before moving on to digital work, says lead photography instructor Drew Simcox, shown above.
Students compete for awards by class and by subject category and their prints for the upcoming May competition are displayed across the tall walls of the well-lit atrium-lunchroom area. Simcox proudly shows off the work of Antonelli graduates like the cover photo by Evan Habeeb on a recent Sports Illustrated magazine as well as published books of instructors such as his own “Heber Valley Railroad” shot in Utah through a partnership with the Adobe Company and illustrator-cartoonist Christian Patchell’s “I put the Can in Cancer,” documenting his personal battle with the affliction.
Renowned photojournalist Colin Finlay has visited twice and has critiqued the work of Antonelli students who had returned from a photo shoot in Haiti in conjunction with the Pennsylvania non-profit, Poverty Resolutions.
Students are given a wide arrange of field assignments and can often be seen practicing their art in nearby Chestnut Hill at the Morris Arboretum or on the main Germantown Avenue corridor.
Left: Antonelli student Jaime Perez was at the Morris Arboretum shooting a Kyudo archer in 2009. Right: Antonelli student Eric Moll shown here taking photographs at the 2013 Chestnut Hill Fall for the Arts Festival has a photo published in the 2014 Chestnut Hill Calendar.
On the eve before Christmas Eve, Paul Rossetti was standing in the rain at the corner of Highland and Germantown Avenues hawking “One Step Away” newspapers for a $1 each. (small photo at right) And he has been working this and other corners in the city throughout January despite the bitter cold and light pedestrian traffic. (above photo)
Rossetti grew up around the Pottstown area and got involved in drinking and drugs through the influence of peer pressure. DUIs (driving under the influence convictions) landed him time in jail. He’s now living at the Germantown Y men’s home.
According to its website, “One Step Away is Philadelphia's first street paper aimed at raising awareness of homelessness and providing employment to those in need. With each dollar received, 75¢ goes directly to the vendor. The other 25¢ covers the printing costs. The vendors are people experiencing homelessness or joblessness. While the vast majority of One Step Away vendors are living on the street or in temporary shelters when they start with the project, most are able to use the money earned by distributing One Step Away to secure their own housing.” http://osaphilly.com/
Rossetti says he’s going to NA and AA meetings and trying to stay on his feet and keep busy. Rules at the Y are strict; if he should come back high or drunk, he would be given 15 minutes to vacate his room. With janitorial and construction experience, Rossetti hopes to find work and secure an apartment of his own. Eventually he would like go into business for himself.
The name, “One Step Away” is meant to highlight how so many people in society are close to becoming homeless through unforeseen financial and personal crises. At the same time, the name honors the major step the formerly homeless individuals who are producing and distributing the paper have taken away from a life on the street.
Chris Levey, a saturnine looking yet pleasant 3-day a week volunteer at the barren- looking Travelers Aide kiosk at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia says that Travelers Aide doesn’t offer all that much. The most common question is where the bathroom is followed by where the BOLT bus location is. People also ask about tourist destinations and Levey directs them to the Independence Hall area and offers a map.
Not infrequently Levey gets approached by people who don’t have money and need a place to stay. Men he sends to the Roosevelt Darby Center, women to the House of Passage, emergency housing shelters. They relate all kinds of stories, he says. A guy the week before said he had come for a job interview, didn’t get the job and had no money to get home. Levey supplies these down-on-their-luckers with a token to get to the shelter.
Personable "Flower" accosts passersby for money to get something to eat while sitting on the bench at the bus stop on Evergreen near Germantown Avenue in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia. She lives alone in nearby Mount Airy, has a mental illness, has some social supports and gets some income. Flower would be able to do filing, stock work or security work. She says she would rather not be panhandling. "I gotta do what I gotta do," she says, to not be hungry and stay alive. Watch video interview here.