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Come volunteer! Northwest Philadelphia

Northwest Volunteer Connect

Summit Presbyterian Church in Northwest Philadelphia partnered with the East and West Mount Airy Neighbor Associations to host a “volunteer connect” event on Saturday, January 6, 2024. The format was like a job fair. Representatives from a couple dozen organizations in the community were circled about the room to discuss with potential volunteers ways they can get involved. In the accompanying video, representatives from the following organizations answer your correspondent’s question “What kind of help are you looking for?”


Chestnut Hill Meals on Wheels
East Mt. Airy Neighbors
Food Moxie
Friends of the Wissahickon
Germantown Avenue Crisis Ministry
C.W.Henry School PTA
Hosts for Hospitals
Mt. Airy Tree Tenders/Germantown Tree Tenders
Northwest Mutual Aid Collective
Pathways to Housing
Stenton Manor
Unitarian Society of Germantown
Urban Resources Development Corp.
Welcoming Homes
Wesley Enhanced Living at Stapeley
Woodmere Art Museum
Wyck House and Garden
Yes! And...Collaborative Arts
Quintessence Theatre

Regrettably, your correspondent didn’t get a chance to speak with Whosoever Gospel Mission or Cliveden

View more photos of the volunteer event here.

View video snapshots about the organizations in the Volunteers playlist.


We build a mudhif

Mudhif building sarah and mohannad
Your correspondent joined U.S. military veterans, Iraqi refugees and other volunteers from the community to break ground on Memorial Day and start work on a traditional Iraqi structure dating back thousands of years called a “mudhif“ on the grounds of the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education in Roxborough, Philadelphia. More photos here. Watch a video about the first day ceremony and building start of an Iraqi mudhif.

“Al-Mudhif” is the brainchild of Seattle-based artist Sarah Kavage and Mount Airy based designer Yaroub Al-Obaidi who, after attending a lecture Kavage delivered a year ago at Moore College of Art during which she displayed a photo of a mudhif, suggested they build one! It is, perhaps, the first in the United States. The project, sponsored by the Alliance for Watershed Education of the Delaware River, is one of fifteen site-specific installations, six already completed, extending as far north as the Delaware Water Gap and as far south as Wilmington, west to Reading and east to Trenton, all within the Lenapehoking watershed, the home of the native Lenape people.

Building a mudhif, which your correspondent can attest to firsthand, is overlaying and binding together reeds into long columns. These columns are then placed in 32-inch deep, 2-foot wide holes to provide the vertical supports. They are then bent toward one another to form an arched roof. In upcoming days, mats will be woven and set in place to form a thatched roof. Air and sunlight will come through lattice panels to be constructed and attached. Adjacent to the structure, Kavage’s husband, Rob has been busy installing the structure for a large bench for seating and a view from just outside the mudhif.

On day one, we divided into two large teams- the first tasked with digging 10 large holes, 5 opposite 5 to form the length of the rectangular structure. I opted to work with volunteers assembling the columns. We used phragmites, reed grasses, harvested previously. (A non-native form of phragmites is considered invasive and it is likely a plus-side of the project was some invasive control)

From the sidelines, an older man from Iraq who went by “Kam” vividly recalled his father’s large mudhif in Nasriyah near the Euphrates River. His family would welcome guests and travelers to rest, stay, eat and drink coffee or tea in the mudhif, set apart from the main home. At that time, Kam said, people traveled distances by horse and would go from mudhif to mudhif to rest along the way.

A younger man, Hadi al-Karfawi, who left Iraq at the age of nine spoke of his strong emotional connection with the mudhif his grandfather, a tribal leader, had built . As a boy, he was tasked with preparing and serving the strong coffee to guests. He absorbed that the mudhif was community place where people would come to resolve disputes. Everyone was given a chance to speak without interruption. The disputes might be inter-tribal or among families  of one's own tribe.

As your correspondent spoke with al-Karfawi, Mohaned Al-Obaidi, the lead builder and Yaroub’s brother, was having some trouble bending the first two columns of reeds to form the arch at the entrance. Traditionally, al-Karfawi said, the reeds, of a different variety in use here, might be more moisture-filled, perhaps more freshly cut, which would make the bending easier. (The arch is not going to be the traditional rounded one; Yaroub has designed it to be more angular  so winter snow will more easily slide off and not weigh down the roof.) al-Karfawi spoke of helpers being divided into groups, just like us, with specific tasks and he demonstrated how he and others would stomp on mud mixed with hay to form the “cement” to applied inside the roof. He had brought along two of his young children and, as the project was about to get underway, they stood by with child-sized shovels at the ready.

In his opening remarks, Al-Obaidi spoke of how emotional this undertaking has been- recreating a traditional community structure from his homeland. He suspected many of us have only associated Iraq until now with war and suffering. He hopes this welcoming mudhif will bring about a better understanding of Iraq’s ancient and rich culture.

The grand opening of the mudhif is planned for June 24th and according to a Schuylkill Center blog many activities are planned. “We will activate the installation Al-Mudhif with extended programming around exchange of war experience, healing and intercultural encounters from June to October 2021.”

Your correspondent asks, wouldn’t it be wonderful if the dispute resolution aspect of a mudhif could be "activated”? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if representative native Lenape could settle ongoing claims in this mudhif with representatives of the long dominant immigrant community? Descendants of former slaves with descendants of former slaveholders? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Israeli and Palestinian representatives could forge a just and lasting peace in this mudhif? And isn’t it fitting that this peace and justice-making take place on land taken from the Lenape, now in the safekeeping of environmental non-profit, in a traditional structure of a people who themselves experienced recent devastation to their own culture- the swamp Arabs of Iraq? A structure built for community, hospitality and peace-making. Inshallah.

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More videos here

Building Al Mudhif - short version

Mudhif groundbreaking ceremony

Docent tells about Iraqi mudhifs and ancient Sumer

Schuylkill Center Director acknowledges land belonging to Lenape people at mudhif groundbreaking


Chestnut Hill Library Friends open bookstore to public (softly)

Hilltop books royal table
Today, the Friends of the Chestnut Hill Library opened their new bookstore, “Hilltop Books” at 84 Bethlehem Pike in Erdenheim. A handful of the 100 some volunteers were on hand to welcome customers. Trading as “Hilltop Books”, the beautifully restored, high ceiling-ed space offers rooms and bookcases divided by subject area, many curated by subject specialists! Initially, books are being sold at 1/3 of the price on the jacket. Today’s opening was to give people who had ordered “blind date” Valentine’s Day/“Galentine’s” Day books another chance to pick them up. Until the expected official opening in mid-March, the store will be open by appointment only. The Friends bookstore has big hopes. An outdoor patio is planned to accommodate 50 people and the store wishes to offer coffee and pastries. And there are all sorts of book clubs in the works- murder mystery, cooking, garden, storytelling, family game night, birthday..Something for everyone. Photo album here.

(The British Royalty collection is being curated by a subject of her Majesty)


Religious activity: feeding the hungry, reaching out to youth

 

Two fish five loaves
The "Two Fish.Five Loaves" ministry of the New Covenant Church of Philadelphia gives out free food to the neighborhood and beyond. Many volunteers help with the distribution of nearly 1000 free boxes of food each week. During these pandemic times, demand is growing according to Minister Sandra. (Volunteers are welcome to sign up for either packing or distribution tasks at https://nccop.church/2fish5loaves  ) People arrive in cars, on foot and on the bus to pick up food, no questions asked. The food is provided by Common Market, a non-profit food distributor sourcing product from sustainable local farms and Caring for [Friends], also a non-profit organization. This past Saturday, boxes were brimming with fresh peaches and blueberries. Separate packages contained dry goods and meat. For the recipient, the different food items are considered one box. "Two fish, five loaves" references a Bible story in which two fish and five loaves were brought to Jesus; with it, he fed thousands with food left over. Minister Sandra says the ministry is following out Jesus' instruction to Peter to "Feed my sheep." "That's what we are doing every Saturday, feeding his sheep." Watch video interview here.

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Calvary wyncote video

Calvary Church of Wyncote Associate Pastor Tom Tweedle and some church youth were on the front lawn of a home in East Mount Airy making a video. The finished video will encourage teens to get active in the church's youth group which is restarting in September. As one young woman pointed a hose in the air to create a gentle arc of rain over the pastor's head, another took a video of him talking into the camera. "Baby Come Back" the 1978 song by Player played aloud in the background.  Expect to see the video on the Church's website calvarywyncote.com/youth/and perhaps, also, on TikTok. Watch video Watch video here


Veterans with team red white and blue hike with weighted rucksacks

Team red white blue hike
One recent, hot morning, your correspondent came across a small group of hikers wearing red t-shirts, carrying backpacks and hoisting two large American flags as they approached an entrance to the Wissahickon woods. They are the the Philadelphia Chapter of Team Red, White and Blue (RWB) teamrwb.org John Bond, second from left, and Joel Stark, center, are both army vets. They are flanked by their civilian supporters, team members Caitlin Pollard, Joan Kim and Heather Jordan, Stark's sister (left to right). Team RWB, Stark explains, is "a veteran service organization based around the United States enriching veterans' lives through social and physical connections." This morning they were out on a "ruck march" with weighted bags. Stark opened his to show a weight that brought his pack's weight to about thirty-five pounds. Bond had college textbooks in his pack for weight. Pollard says,"I always like being part of Team RWB because it allows me to do something with people and not just for people," Stark triggered laughter when he added, "The idea is - we can sweat together."

Watch video interview with military veterans and civilian supporters who are team members of the Philadelphia chapter of TeamRWBV discussing the physical and social activities they sponsor to promote the well-being and health of vets.


Paint the Cresheim Bridge Mural! Open Call for Artists

 

Cresheim railroad bridge mural arts philadelphia

OCTOBER 3, 2019 UPDATE: SUBSTANTIAL DELAYS IN PROJECT,  DETAILS TO FOLLOW

Bradley Maule, pictured above reports:

"As yet, there is nothing new to report. The mural and trail are both still going to happen, but we don't have a precise timeline yet. The funding has to come from several sources, and some of the grants that we'll be applying to go in annual cycles. The mural will need to happen concurrently to the construction of the trail on the trestle so as to minimize disruption on Germantown Avenue (so likely overnight). We'll hopefully have a clearer view of both projects in the coming months, at which time we'll issue a statement. Thanks for checking in."

Mural Arts Jane Golden and Cathy Harris have yet to respond to the question posed October 3, 2019 "Will you open the call for artists again since it will soon be be nearly two years since the call went out (February 26, 2018)? "

5/21/2018 UPDATE:  According to Brad Maule of Mt Airy USA, the selection committee is seeking additional submissions but anyone visiting the official website for the project http://mtairyusa.org/cresheimproject/ would not know that the deadline of April 13  for artist submissions has been extended.

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Before a couple dozen community members at the newly renovated Lovett Library this past Monday evening, Cathy Harris of Philadelphia Mural Arts issues a call for artists to design a mural for the rusted abandoned railway trestle over Germantown Avenue below Cresheim Valley Drive. First envisioned fifteen years ago, the project is being relaunched now that the City of Philadelphia is acquiring the former Pennsylvania Railroad trestle from PECO. Brad Maule of Mt Airy USA, a project partner, provided historical information on the structure and Mural Arts founder Jane Golden encouraged attendees to "spread the word" to artists to answer the "Call for Submissions." The Deadline for submissions is April 13, 2018. Your correspondent has posted a PDF of the "Cresheim Trail Mural Project Call for Submissions" here until it becomes available online from the collaborative which also includes the Trolley Car Diner, Friends of the Cresheim Trail (FoCT), Elfant Wissahickon Realtors, Chestnut Hill Rotary, the Mount Airy Learning Tree and ChestnutHIllPa. The abandoned railroad is being converted to a trail linking Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill with Springfield Township. See reporter Sue Ann Rybak's coverage in the January 18, 2018 Chestnut Hill Local The mural’s completion is intended to coincide with the opening of the extension to the existing trail which begins at Allens Lane and Lincoln Drive. In June the public is welcomed to vote "in several community locations" to choose a winner from among a handful of proposals narrowed down by Mural Arts. After the meeting, I approached Sam Hanna who had been intently taking notes during the presentations. As a business account manager for the Center for Employment Opportunities, Hanna planned to relay what he had learned to a client. While in prison for twenty years, that client began to do art. And after getting out last year at the time of the Monday evening meeting, was at a job he had just started. Things are looking up.

(In the photo left to right -standing:  Brad Maule of Mt Airy USA, Jane Golden and Cathy Harris of Mural Arts Philadelphia, seated 2nd from left- Sam Hanna of CEO and Judy Weinstein of MALT)

Video of public meeting by  Mural Arts collaborative in call for artists to submit design for old rusty railroad bridge in Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia.


Costumed horses, riders parade for Halloween at Northwestern Stables

Horse rider Halloween costume contest parade
"Welcome to the Northwestern stables Haunted Horses Event 2017. Today we're inside because it's raining but it's still a lot of fun. As you can see we have pumpkin decorating here, we have cupcake decorating and then the feature of our event is always the horse and rider costume contest which I believe is starting soon! Northwestern Stables is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit. We do a lot of equine-focused programs for children and adults. We have a riding program. We have summer camp. We have two 4-H programs for young kids and big kids and invite people to come and tour the barns and learn to be friends with and not be afraid of our large equine friends." Kristen Kavanagh, Stables Board VP and leader, pumpkin decorating

Costumed horses, riders parade for Halloween


Health care is outrageous

Health care is outrageous say AARP volunteers

​Shirley Washington, Florrie Flood and Jocelyn Powell, volunteers for AARP, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons, were outside Bredenbeck's Bakery and Ice Cream Parlor in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia to rally support against changes to Medicare. Backed by a large sign featuring the diverse faces of its constituency (50 plus demographic), one volunteer explained their presence as a way to acquaint the community with AARP while another spoke earnestly about how prescription drug costs, higher premiums and higher deductibles negatively affect Social Security pensioners. "Health care is just outrageous." They invited your correspondent inside to sign a petition to my Congressmen and enjoy a free ice cream cone! I obliged. Watch video interview here.


The foraging gourmet and the wild foodie

Wild foodie leads gourmet chef on foraging outing

Lynn Landes, founder of the Wild Foodies of Philadelphia joins with  Chef Jeff Miller of  the eponymous catering company to forage for wild plants in the fields of the Weavers Way Coop farm at Awbury Arboretum. The plants, which Lynn doesn't like to call weeds although they are generally considered so, were to appear in the salad of a dinner that very evening to benefit the arboretum. Miller sampled some succulent-like purslane which he describes being crunchy and also some carpet weed which  your correspond concurs has a strong, mushroomy flavor. These, wood sorrel other "weeds" were all competing for purchase in the fertile soil where the farmers had planted onions for harvest months later. Landes takes the zealot's stance that only wild plants and animals, free for the taking are a sustainable source of food because agriculture of any kind requires ongoing maintenance. Watch video here.