Elijah Fletcher ran away from the George Junior Republic residential school north of Pittsburgh last July because he was missing home and even missing trouble. That memorable adventure in a swamp being attacked by mosquitos ended with his return to the school. On June 3rd he was beaming at his high school graduation with his proud Dad by his side, about to begin his first job, and with a handsome college scholarship in hand. After earning a degree in psychology and sociologist, he plans to give back through work helping youth find a better life than stealing and drugs. Watch video here.
The Reverend Paul Adler, installed just last summer as rector at the Episcopal Church of Saint Alban in Roxborough, Philadelphia prays for people who come across him seated and collared in the nearby Starbucks coffee shop. An occasional customer is drawn to his table by the license plate size "FREE PRAYER" sign atop it. When he's not engaged in an impromptu prayer session, he will address email correspondence or work on sermons. A medical student seeks God's help with medical exams about to begin. A young woman who has a newborn child and also a very ill, hospitalized mother-in-law seeks prayer for her family. Adler believes that prayer is a way of spending time with God and spending time with God is worthwhile, even if prayer doesn't always work in the ways supplicants are expecting. Watch video here.
Students in an advanced American Sign Language (ASL) class offered by the Deaf-Hearing Communication Center based in Swarthmore, PA took turns acting out and signing the short and apparently humorous scenarios they chanced to pick out of a paper bag held by their teacher. Chestnut Hill branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. Watch video here.
Jamar White got his first car two years ago at age 33. He had failed his driving test when he was 16 and it wasn't until he met his future wife, Marsha, who encouraged him to try again that he passed the test on his first try and bought his first car. He lovingly polishes the black Ford SUV during his lunch breaks. Just a few months ago he and Marsha married and they drove right down to Baltimore to connect with what turned out to be a memorable honeymoon cruise to the Bahamas. Watch video here.
Claire Chappelle had passed by the Handcraft Workshop in Germantown for a year before she ventured in and took a pillowcase-making class. So enthusiastic was she about the experience that in the days leading up to Christmas she was coming in to sew dozens of pillow cases for gifts to friends to family. On the Friday eve before Christmas Chappelle, attended an Open Sew and was putting the finishing touches on some pillowcases while proprietress Heather Hutchinson Harris was cutting fabric and giving instructions to a gentleman working on pajamas. Harris says the pajama making classes are popular with students who take the introductory pillowcase class and then want to move on to a more challenging projects that require working with a pattern. Harris sewed up a career as a teacher and geriatric social worker before launching her shop. Husband Andre Harris, an IT professional, was on hand at the Open Sew helping out.
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.
It appeared that Rabbi Yitzchok Gurevitz’s faith in the accuracy of the weather forecast was rewarded last evening. Skies cleared just before the public lighting of a large Hanukah menorah at 6:30 pm on a grassy area beside Chestnut Hill Plaza at the bottom Germantown Avenue above Cresheim Drive.
Twenty some people such as Norm and Leah Schwartz of Mount Airy who brought their granddaughter, braved the near freezing temperatures and driving winds which had blown out the afternoon’s rain and sleet, to celebrate the first night of Hanukah. As Gurevitz, leader of Chabad-Lubavitch of Northwest Philadelphia, lit an oil wick candle, they sang prayers to mark the beginning of the eight-day Jewish holiday that commemorates the successful revolt of the Jews against the Syrian king Antiochus in 165 BCE in Judea and the rededication of the Temple that had been desecrated at his orders.
Hanukah is a special holiday, Gurevitz explained, because Jews are called upon to observe it not just in the home but outside with the community at large. (In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court got involved in the national Chabad movement practice of lighting menorahs in public places made controversial by the constitutional mandate of separation of church and state, when it allowed a public display in Fountain Square, Cincinnati)
Referring to the case, Gurevitz emphasized the menorah as a symbol of freedom for all people and interprets the freedom message at a personal level- “the freedom to be the best that we can be, the freedom to be the most we can be.”
At the conclusion of the ceremony, a celebrant placed a large boom box atop his car parked in the adjoining driveway and broadcast festive Chanukah music as those gathered huddled against the cold, schmoozed, and enjoyed latkes (traditional potato pancakes) with hot cider.
For the next week, one additional electric candle will be lit every day in reenactment of the Chanukah story that oil found in the reclaimed Temple, sufficient for only one day, miraculously lasted eight days. Electric current is coming courtesy of Yu Hsiang Garden restaurant next door.