West Philly arts center wins $50,000 face-lift

The weather may have wavered from rainstorms to sunshine, but volunteers continued their painting and hammering to complete renovations to the Community Education Center, an art and education center in West Philadelphia.

The CEC was awarded $50,000 from the Maxwell House Drops of Good contest to renovate and restore its run-down center. Philadelphia City Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell and actress Marcia Gay Harden, known for her roles in “Pollock” and “God of Carnage,” were there Tuesday to lend a hand and participate in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“I’m here to help give the Community Education Center a face-lift,” said Harden.

Harden, who said she started practicing theater at a community center, said accessible spaces for artists are a great asset to communities.

“A healthy community thrives through freedom, expression and the arts,” said Harden. “You need city funding … corporate funding, and if you don’t have it, it dies.”

The contest was co-sponsored by Maxwell House and Rebuilding Together, which featured a nationwide contest between 10 different Rebuilding Together affiliates.

“We looked around for community organizations where we could make a huge impact,” said Carrie Rathmann, executive director of Rebuilding Together.

Renovations at the CEC include a new air-conditioning system, a refurbished dance studio, fresh paint, electrical updates, new lighting and new front doors. The work done was aided by Rebuilding Together volunteers, which also helped to maximize the budget.

“Now I can have a full-fledged summer program without worrying about not having air conditioning for the students,” said Terri Shockley, CEC executive director.

Director hails renovation as true blessing

Shockley, who has been with the CEC for 11 years, said winning the grant is a true blessing. She hopes that the renovations will enable the group to continue to revitalize the arts in the community and bring people together.

“The arts are an essential part of the community, and our mission is to support local artists,” said Shockley. “This organization has touched so many people. Our artists go out all over the city and produce wonderful work.”

Maxwell House selected the winner through Facebook votes and received over 2 million votes nationwide to determine the winners. The Facebook page the company started was Maxwell House’s first; it gained  more than 160,000 “fans” during the contest

“We’re a big part of our consumers’ lives, as are community centers,” said Becky McAninch, senior brand manager for Maxwell House. “They can really make a positive difference in a community and we want to draw awareness to that.”

Maxwell House provided coffee, breakfast and lunch to volunteers during the renovations.

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