Mentoring group engages children, parents at Thanksgiving event in Logan

This week, the Logan Police Athletic League (PAL) Center, located at the Holy Trinity Presbyterian Church at 1100 W. Rockland St., served as the community dinner table for an annual Thanksgiving celebration.

Roughly 100 parents and children gathered to enjoy free spaghetti dinners, arts-and-crafts activities and a turkey giveaway sponsored by Bringing Everybody Together (Bet), a local organization that provides mentoring and support for Philadelphia’s youth.

Kanika and Jai Darden, who learned of the event while attending church with Bet’s founder Richard Washington, said they rarely miss one of the group’s events.

“We’ve known Richard for years and he has a really good program,” Kanika said.

“He puts everything together and donates a lot of his time to Bet to bring inner-city kids together doing something positive,” Jai added.

The Thanksgiving celebration opened with a little line-dancing and included various activities including trivia games where winners earned turkey baskets and create-your-own Thanksgiving goodie bags from food items donated by students from La Salle University.

Loretta Washington, 62, a retired police officer and mother of the group founder, said this event is always special because it provides single mothers in the neighborhood with much-needed assistance.

“We do this so that we can emphasize the importance of the family unit as a whole. It’s really a blessing to be able to do this,” she said. “We see a lot of single mothers come to the events and the program is a great support system for them.”

Richard Washington said he hoped the event will help to connect fragmented families.

“Our goal for the Thanksgiving celebration is to bring our families together, but we also know that our program is a youth program so a lot of times we may have young people involved although their parents may not be here,” he said. “But that’s where the extended family comes in, where we take care of each other.”

Linda Abraham, 23, has literally grown up with Bet programs.

“It’s great because I used to come to all of the events when I was little and now I bring my son here,” she said. “Everything they do is family based and that is very important.”

It’s not just about Thanksgiving

Bet hosts similar gatherings for the Christmas and New Year holidays and also provides multiple other services throughout the year including Lady Bet (mentoring for young girls), Perfect Gentlemen (mentoring for young men) and Powerball (for aspiring athletes).

Howard Griffith, a volunteer basketball coach for Frankford High School, assists with Bet’s Powerball basketball program.

“We use basketball as a vehicle to give young men the fundamental tools needed to be productive citizens. Too often we have programs that don’t have substance but Bet is very committed to staying involved with the youth,” Griffith said.

Mike Pittman, a PAL officer, has been working with Bet for 10 years.

“I think it’s an awesome community group that extends itself where other programs such as schools, PAL and churches have yet to reach,” he said. “It’s a compliment to what those groups are doing. So we collaborate a lot to help the kids and move that mission forward.”

Plans for the future

Through its partnership, Bet can use local facilities like the Logan PAL Center to host many events but Richard Washington hopes the group will soon find a more permanent home to get even more parents involved.

“It’s difficult to keep consistent volunteers because we don’t have a home right now and people’s schedules change, but we do have a core of volunteers that are always there to support the program,” he said. “Now we’re trying to hone in on the parents. We get a lot of kids whose parents sign up but don’t come to the events and send their children alone.

“So, we want to get the parents out and ask them to assume a role because if we can get them engaged in the process their more likely to attend more frequently. Ultimately, we hope it’ll bring the parents and the children closer together. That’s what it’s all about.”

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