Elder Harrison smiles a lot — especially these days.
For the past decade, Harrison has lead Stenton Family Manor, an emergency family homeless shelter tucked away on Tulpehocken Street in Germantown.
During his tenure as executive director — perhaps longer — the place has never received a real makeover, just touch ups here and there.
“I call it a bandage building,” he said.
Not so much nowadays.
Over the last week, 200 staffers, residents and volunteers have banded together to spruce up the shelter thanks to more than $50,000 from People Helping People Foundation, a philanthropic organization part of The Goldenberg Group, a development firm that has built a strong relationship with Stenton over the last few years.
A long list of local businesses also donated labor and materials.
The money has helped pay for projects big and small, including a new blacktop for the basketball court, a new computer lab, outdoor lighting and a pair of sanctuaries, spaces where residents can go to collect themselves, have a moment of peace.
On Tuesday, volunteers were scattered around the labyrinthine property putting on the finishing touches. They mopped floors, painted inspirational messages along a bright blue hallway and stacked shelves with books and toys.
“It puts a mentality of change. I can change. I’m a part of change,” said Harrison of the overhaul.
The Goldenberg Group helps renovate run-down properties every year. The last few its tackled Philadelphia schools — E.M. Stanton and McCall elementaries and the Dunbar Promise Academy.
Ken Goldenberg, president and founder of The Goldenberg Group, said helping Stenton this year was a no-brainer.
“It’s trying to turn places like this from a shelter on the one hand into a real home and a real community for the people who live here,” he said.
A community where they feel like they belong.
A community that brings them joy.
A community that gives them hope.
“It’s a blessing. It’s definitely a blessing,” said longtime employee and former Stenton resident Angela Baker.