Kensington parish a finalist in national grant competition

    Kensington’s Visitation BVM parish plans to make $25,000 go a long way. But first, it needs to get the money.

    The 137-year-old parish is a finalist in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s This Place Matters grant competition. It’s the only Philadelphia entrant left standing.

    “If we win, the winnings will be split between Visitation church, community center and school,” Colleen Gibson told NewsWorks. Gibson is the assistant director of the parish’s Cardinal Bevilacqua Community Center.

    Visitation is one of 100 finalists competing for the money, and the public can vote for its favorite “place” from now until June 30. Gibson says the parish has specific plans for the money.

    The church will replace its boiler, the school will help subsidize student scholarships and teacher salaries and the community center will use the money to maintain its outreach programs, which include a food pantry and a drop-in program for prostitutes on Kensington Avenue.

    This is only the second year of the This Place Matters “Community Challenge.” When the program began in 2008, as a National Trust for Historic Preservation spokeswoman tells us, it was an individualistic effort.

    “We were asking people to take pictures of themselves holding signs in front of places that mattered to them,” she said, “the goal being to give people a platform to make a public declaration and to show that anyone can be a preservationist.”

    Now with sponsorship from the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company and National Trust Insurance Services, LLC, This Place Matters is going bigger.

    There is just one main stipulation for the funding: the money can’t be used for demolition, and any renovations must be done according to preservation standards. Piece of cake for Visitation, since the parish would use the grant mostly for programs.

    The $25,000 sounds like a drop in the buck for Visitation, which estimates its annual community impact to be more than $22 million.

    Though a couple projects from nearby West Chester and Maple Shade, N.J., made the finalist list, Visitation is the only Philadelphia finalist. The Please Touch Museum at Memorial Hall and the Bryant Baptist Church made it past the initial round last year, but neither got the grand prize.

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