Northeast Philly families get help from up-and-coming programs

Northeast Philadelphia has many different programs that help members of the community in different ways. T

wo programs that are relatively new to the area are Heart to Heart, run through the Klein JCC in Somerton, and the Rhawnhurst Naturally Occurring Retirement Community. Both programs are designed to help families that may be in the “fringes of society” in one way or another.

Mallory Hanfling is the sole operator of the Heart to Heart program, which is designed to help young Jewish families ages 18 to 60 in a variety of ways.

“There are lots of programs for younger people and for seniors,” Hanfling said, “but the resources available to this middle age group were severely limited.”

The free program came to fruition based on “Tikkun Olam,” which translates to, “repairing the world.” It is a concept in the Jewish faith that suggests that everyone in a community is responsible for making it, and the world, a better place for everyone.

Families experiencing hardship due to underemployment or unemployment, changes in family size, mental or physical illness etc., apply to see if they qualify . If they don’t, Hanfling attempts to find them a program that will fit their needs rather than leaving them to attempt to find these resources on their own.

Families that are accepted then work with Hanfling learning how to prioritize and set goals. Families are also eligible for a script, which consists of gift cards to grocery stores or gas stations, depending on that particular family’s needs; Hanfling also helps find community programs that will help them on their way to a more stable place in life.

Since the program’s inception 22 months ago, 68 of the 127 families screened have been accepted. Hanfling is currently working with 18 families. Fifteen have graduated the program but still utilize services the program has to offer.

The Banks family, for example, received more $8,000 in aid. Mr. Banks was able to receive disability payments for himself and his son, who has cerebral palsy. His wife was given close to $2,000 to help with the medical expenses associated with treating her breast cancer. Additionally, the Banks family was able to refinance their mortgage and work to reduce expenses. Mr. Banks also attended a support group that helped him work to accept being on disability.

The Rhawnhurst NORC picks up where Heart to Heart leaves off. It’s designed to help senior-aged families (60-years-old and above rather than the traditional 65 and above) remain independent in their homes for as long as possible. The program has been in the Northeast Philadelphia area since 2005 and serves zip codes 19111, 19149 and 19152. Services include home maintenance, rides for appointments and shopping, and support and socialization groups.

Other than Abby Gilbert, the program’s manager, the Rhawnhurst NORC only has two other full-time positions and a part-time transportation manager. The rest of the work is done on a volunteer basis. Having a small staff hasn’t prevented Rhawnhurst NORC from being an asset in the community. The program has reached about 1,000 senior households in the past year, Gilbert said.

In addition to working with senior families, the Rhawnhurst NORC works in partnership with other outreach groups, and most recently worked with the Coalition Against Hunger. Noelle Dames, an outreach coordinator for the program, assembled Gilbert and a handful of volunteers that canvassed the area around Tarken Playground in Castor Gardens with door hangers that provided information about SNAP, WIC, food pantries and other family aids in the area.

This event was a part of The Coalition Against Hunger’s year-long “Block by Block” campaign in the lower Northeast. The campaign is helping to target the population of the Northeast living in poverty, which has doubled in the past 10 years.

Shanice Richardson is a student reporting for Philadelphia Neighborhoods, the publication of Temple University’s Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab.

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