After about a month in the cold, three buildings at Northern Children’s Services have heat again, but the child welfare agency is not out of the woods yet.
A moment of jubilation was doused last Wednesday when heat returned only to be lost again shortly thereafter.
Workers for Elliot-Lewis were testing older spare parts on a new boiler, but found some of them to be insufficient. New parts arrived Monday and warmth was finally restored. A new burner will not arrive for a few weeks, but heat should be continuous from here on.
The heating company also made an exception to its policy of requiring full payment upon completion of a job buying Northern time in its fundraising efforts, but the second half of that $90,000 bill still looms large.
“It’s definitely nerve wracking,” said Renata Cobbs-Fletcher.
Northern’s GoFundMe campaign for the new boiler raised about $11,500 bringing the total to over $23,000.
Many of the donations came in small increments of $15, $25, or $50 from neighbors and other supporters, but a pair of anonymous gifts of $5,000 each gave the campaign a major boost.
A matching grant for $10,000 with the potential for double is also on offer.
“Every bit counts,” said Bonnie Dugan, manager of marketing and communications.
Fundraising efforts will be ongoing. The new boiler is one of two that went out. Replacing them both will cost about $200,000. Northern is launching a new capital campaign focused on infrastructure of which the boilers are just the start.
The broken boiler came at particularly sensitive time at Northern and the Philadelphia child welfare system in general.
The budget impasse in Harrisburg created a freeze on reimbursements for services that has only recently begun to thaw, but still threatens programing. Preventative programs designed to keep kids out of the system, but which are not mandated by law, are most at risk.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has also indicated that he wants to reevaluate the work and organization of the Department of Human Services, which currently operates without a permanent commissioner.
Folks at Northern, however, are proud that through boiler and budget crises they have maintained services for the kids they care for.
“When something happens, you come up with a Plan B and make it work,” said Dugan.
Children were relocated to heated parts of campus while staff worked by space heaters in hats and coats.