“A Place-Based Strategy”, by Rhena McClain, Director, St. Barnabas

There are amazing programs in Philadelphia designed to support people who are managing the impacts of poverty. Yet too often, those deeply impacted are cut off from the source that can help.

St. Barnabas Community Resource Center (SBCRC) is using a place-based strategy, first, to identify the issues connected to poverty impacting this community and, second, to bring in partners who lead in their respective fields, and who are willing to work in collaboration with the community to challenge poverty, and who have fun doing it. The work is serious and hard, but it is also joyful and fun.

SBCRC is a reflection of the perspective, experience, and dreams of the wonderfully diverse people we serve and walk beside every day.

We have the privilege of working with a very lively and self-directed community. The majority of participants who are coming in are doing so to access the open-choice food pantry. We spend a good deal of time talking with them about the community or milestones achieved by children or grandchildren. We host programs weekly. The “Breakfast Club” is one example and then there is “Tuesday Tunes,” where students from Drexel set up in the courtyard or pop in. The energy and camaraderie amaze me. As a community, our neighbors have been through so much and they have so much love and light to give.

We are driven by the needs of those around us and we adjust and grow just as our community grows. Prior to opening, the community identified several key areas of need, including: food nutrition and education, culturally appropriate mental health support, financial education, parenting support, and a safe space to convene. Each need corresponds to programs and services we offer either directly or through our partners — from our open-choice food pantry, to our partnership with Malvern Behavioral Health, to our fatherhood group, to one-on-one coaching, and more.

During our back-to-school event a community member stopped me and said thank you. He went on to tell me how he and his family had spent the last of their money on rent and utilities and had it not been for us his children would not have what they needed to return to school. He said “I bet you never imagined that something as small as a pencil could make such a difference.” 


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