by Nora Elmarzouky
On February 25, 2019, the Centennial Parkside Community Development Corporation hosted the Our Dreams, Our Future East Parkside Community Dinner at the Greenhouse of the Fairmount Park Horticulture Center. This was part of a community engagement effort, designed and led by in site collaborative, to bring
residents together with experts across Philadelphia to design community development projects using the lens of the triple bottom line. The triple bottom line takes into consideration people and planet together when considering profit and addressing concerns in the community.
Over 120 people attended starting with visiting the community fair to learn about and get involved with 10+ organizations and initiatives happening in East Parkside including Viola Street Garden, Revival Center, PHL WeWalk, East Parkside Residents Association, Mt. Vernon CDC, Tree Tenders, Trash Academy and more.
Attendees were asked to add their personal stories to a map and a timeline and also asked to respond to 16 different topics of interest/concern identified in the neighborhood each with four questions. The topics included: arts and culture, youth programming, education, trash/beautify, dumping, community land trust/zoning,
vacant land / abandoned buildings, affordable housing/homeownership, farmers market, community gardens, energy/solar, green jobs/workforce development, inclusive economic development / commercial corridor, unity, health, and safety and security. Carmelita Catering supplied a beautiful three-course buffet, not without both a chocolate and caramel fountain.
Guests experts from across Philadelphia joined community residents including, but not limited to representatives from the Reinvestment Fund, Drexel University, Fairmount Park Conservancy, Solarize Philly, the Free Library, AARP, and City
Council candidate Jamie Gauthier.
The evening began with welcoming remarks from Executive Director, Chris Spahr and Board Treasurer, Ronald Coleman, followed by a song from Makeda McFarlane. Gabriella Paez, the Education and Community Development Coordinator at Esperanza gave the keynote about how they have integrated sustainability principles with community education to collectively build Huntington Park.
The community project design portion began with a debut of My Future, My City short film shot by students in the summer WorkReady program and put together by Josh Graupera of Bonfire Media.
Using the responses from the 16 different topics, attendees designed 10 projects. The 16 topics generated a total of 41 resources to learn from and 110 ideas. Youth programming and trash/litter were the topics most responded to.
The project ideas revolved around youth opportunities including arts, culture, and education of various types; neighborhood integration and multigenerational cooperation; health and neighborhood cleanliness and general atmosphere; and land
use and homeownership. Using an app called slido, the remaining participants shared their project ideas and voted on a financial literacy program for youth. This program is currently being developed with $2000 of seed funding from the Philadelphia
Foundation and the CDC – incorporating cooperative economic models and green economy principles – to implement in 2019 for youth in East Parkside. That night another organization pledged their financial backing as well.
According to some accounts, “It was an evening like no other. We have never done anything like this as a community.” Another person shared they had met their cousin they hadn’t seen in years. Most importantly, it brought people together to share a
meal, learn, and build together the community everyone wants feels included in. This information gathered can be used to inform programming and development in the East Parkside neighborhood that the CDC can use when developers are asking – what does
the community need? The data can also be used by community members to take on projects, programs, or new entrepreneurial ideas. Our Dreams, Our Future can be an annual event that both celebrating and reflecting on the past year and also planning for
the coming year.
All data collected during the dinner will be available on the Centennial Parkside CDC website soon. Photos from the evening are available on the Centennial Facebook page and Sulex Move Facebook page. Sign up to CDC mailing list and follow them on
Facebook to stay tuned to community events happening in the neighborhood.