Blog: September 2013

Monday, September 23

Jillian Moyer, 17, is a typical but busy high school senior; a varsity cheerleader, member of Souderton’s High’s orchestra and the Future Business Leaders of America.  But this summer, she took the time to plan and execute a most successful  senior service project—a requirement for all Pennsylvania high school students—that  paid off big for children in one of America’s most impoverished cities—Camden , NJ.  Jillian hosted a golf tournament at Macoby Run Golf Course in Marlborough, PA and raised more than $7000 for UrbanPromise, a nonprofit organization which supports children academically and spiritually and prepares them for leadership that will bring positive change to their communities.

“I started thinking of ways I could help, I didn’t want to raise a hundred dollars, I wanted to do something bigger that would really be beneficial,” she said.  Jillian knew first-hand about the mission of UrbanPromise and the needs of the children it serves..  Jillian came to Camden with her church (Souderton Mennonite Church) youth group in the summer of 2012 for a week long service trip. She was assigned to Camp Spirit at the UrbanPromise main campus working with middle school youth. “Just driving over the Ben Franklin Bridge—it was shocking,” she said of seeing Camden for the first time.  “I did not know what to expect,” she said, never having seen urban poverty up close.   “I am definitely not in a bubble anymore.”

Jillian was impacted by the stories she heard from the children she worked with and was impressed by “…how much love and passion they had for life in spite of what they go through.” 

When it came time to plan a senior project, she knew she wanted to go big.  Coming from a family of golfers, she put the two together and the tournament she organized was a great success.  She raised more than twice her goal of $3000 for Urban Promise.  28 golfers participated in the tournament and many others supported the event through sponsorships. 

Jillian returned to UrbanPromise this summer with her parents, Todd and Jennifer to present a check and give her parents a tour of the campus. It was new student orientation at UrbanPromise Academy where Jillian presented the check to UPA principal, Demetrius Marlowe; Executive Director, Jodina Hicks; and the group of new students represented by Siani Burgess, 9th grader.

“The whole experience really opened my eyes to the world, “she said. Jillian plans to attend College next year and major in Chemistry and Criminal Justice.

Funds raised will help UrbanPromise in its mission to equip Camden’s children and young adults with the skills necessary for academic achievement, life management, spiritual growth, and Christian leadership. 

Tuesday, September 10

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One hundred years after being founded as a Sunday School to serve children in Camden, the Fairview Community Baptist Church faced the real possibility that it may have to close its doors forever. The eight remaining members prayed for a miracle, and when they got it, UrbanPromise received a great blessing.

The news came with the ring of a telephone and an offer too good to refuse. The opportunity to own this property gives UrbanPromise the chance to focus on the heart of our vision: to create safe, nurturing spaces amid harsh conditions where children can thrive.

I am so happy to share that UrbanPromise plans to purchase Fairview Community Baptist, part of the American Baptist Church, for $25,000. It will require about $15,000 in repairs before we can offer after-school and summer programs. The site, which includes a church and a parsonage, is in good condition but needs some plumbing and roofing work. With financial support and volunteers—and more prayers from the congregation (and you)—I believe it can be up and running this month, providing an after-school program and jobs for 50 young people.

Gil Medina, a former StreetLeader and now 31 and a union foreman, Gilberto lives two blocks away and plans to help: “I can’t wait for my (three) kids to have an UrbanPromise camp to go to, and you can be sure my wife and I will volunteer. It made such a difference in my life, and the children in Fairview need this. Right now, there’s nothing for them to do outside of school.”    

We already have a presence in six neighborhoods in Camden. Our  “camp” sites (after-school and summer) are the core of UrbanPromise’s model. We connect with over 500 children a year at these locations, starting when they are as young as 5 and keeping them engaged through college. We are “the place” to be after school and in the summer. By connecting at these sites, we introduce them to our schools, our Trekker program, and at age 14, our StreetLeaders program, where they can mentor the little ones. UrbanPromise has so many success stories—stories of college graduates, parents, and civic leaders who once were kids who connected with caring people in these camps and found the hope and faith to believe they could achieve their dreams. This work emanates from our camp sites.

What compromises our mission is a lack of consistent facilities. Over the last 10 years, we have had to move a site at least every 2 years. Owning an after-school site allows us stability. We, like the church on Common Street itself, can thrive for the next 100 years.

The American Baptist Churches of New Jersey is very pleased at the prospect of continuing their original mission and soon having children fill the church. “The church was founded to serve children; we are thrilled it will do so once again. ABCNJ looks forward to partnering with UrbanPromise in serving the youth of New Jersey going forward. ” Dr. Lee Spitzer, Senior Regional Pastor, told me recently. When Bruce Main visited, he was quiet for a minute, shut his eyes, smiled, and said, “Can’t you just see kids dancing and laughing in this space?”

The Community will also benefit. According to UrbanPromise Board member and Harvard University professor Kathy Edin, the very presence of a community center strengthens the social conditions of blighted neighborhoods. The after-school program and summer camps that will be held here will enhance the community, making it safer and stronger.

I hope you will help us reopen the doors of this sacred space and welcome children of promise, giving them a safe space to have a snack, do their homework, strengthen their faith, and connect with their dreams. Providing a safe and nurturing environment is the critical mission for UrbanPromise;  providing it in a beautiful church that we call our own is truly a blessing. 

Please help us purchase and open our Fairview site in September by joining in our Fairview Campaign:

  • Leadership gift of $10,000 (we are hoping for one Leadership gift)
  • Legacy gift of $2,500 (we are hoping for 8 Legacy donors)
  • Vision gift of $250 (we are hoping for 40 Vision donors)
  • General donation of any amount is so appreciated!

DONATE NOW 

Thank you so much for your continued belief and support of our work,

Jodina Hicks           
Executive Director                                               
UrbanPromise

PS: Please also consider signing up to join us or bring a group on a work day in September and October. As soon as we purchase the property, we’ll be able to schedule our work dates! Please contact Marcus Bell, WorkGroup manager at (856) 382-1876 or mbell@urbanpromiseusa.org.

We will be in special need of skilled plumbers and roofers, so please pass the word to any who might be willing to donate their time. 

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