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Miracle on 11th Street

January 19, 2016

Stephen and Sandra Sheller watched proudly as the ribbon was cut on their “miracle” in the fall. The couple gifted $2.5 million to expand Drexel’s 11th Street Family Health Services, which now has the space to accommodate more patients and more training for Drexel students.

By Alissa Falcone

Although the official name of Drexel’s health center at 11th and Parrish streets is the Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services of Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions, it has adopted a more endearing moniker.

“Sandy and I wanted to be certain that 11th Street would have the best possible facilities to continue to expand and deliver what we call ‘The Miracle on 11th Street,’” said Stephen, a Drexel trustee and lawyer who cofounded the Sheller Family Foundation with Sandra, his wife and a Drexel alumnus. “We have had several years now to watch this miracle grow.”

The Sheller Family Foundation gifted $2.5 million in 2014 to expand the quality, comprehensive health services offered to residents of public housing units in the 11th Street Corridor in North Philadelphia. Sandra has been involved with what is now the Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services Center since 2006. While interning at a nearby Salvation Army family homeless shelter, she often referred clients to the facility as she worked toward a post-master’s certificate in the College of Nursing and Health Professions’ Couples and Family Therapy Program.

A November ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrated the expansion of the “Miracle on 11th Street.” 

This expansion, which broke ground in June of 2014, provides double the space for more patients to receive clinical and practical care, as well as expanded capacity for more Drexel students to be trained. The space has doubled to over 34,000 square feet, thanks to a new two-story wing and a connector passageway between the two structures.

Now, community members can participate in art, music and dance and movement therapies and exercise in a fitness center on the upstairs level of the new wing. Downstairs, they can receive nutritional support and education, dental services, physical therapy and primary care.

“You do not come here just for a pill to treat a symptom, but for expert, committed delivery of health care services of the highest quality,” said Stephen. “When treating health, one must also treat the emotional and social well-being of a client, patient and family.”

Sandra, the director and president of the Sheller Family Foundation, received a master’s degree in art therapy from the College of Nursing and Health Professions in 2004. After she graduated with her post-master’s certificate two years later, she continued to supervise Drexel creative arts in therapy graduate-level students, one of which conducted her internship practice at Drexel’s 11th Street Center.

“What I appreciated at that time was the holistic view and comprehensive care that 11th Street adopted, and their awareness of the importance of considering trauma in their treatment of their patients. Plus, 11th Street provided such a rich education for Drexel students in a multitude of disciplines,” she said.

After both Shellers joined the advisory board of the College of Nursing and Health Professions, they learned more about the facility through several presentations made by Patty Gerrity, PhD, professor and associate dean for community programs in the college.

“Patty’s unique perspective to consider behavioral health as important when treating primary care for an inner-city population was an important factor in encouraging my husband and I to want to help expand 11th Street’s potential,” said Sandra.

Through their involvement with the Advisory Board, the Shellers started the “Friends of 11th Street” group to raise interest for an expansion.

“My husband and I knew we wanted to take a front seat and spearhead moving the expansion of 11th Street to fruition. Patty’s creative ideas for healing and wellness were greater than the space 11th Street could contain, and we wanted to ensure that this beacon and model for the entire country would have the best possible space and resources to continue and expand its work,” said Sandra.

Last year, the facility provided care during 32,000 visits. With the expansion now fully completed, the space is even better equipped to provide more services.

Story first appeared in Drexel Magazine