Drexel Purchases West Philadelphia Community Center to Expand Community Partnerships and Programming
Four years after the Dana and David Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships opened its doors to the Powelton and Mantua communities, Drexel University announced plans to expand the programming offered to the community with the purchase in June 2018 of the West Philadelphia Community Center.
The West Philadelphia Community Center (WPCC) is a two-story, 37,000-square-foot facility at 3512 Haverford Avenue. Caring People Alliance (CPA) owned and operated the space but will be relocating to another facility. Recognizing the importance of WPCC’s facilities for the community, Drexel purchased the site in June. The current programs by Caring People Alliance will continue at the WPCC for another year, while the University works with local residents to determine how the facility can best address community interests and expand the Dornsife Center’s offerings.
CPA has offered childcare and Boys and Girls Clubs after school and summer programs, as well as other community programming and events at the WPCC since 1986. According to CPA President Jerry Macdonald, Caring People Alliance intends to offer its programs at a new location in West Philadelphia and will be working in the coming year to find suitable alternate programming that meets the needs of each family the CPA serves.
“Drexel has been a longtime partner with us, and we are glad the building will continue to host community programs,” Macdonald said. “The Dornsife Center has dramatically impacted the Mantua and Powelton communities with high quality programs. We are pleased that this transition will mean new investments and resources available to these communities.”
The purchase of the WPCC was made possible with the support of a generous gift from Dana and David Dornsife, who are also the benefactors of Drexel’s Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships, Dornsife School of Public Health and Dornsife Office of Experiential Learning in Drexel’s LeBow College of Business.
“I am deeply grateful to Dana and David Dornsife for their generosity, which will allow us to preserve and expand critical programming for our West Philadelphia community,” said Drexel President John Fry. “The Dornsifes’ commitment to improving the lives of people continues to be an inspiration to all of us at Drexel.”
The University expects to work closely with Drexel stakeholders, community leaders and residents on a planning process to determine the best use of the WPCC facility, one that enriches both Drexel faculty and students engaged in community-facing research, teaching, and service, and residents from Mantua and Powelton Village and throughout West Philadelphia.
This collaborative approach is key to the Dornsife Center’s mission. The Dornsife Center recently completed its first strategic plan, which reinforced its mission to bring Drexel’s academic and administrative expertise into the neighborhood, and to engage faculty and students with community residents to address matters of shared importance. The Dornsife Center offers space for community conversations and programs for children, youth, families and adults. Each month, the Dornsife Center hosts a community dinner that brings together members of the community for fellowship and food, prepared by Drexel’s Center for Food and Hospitality.
The Dornsife Center hosts three free computer labs that offer basic internet access, adult education classes and workforce training, and career advice offered by representatives of Drexel’s Department of Human Resources. Through the Community Wellness Hub, led by Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions with the College of Medicine, community members can get free screening for glucose, blood pressure, height and weight, as well as behavioral health counseling.
Drexel’s Kline School of Law provides a number of legal services to the community through the Community Lawyering Clinic. The Clinic takes on a number of legal issues of community interest during the law school’s regular semesters. Cases and projects have focused on issues like employment discrimination, home ownership, tax foreclosure, post-conviction relief and equity in utility billing. Pro bono clinics provide local residents with legal assistance free of charge, focusing mainly on estate planning (wills, medical directives and power of attorney) and criminal record expungement in cooperation with Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity.
John D. Kirby, Jr., a public health professional experienced in health care administration, medical fitness and community health programming, was recently named director of the Dornsife Center.