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A Triad of Volunteer Programs Served with Compassion

Community Outreach Partnership (CORP) officially joined ECS in January of 2016. Complementary to ECS’ core mission of serving people in need, CORP conducts volunteer-driven programs to provide compassionate help to homeless, hungry, and elderly individuals in Philadelphia.

In the fall of 1984, a number of state institutions were closed, and practically overnight, homelessness became an epidemic in Philadelphia. “Everybody in the Diocese got a letter from the Bishop asking for churches to look for opportunities to alleviate this problem,” said John Randolph, who would go on to cofound Community Outreach Partnership. “We took a look at space at Trinity Memorial Church (TMC) which had not really been used before.”

Soon after, a town hall meeting was held at the church for community members and parishioners. At first, neighbors were reluctant to take on homelessness, until one woman raised her hand and asked to volunteer because she wanted to be able to tell her six-year-old son that they lived in a neighborhood actually doing something to help. As neighbors were leaving, John stood out front distributing more information and overheard one woman say to her friend, “Tonight, I feel like I rejoined the human race.”

WinterShelter opened its doors to homeless men later that year, and Community Outreach Partnership was born. November 1st through April 30th WinterShelter provides a meal and a bed to 22 men every night. Bethesda Project manages shelter operations while volunteers handle meal prep, distribution, and cleaning duties. “It helps volunteers become more fully-realized human beings,” John said.

Before CORP, the church already coordinated two volunteer programs called Communicare and Cook-Off. Similar to ECS’ Dolphins program, Communicare connects a senior to a volunteer who provides companionship – accompanying them on doctor visits, shopping trips, and fun activities. Cook-Off was developed by a group of churchwomen who gathered after service on Sunday afternoons to cook, assemble, and package meals to serve seniors living in subsidized housing. In that group was Missy Randolph.

After time, John was looking to retire. During lunch with Dave Griffith, ECS executive director, John found a way to do so that would ensure the work of CORP was in good hands. Dave asked, “‘would you consider coming under our wing?’” John recalled. “It was like a light bulb went off in my head … I think our missions are very similar … both have multiple programs in diverse areas.” After careful consideration of ECS, CORP, the Very Rev. Donna Maree, and the vestry of TMC, it was determined that the partnership would add value to both organizations.

In the church basement, there are two freezers that stored Cook-Off meals. “When [the program] first started,” Missy said, “it was ECS that gave us the nudge to go forward by supplying the two freezers. And so now, they’re ready to be returned to their original owner.”

“You guys were generous to CORP years and years ago, and now it’s all coming back,” John added. “It’s actually an amazing story,” he said. “What goes around comes around.” Indeed it does.

For more information and for ways to get involved, contact Nancy DeLaura, manager of volunteer programs, at 215.351.1536 or nancyd@ecsphilly.org.