In Mantua, Something Big is Building

Just past West Philadelphia’s affluent University City district is the neighborhood of Mantua.

While a strong sense of hometown pride is apparent in every corner, the community has been troubled by blight and poverty for decades.

However, in recent years, Mantua has experienced something of a renaissance. Revitalizing the neighborhood has become a City priority, and an interest in helping the community has been displayed both locally and nationally, as Mantua was named a Promise Zone in 2013.

In our mission to challenge and reduce the effects of intergenerational poverty, ECS offers supportive services for more than 120 low-income families living in subsidized housing complexes in Mantua—meaning they are able to tap into our pool of expertise for help in addressing their needs.

The work varies from family to family, for each has their own strengths and hardships. For some, our help may be in guiding heads-of-households toward acquiring their GEDs. Others may need help in managing their debt or addressing mental health concerns. Whatever their needs are, ECS is there to provide support and encouragement.

Tymika Peterson, a family support worker, is often the first point-of-contact for families. Each month, she organizes life skills workshops such as household budgeting or stress management to help families thrive. Year-round, she upholds an open door policy for families. Tymika provides a safe space for residents to come in and ask for help or shoot the breeze with a person who they know has their best interest at heart.

But sometimes the drop-ins aren’t at all nonchalant. Recently, a young mother of two came to Tymika in tears. Adding to the stress of a barely-stocked kitchen and piling bills, her son had an upcoming school recital, but she was unable to afford new clothing for him to wear.

Word of the situation went out to staff, and in less than 24 hours, she was provided new clothes for both of her sons, a Visa gift card, and a gift certificate to a nearby supermarket.

As for the other families, Tymika says she can feel how powerful our presence has been. In every issue resolved and in every friendly encounter, something big is building.

“It helps them just to know that there is something … someone there to support them,” she said.