NLCC & Unity Recovery: Partners in Support

North Light Community Center focuses on the wholistic health of our community, but we know that we can’t make a difference alone.

In addition to the 40 million Americans living with mental health disorders, 22 million live with a substance use disorder. In Philadelphia alone, we lost 1150 lives to overdoses in 2019. North Light knows that having support for recovery is crucial to supporting our families. 

We are fortunate to only have to look down the street to find a partner in support: Unity Recovery.

Unity Recovery began as an idea after board member and co-founder Arielle Ashford participated in a recovery yoga class in 2016. In just four short years, it has grown to a dual location facility (their new location is opening at 106 Gay Street next month) that has served over 460,000 people since opening their doors.

“Unity knows that recovery happens in the community; and Manayunk is a great community for recovery,” says Adam Sledd, Recovery Support Director. “We can’t wait until we are able to welcome everyone into our new space!”

Unity, like North Light, believes that costs should not be a barrier to quality services. They operate on grant funding and all services are free of charge.  There is no need for insurance or even identification, as Unity is a low-barrier recovery community organization (RCO).

Offering comprehensive recovery support through individual peer support, group meetings, social events, outreach, and advocacy, Unity understands that recovery is driven by the individual. Unity’s digital recovery program, RecoveryLink, allows participants to create their own path in recovery, focusing on the social determinants of recovery, such as housing, education, finances, and life skills. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Unity was able to serve thousands of individuals through RecoveryLink, making sure that not even a global pandemic would get in the way of necessary recovery support. Included in that is employment, which can often be challenging for those in recovery or returning from incarceration. Unity also partners with Unity Yoga and Unity Taqueria to offer community recovery yoga and job opportunities to individuals who might have difficulty finding employment.

Even with their extensive reach, Unity is always looking to serve populations in need. In December 2020, Unity launched a Pregnancy and Postpartum Recovery (PPR) Program. Funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, the program is aimed to serve pregnant and postpartum mothers in their recovery from substance use. and mental health.  Programming, including workshops, all-recovery meetings, and one-to-one recovery support is delivered by peer recovery specialists who have lived experiences during the transformational time of becoming a mother while also focused on their recovery journey.

Beginning this Spring, representatives from Unity Recovery can be found at select Food Pantry dates. For immediate assistance, contact Unity Recovery directly at 267-748-2454.

For more information about how Unity Recovery can help you or a loved one, check out Unity Recovery or contact our Emergency Services Coordinator at 215-483-4800.

Alumni Spotlight: Renee Deas

My name is Renee Deas. Currently, I am a mental health therapist, a school clinician and and an Adjunct Professor. I attended North Light’s Summer Camp program when I was 11 years old. 

I participated in the co-ed basketball program  and any other program that resulted in me dedicating my time for community service. I became a Counselor-in-Training after I aged out of the Summer Camp program. While at Central High School, I used North Light as a resource to assist me with SAT prep and help with my homework.

I was intrigued by the Summer Career Exploration Program (SCEP) because of the career building skills I was taught, such as constructing a resume with very little work experience, interview readiness, and creating a cover letter. These are valuable skills that I did not receive from the high school I attended. 

I became a volunteer during my freshman year at college going into my sophomore year. North Light created the foundation for me to be successful in my careers. The skills I acquired earlier than my peers while being an active member of North Light’s programs have made me successful. 

My advice for young adults is to not take their time at North Light for granted. It is OK to have fun and interact with their peers. However, remember to be optimistic because when you focus on preparing yourself for the future, whatever skills you learn while at North Light you can use them later on in life. 

As I See It: Joe Gidjunis, NLCC Board Member

When is a community center more than just a building? When it’s full of soul, goodness and play.

North Light is special to me, both for personal and community reasons.

My wife, Rebecca, and I purchased the house across the street from North Light before we really knew what it stood for.

We didn’t know about its 80-plus years of history caring for the Manayunk, Roxborough and East Falls communities. We didn’t know it provided thousands and thousands of pounds of food each year (162,000 pounds last year). We didn’t know it provided utility and rent assistance. We didn’t know it was the spot for indoor volleyball, basketball and a world of other indoor sports (pre-pandemic). We didn’t know how many kids called North Light their safe place while their parents worked.

We didn’t know how much soul, care and love could come from within this building across the street.

We just saw its awesome playgrounds and thought, “that might be fun one day!” Little did we know it would become a place where my 4-year-old would learn how to climb a jungle gym and propel himself on swings.

As I started to see the happy faces walking out its doors, I got curious. I would hear excited kids running through the water-spray turtle in the summer, and I got more curious. I would hear the whistle from the indoor volleyball league in the winter, and I got even more curious. And when I noticed the trucks delivering what looked like so much food every week to its doors, I knew I had to find out more.

Food insecurity is an issue dear to my heart because nobody should go hungry in the richest country in the world. As a second-generation Italian, too much food was always the norm growing up. I didn’t understand the struggle of an empty kitchen table. I also love to feed people because eating a meal with someone often brings joy and bridges any divide. A good meal can make anyone forget about their problems.

When I learned how much work North Light would do to eliminate food insecurity with the very people, I call my neighbors, I asked to get involved and donate my time. As a local business owner of JPG Photo & Video, I made sure we documented every fundraiser and we stayed on to capture other important moments. As we spent more time with North Light, I knew I wanted to get more involved. It was then I decided to join the board.

Now, one of my favorite holiday activities is delivering quality holiday meals to those who could use an extra meal to make it through the holidays. In 2019, my son and wife joined me delivering food to a senior facility in Germantown. Seeing so many faces light up when he would hand them a delicious meal to their door absolutely brightened my day. Sharing the holiday spirit with food is truly a way to show love and demonstrate one’s soul.

The pandemic has made North Light’s food mission even more important. This year’s holiday food delivery wasn’t quite the same, as contactless delivery doesn’t allow for the same intimate sharing. Nevertheless, when our recipients heard a North Light delivery was at their door, you could hear the joy in their voices. Together, with our neighbors, we were able to provide joy through those meals to over 700 members of our community.

Through all of North Light’s activities, I love that I get to help deliver joy with this amazing organization. But I know we can do a better job. Despite all of the amazing work North Light does, they are still relatively unknown, even in our little corner of Philadelphia. I hope you’ll share your thoughts and these service opportunities with me as I push to make North Light, and our community, even better in 2021.

Joe Gidjunis is the President of JPG Photo & Video and a Board Member at North Light Community Center. He lives in Manayunk with his wife, Rebecca, and their young son.

North Light Needs Your Input!

North Light Needs Your Input!

This past year threw many curveballs. We twisted, we turned, and we have made it out the other side. While many of the situations we encountered couldn’t have been anticipated, we know that a solid plan is the best way to ensure the success of North Light and our community. That is why we are embarking on a strategic planning process that will shape the future of our center.

“We are entering into a new 5-year strategic plan,” says Krista Wieder, Executive Director of North Light. “The feedback from the community is vital to our process.”

In addition to speaking with current students, clients, and partners, North Light is seeking input from the community at large. By participating in a short survey, you will help steer the direction of North Light for the next 5 years, plus many years to come.

By sharing more information about your relationship with us, you will help us determine where we excel and where we fall short. With this information, we can focus our programming to better fulfill the needs of our community.

“We will develop a vision for how we want our organization to adapt and evolve,” says Adele Struble, co-chair of the Strategic Planning Committee. “By participating in our survey, you provide an external perspective on what we can be doing better and how we can grow.”

To participate in our survey, please click here. All answers will be completely confidential and will only be used to inform our strategic planning efforts.

We are thankful for you!

“Giving is not just about making a donation. It is about making a difference.” – Kathy Calvin, CEO & President, United Nations Foundation

North Light is fortunate to have an abundance of difference makers in our community and we are so thankful for each and every one of you.

We were able to hold a modified version of Pints for North Light, creating a fully outdoor and social distant event. With a large team of corporate and vendor sponsors behind us, we were able to raise over $7,000 for our facility.

Shaina Hitchens of Jim Roache Real Estate talks with Twisted Gingers Brewing Company.

Our Thanksgiving Basket program allowed North Light to provide 200 full Thanksgiving meals to the local community. Villanova University, Roxborough Memorial Hospital, and individual donors provided all of the non-perishable fixings for our boxes. Through generous grants, North Light was able to purchase turkeys and pies to complete these meals. We were able to provide over 200 holiday dinners to local families in our community.

Roxborough Memorial Hospital donated over 50 boxes to our Thanksgiving program.

We are looking forward to our Manayunk Meals & More program, which will provide hot meals to seniors and those in need on the Sunday before Christmas. Programs like this require the support of our local restaurants and even during this challenging time for them, they are ready and willing to help others who need it this holiday season.

As we embark on Giving Tuesday, we know that our community will remain generous in their support of North Light in all of the ways they are able. If you are interested in financially supporting us, please check out the giving options that are available or make a donation online.

North Light COVID-19 Response

North Light COVID-19 Response

The coronavirus pandemic has put people around the globe in difficult positions, in terms of finance, health, and otherwise. In the Manayunk/Roxborough communities this is no different. Particularly in urban and densely populated communities, stress and tension can run even higher. North Light has worked hard to support its communities while prioritizing the health of constituents, staff, and volunteers.

North Light has been agile and adaptable during these difficult times. We offered childcare for essential workers upon reopening in June. Parents continued to express the need for childcare and we responded by running our annual Summer Camp with strict social distancing and cleaning protocols to ensure a safe and fun environment for all 63 children enrolled.

Our college and career program transitioned to online courses and offered personal development seminars throughout the summer. As many teens continue to struggle with being isolated, we chose to connect with them virtually to ensure we didn’t lose touch and could encourage them during these challenging and uncertain times.

Our Emergency Service Program continued to operate our Food Pantry. Although we couldn’t maintain our Choice model which allows the community to shop, we were able to provide prepackaged bags and boxes of food twice weekly. We also created a menu system for our monthly distribution of nonperishable items, which allowed some personalized food choices. In order to protect our most vulnerable community members, such as elderly and disabled residents, North Light also now delivers food every day that our food cupboard operates, directly to the doorsteps (contactless delivery) of those most susceptible to the effects of the coronavirus.

Thanks to Green Tree Community Health, the Philadelphia Foundation’s COVID19 Fund, FEMA through the Emergency Food & Shelter Program (EFSP) and Acme’s Foundation, North Light received funding to support growing needs for food as well as rent, utility and mortgage assistance.

Although we know that things will not be the same as they were before the coronavirus hit we recognize that this time has created opportunities to expand and meet the new needs of our community. North Light has served the Manyaunk and Roxborough neighborhoods for 84 years. We were developed during The Great Depression, survived a World War, and we will continue to grow and meet the evolving needs of our communities. We will continue to serve people to the best extent that our capacity allows, and connect people to the services that they need. Please never hesitate to reach out. We will get through this together, though physically distanced.