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.

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.

Pints for North Light 2020

Pints for North Light 2020

Pints for North Light 2020: the same great event with a 2020 twist!

Join your friends at North Light Community Center for a night under the Venice Island stars, featuring local brews, bites from some of your favorite Manayunk restaurants, and exciting auction items.

This year’s silent auction will take place entirely online. Take your chance and bid on great items from Philadelphia sports teams, local breweries, your favorite businesses, and more. Bidding begins on Thursday, November 12 and will close at noon on Friday, November 20. Winners will be contacted and contactless pickup will be arranged.

Feeling lucky? Grab a raffle ticket for a chance to win a case of Troegs limited-release holiday ale, Mad Elf. The lucky winner will be announced at the conclusion of the auctions on Friday and a contactless exchange will be arranged!

Early Bird Tickets are available until October 31st. Can’t join us in person but want to show your support? Grab a 100% tax-deductible “There in Spirit!” ticket and raise a glass to North Light from wherever you are.

Purchase tickets, enter our raffle, and bid on our auction items!

*Masks must be worn at all times while not eating and drinking. North Light will comply with all City of Philadelphia COVID regulations.*

Election Day 2020

Election Day 2020

Election Day 2020 is fast approaching!

On Tuesday, November 3, polling locations around the city will be open from 7AM to 8PM. North Light serves as the polling location for Ward 21, Divisions 6, 7, and 12.

Check out some frequently asked questions below to make your Election Day plan!

Where is my polling location?

Confirm your polling location here. Be sure that your name, polling location, and party are correct.

Can I vote early?

Yes. Check PhiladelphiaVotes for a list of satellite election offices that allow for in-person voting.

Do I have to vote in person?

No. The deadline to apply for a mail-in or absentee ballot is Tuesday, October 27, 2020. Ballots can be requested through the Department of State.

Do I have to mail my ballot through the USPS?

No. Ballots can be dropped off at any of the satellite offices or you can drop your ballot into a ballot box at City Hall, Eastern State Penitentiary, or Riverview Place on Columbus Boulevard. Please check PhiladelphiaVotes for the exact location of ballot boxes.

Can I see a sample ballot?

Yes. Search here for the address at which you are registered to vote.

Where can I find more information about the candidates and issues?

While nothing can replace doing your own research from various sources, the Committee of Seventy is a non-partisan organization that encourages engagement and advocacy. They can provide you with information and resources to inform yourself before you cast your vote.

LOVE – March 2020

Before I got the job at North Light, while completing my Master’s Degree, I was an intern for the Office of Attorney General Josh Shapiro in his Office of Public Engagement. The main project that I was working on was the Pennsylvania Trauma-Informed Network (PATIN), which brought a level of understanding throughout systems of care across the Commonwealth that acknowledged the effects of trauma and adversity, and focused on developing resilience to combat the obstacles that life throws our way. After graduating and losing my student internship, I stumbled upon a place that was made to be trauma-informed. North Light already provided basic needs and empowered those most in need. My first day at North Light as the Director of Development was also my first day on my journey toward becoming a trauma-competent professional at Lakeside Global Institute. The key instrument that was missing at the Center was a shared understanding and language surrounding trauma and resilience. Lowering Overdose and Violence Epidemics (LOVE) was the initiative that grew out of this need for organization-wide training to make the transition toward really being trauma-informed. With the help of  a longtime community member, Steve Honeyman, to mentor me through this process, we put together a committee of more than a dozen board and staff members, volunteers, community stakeholders, and neighbors to begin the conversation around the need for trauma-informed care.

There was much conversation about the historical substance use that has existed in the Manayunk/Roxborough communities for much time, as well as violence that stemmed from that and the gentrification in the communities, which validated the need for this sort of initiative. North Light is uniquely positioned to reach those most in need and disseminate trauma-informed concepts throughout the communities we serve. I had the unique privilege, while being at North Light and continuing my professional development in the trauma-informed space, of being elected as an executive board member for the Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice (CTIPP), which gave me a network of experts from around the country to help launch the LOVE initiative in a meaningful way. We had built community support and now had the expertise to make this a successful effort.

LOVE officially launched on December 7, 2019 with a Trauma 101 training from Lakeside Global Institute to board, community, and staff members at North Light. On the same day, through the efforts of a few LOVE team members and board member Danny Phelps, we also launched our SafeZone initiative, to ensure North Light is a safe space for members of the LGBTQIA+ communities. This training was the first step of many to become a trauma-informed and trauma-responsive space, while ultimately working to build a focus on resilience and wellness into all of our programs. The United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey took an interest in the initiative, and supported it beyond Trauma 101 to continue supporting professional developments at the Center, including allowing staff and volunteers to follow the same trauma-competent professional track that I did through Lakeside. Additionally, we are developing new programs, such as parenting classes, to promote trauma-sensitivity at the earliest stages to be preventative and promote happy and healthy childhoods. Finally, we are developing new partnerships, such as those with Unity Recovery and Recovery Centers of America, to support our constituents most in need of support.

North Light does not have the expertise to heal all people’s wounds, but it does have the trust to develop meaningful relationships to help people open up, and can connect people to the services and supports they need to thrive. That is what LOVE is working to do. Help create a continuum of care that helps those most in need. As top-down approaches, such as PATIN or CTIPP’s National Trauma Campaign, reach the grassroots, we can expect for the LOVE initiative to continue to thrive.